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Cover Letters

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .

Summary:
These resources will help you understand what a cover letter is, and they will help you write successful cover letters.

Introduction

These resources will help you understand and write successful cover letters. To use these pages, you may select links in the navigation bar on the left, you may select links from the list below, or you may advance through the pages using the links at the bottom of each page. Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

The cover letter pages are orgnized into the following sections:

Cover Letter Overview

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on July 31, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource explains what a cover letter is, why you need to write one, and methods of tailoring your letter to address specific situations: returning veterans, transitioning auto workers, times of unemployment, and times of incarceration.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a document that presents your job goals, education, and job history. The cover letter explains why you are capable of filling the job position you want.

Why do I need to do a cover letter?


Many employers need a cover letter to go with a résumé. Employers use cover letters and résumés to see who can do a job. Employers also use cover letters to read about your past jobs. Cover letters explain why you want the job and how you can fulfill the job requirements.

Your cover letter is also important because it shows employers you can communicate effectively. Your cover letter and résumé should work together to convince an employer to give you an interview. It is good to have a cover letter even if you do not need one for a certain job. It is easier to update a cover letter than to write one from scratch in a hurry.

What should I do if I’m a veteran entering civilian life?

It is important to write your cover letter in a way that employers will understand. Applying for civilian jobs means you will have to use language people outside the military can understand. For example, in the body paragraphs of your cover letter you will need to do some “translating” between military terms and civilian terms:

Military terms: Received and stored bulk and package petroleum, oils, and lubricants products. Issued and dispensed bulk fuels and water from storage and distribution facilities to using units. Selected and submitted samples of petroleum, oils, and lubricants to laboratory for testing. Performed petroleum and water accounting duties (from Army Pamphlet 611-21).

Civilian terms: Coordinated and distributed petroleum products and monitored quality control systems.

What should I do if I am transitioning from the automotive industry?

It is important to write your cover letter in a way that employers will understand. Applying for your new job outside the auto industry means you will have to use language people outside the industry can understand. For example, in the body paragraphs of your letter you will need to “translate” your auto industry terms:

Auto industry terms: Finished, prepared, and applied various materials, sub-finishes and final top coat paints to components, parts and complete vehicles in accordance with engineering drawings and manufacturer’s recommendations.

“Translated” terms: Worked in a team to apply paint to parts and complete vehicles following detailed engineering drawings and manufacturer’s recommendations.

If you remember specific details and achievements related to your responsibilities, you should include them:

Supervised and coordinated ten employees in automotive assembly and reviewed manufacturing processes and products for quality control. Maintained a 96% average delivery rate while focusing on lean manufacturing and continuous improvement.

What should I do about any times I was not working?

Short times in between jobs or work experience should not hurt your chances of getting an interview. But you should be prepared to talk about those breaks when you meet with the employer. If you were not working for pay but volunteered doing something in the community, talk about that experience to show you were busy doing something.

What should I do if I have been incarcerated?

If you were incarcerated, be honest with the employer and talk about what you did while you were serving your sentence that may contribute to your job skills. For example, many prison systems offer General Education Development (GED) programs so inmates can receive the equivalent of a high school diploma. Prison systems also offer vocational training in carpentry, plumbing, electronics, auto mechanics, etc. If you have received vocational training in prison, talk about this in your interview.

People reentering the work force from prison may want to write a skills-based cover letter. Skills-based cover letters focus on what you can do now rather than explaining an entire work history.

Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

Cover Letters Part 1

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on July 31, 2009 .

Summary:
This resources explains what your cover letter should look like and what your cover letter should accomplish.

What should my cover letter look like?

Your cover letter should be one page and single-spaced. Your letter should have 1-inch margins all the way around the page. Your cover letter text font should match your résumé’s text font. Lastly, your letter should also follow a business letter format. You have three options:

Block format – the text of the entire letter is left justified (against the left margin)

Click here to see an example of block format on the Purdue OWL.

Modified block – the body text of the letter is left justified, but the date and closing are tabbed to the center point

Click here to see an example of modified block format on the Purdue OWL.

Semi-Block – the body text of the letter is left justified except for the first sentence of the paragraphs. The date and closing are tabbed to the center point

Click here to see an example of semi-block format on the Purdue OWL.

The example cover letters available with this resource show all of these formats. Regardless of which format you choose, your cover letter should follow some general content guidelines.

What should my cover letter accomplish?

Your cover letter should


Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

Cover Letters Part 2

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on July 31, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource explains what you should do before you start writing, and it overviews all the sections your cover letter should contain.

What should I do before I write my cover letter?

Collect information about the employer and the job opening before you start your cover letter. This information will help you write your letter. The information you collect will help you explain how your experiences can help the employer and fulfill the job requirements. To collect information, do the following:


What sections should my cover letter include?

Your cover letter should include these sections:


Please note that your cover letter needs to be free of spelling grammatical errors. You should also avoid using contractions: won’t, can’t, I’ll. Instead, spell out these words: Will not, cannot, I will.

The following pages explain what each section should contain.

Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

Cover Letters Part 3

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on July 31, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource explains how to write a heading.

What should I include in my heading?

