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Cover Letter Workshop - Introduction


This cover letter workshop resource provides a detailed explanation of cover letter objectives and information on each section of the cover letter. The OWL maintains a number of resources on cover letters including more concise materials and PowerPoint presentations. Please refer to these if you cannot find information in this workshop.

Contributors:Jenna Holt, Clint Blume, and Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-25 08:59:07

The following resources should help you conduct research and compose your cover letter (also known as the job application letter).

What is the purpose of the cover letter?

A cover letter:

Tailor your cover letter to:

An effective cover letter:

Learning about the job

Your ability to learn the needs of your readers will help you write a cover letter effectively. You should learn as much as you can about your audience (your potential employer) before writing your cover letter. Your goal is to learn about the organization, its goals and needs. Then, you should learn about what kind of employee the organization needs and what an employee will be expected to do.

After reading a job advertisement, ask as many questions as you can to learn what your prospective employer wants. Lastly, think about who will be reading your job application documents - human resources, prospective employers, etc. Think about how your document many move through the organization you want to join (also see our Audience Analysis resource).

Some questions to begin with are:

Read the job advertisement carefully. Most advertisements are divided into two sections, a qualifications section, and an explanation of what duties the hired candidate will perform.

Contact the organization

Another way to learn about a good match for the organization and job is by contacting someone with "inside information" (insiders).

Insiders include, but are not limited to:

Insiders may be able to tell you what a job entails, and what kind of person an employer is likely to hire.

If you decide to call insiders, it is essential for you to be kind and truthful at all times. Being kind will help you to avoid offending someone with whom you might work in the future. It is best for you to see each contact with a company as an opportunity to make a good impression.

When calling insiders, try to plan the flow of your conversation ahead of time.

Questions such as the following will help you to start an effective conversation:

Try to keep the conversation rolling, and maintain a pleasant tone at all times. Also remember to thank your contact for speaking with you, even if he or she was unable to provide you with helpful information.

Read the organization's website

Another good way to do your audience analysis is by reading an organization's website.

Corporate/organization websites provide a good idea of what a company/organization values. Look for words that describe the company and its employees. Words repeated throughout the website reveal particularly important values. Some organization websites may even have a "Mission Statement" you can read to learn about what they want to achieve. Use the language on the website and in the missions statement to help guide your language in your cover letter.

Use college career centers

If you are in college, see what information is available at your university's career center. See if the university has any connections to this company. Career centers should have any information concerning upcoming visits of companies to career fairs. At Purdue University, the Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) maintains a number of resources that are helpful for students looking for internships and jobs.

In addition, Purdue University offers a career Wiki here.

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