The heading is at the top of your cover letter and includes the date, your name, mailing address, and phone number(s). If you have an email account, provide that here. Note that your email address should be professional. In other words, an email address that reads hotchick@yahoo.com is not acceptable. The heading should contain the mailing address of the employer. Here is a sample heading:

June 9, 2009

Karl M. Jones
900 N. 7th St. Apt. 6
Lafayette, IN 47904
765-123-4567
kmjones123@gmail.com

Alex Carson
Manger, A & D Industries
1437 State Route 26
Lafayette, IN 47904
765-891-1011


Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

Cover Letters Part 4

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on July 31, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource explains how to write an introduction and how to address your employer / point of contact.

What should I include in my introduction?

The introduction for your cover letter should greet a specific person. The introduction should state the position you are applying for and how you heard about it. The introduction should also explain why you are a good match for the job opening and the company. You should introduce at least two examples from your résumé you will explain in your letter.

Addressing your letter

Address your letter to a specific individual if possible. The person you address should be in charge of interviewing and hiring. Use these steps to get the name of the contact person:


You may address your letter to a group if you cannot find the name of the contact person (note that you should use a colon and not a comma after your greeting):

Dear Hiring Professionals:

Dear Selection Committee:


You may greet the contact person using the full name if you find the contact person but do not know the gender:

Dear Ms. Kincaid: (for Amy Kincaid)

Dear Alex Carson:
(for Alex Carson – Alex is usually a male name, but it can also be used for women. Alex can be short for Alexandra.)

Here is an example of an introduction:

Dear Alex Carson:

I read in the June 7, 2009 Journal and Courier employment section that A & D Industries is hiring a welder apprentice (#46), and I would like to speak with you about this position. My strong work ethic and solid teamwork skills make me a good match for A & D Industries. Also, my welding experience at Russell’s Collision Service as an auto body technician, welder/fabricator and my courses in welding make me a good candidate for your apprentice position.


Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

Cover Letters Part 5

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on July 31, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource explains how to write body paragraphs and closings for your cover letter.

What should I include in my body paragraphs?

The body paragraphs should support your statements in the introduction: that you are a good match for the company and that you can do the job. The body paragraphs should also explain the two examples you used in your introduction based on information in your résumé. Here is an example of the body paragraphs:

For the past two years, I have been working as an auto body technician and welder/fabricator at Russell’s Collision Service in Lafayette. My strong work ethic and solid teamwork skills helped me increase my part-time hours at Russell’s from five to ten hours per week. I also received the employee of the month award for May 2006 and April 2008 at my full-time position as a clerk at Village Pantry in Lafayette. I believe that my responsible approach to work makes me a good match for A & D Industries.

In addition, during my two years at Russell’s I have developed my welding skills to include welding steel, aluminum, and stainless steel, working with hand and power tools, diagnosing auto body problems and determining appropriate action to fix various types of damage. I have knowledge of basic mathematics, and I can read technical manuals, schematic diagrams, and work orders to carry out auto body damage repair. During coursework in High School and at Ivy Tech Community College, I have studied welding theory and principles, as well as welding codes. Lastly, I am familiar with workplace safety practices. I believe my work experience and my coursework make me a strong candidate to fill the welder apprentice position at A & D Industries.


Note how the two body paragraphs support the claims made in the introduction. The paragraphs use examples from the résumé to explain how the applicant is a good match for the company. The paragraphs also explain how the applicant’s experience will help him do the job.

What should I include in my closing?

The closing should restate your qualifications, ask for an interview, and provide your contact information. The closing should also reference your résumé and thank the employer for her time. Lastly, you must remember to sign your cover letter and type Enclosure or Attachment under your name for your résumé. Here is an example of a conclusion:

I am looking forward to meeting with you to interview for the welder apprentice position. I am sure that my strong work ethic, customer service skills, and welding experience can help A & D Industries. If you have any questions, please call me at 765-123-4567. You may also email me at kmjones @ gmail.com. For your reference, I have included my résumé. Thank you for taking the time to review my documents.


Sincerely,

/signed/


Karl M. Jones



Enclosure: Résumé for Karl M. Jones

Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

Cover Letters Part 6

This resource was written by Allen Brizee.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on July 31, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource explains how to follow up on your cover letters and résumés you have submitted to employers.

How should I follow up on my cover letter and résumé?

You should allow ten days before calling or emailing the employee about your cover letter and résumé. When you contact the employer remember that they are probably busy. Your cover letter and résumé are very important to you, but the employer is probably doing her job as well as reviewing other cover letters and résumés. Try to be patient. However, it is perfectly acceptable to ask about your job application documents ten days after submission.

Also remember that the goal of your cover letter and résumé is to get an interview for the job opening. When you follow up on your cover letter and résumé, first ask whether or not the employer has received your documents. If the employer received the documents, ask if she has had time to review them. If so, ask if she is setting up interviews yet.

If the employer has not received your cover letter and résumé in the past ten days, offer to resend the documents and double check the employer’s mailing address and contact person. You should also offer to drop off your cover letter and résumé in person. Remember to dress professionally if the company expects it.

You may also send a follow-up letter if you do not hear from the employer for two weeks. Read about follow-up letters here.

Click here to download the PDF file containing sample résumés and employment letters.

References:
Job Search Tools: Resumes, Applications, and Cover Letters by Ronald C. Mendlin and Marc Polonsky with J. Michael Farr. The Putting the Bars Behind You Series. Indianapolis: JIST, 2000.

Purdue OWL Cover Letter and Résumé resources: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/.

Some of this information is also adapted from Jobbankuse.com: http://www.jobbankusa.com.