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Writing Effective Cover Letters

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1 Writing Effective Cover Letters
Caroline Carpenter Writing Center (909)

2 Today’s Agenda Why write a cover letter? I hear they don’t even read them, and I really hate writing them! Differences between cover letters and statements/letters of interest Awesomely Bad Letters, a.k.a. What Not To Do Learning the process for writing a great letter or statement Practice and (time permitting) critique

3 Why write a cover letter?
Introduces you Explains why you are applying Demonstrates your writing abilities Draws attention to specific qualifications that make you are particularly good match for the position

4 Cover letter vs. Statement of interest
Private sector vs. academia Shorter vs. longer Somewhat different content – but ultimately they aim to complete similar functions

5 Both formats should do these things:
Demonstrate that you understand the particular needs of the employer Show how you meet those needs Persuade the employer that your goals are aligned with those of the organization Persuade the employer that your skills and abilities are aligned with the position requirements

6 Awesomely Bad Letters a.k.a. What Not To Do

7 Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Don’t be flippant
Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Don’t be flippant. Don’t be overly familiar.

8 Don’t write a book.

9 Especially a long book.

10 I hate myself. You should too.

11 He wants to get paid.

12 Don’t whine. Especially about other employers.

13 Don’t be generic.

14 Who will read your letter?

15 Answer: Even if you know the person to whom the initial letter is addressed, you have no idea who else in the organization will see it, so you have to be very careful with your tone and your content.

16 Research Helps Ask a lot of questions to help you figure out what you need to know: What values and skills would a person who is a good match for this job have? Do I have those skills? If I don’t have those skills, do I have skills that are similar or equivalent? What kind of personality do I have? Is it a good match for the organization? Do I have the appropriate education for the position? What kind of work experience do I need?

17 Get “Insider” Info Insiders include: Your professors
Anyone you have met from the potential employer An expert in your field A person who holds a similar job at a different company

18 Get “Outsider” Info Read the organization’s website
Google the organization and see what people have said about it. Keep in mind that you may encounter extremes (both positive and negative). Talk to the Career Management Office. They may have a lot of experience dealing with the employer you are considering.

19 Connect, Connect, Connect
Relate your experience to the job advertisement Identify key words in the job posting and that you found in your research about the organization. Words that signal what the employer considers important of essential in hiring for a position. Words that give you insight into the skills, accomplishments, personality traits, and levels of education and experience the employer desires (or requires).

20 What are some key words here?
Senior/Lead Information Security Engineer A top financial institution in Boston is looking for a Senior/Lead Information Security Engineer to help build out their Information Security Program. This is an opportunity to put your stamp on a IS program at a leading company. We are looking for a person with years of Information Security experience with hands-on experience implementing security solutions. The right candidate will have a strong understanding of network and systems engineering as it relates to security and experience with the financial services industry, as well as the ability to create and implement IS policies/procedures and best practices. Knowledge of security and control frameworks such as ISO /27002, COBIT, and ITIL are a major plus. BS in Computer Science, Engineering, Information Systems, or an equivalent field.

21 Cost Engineer – Cost Estimator – Supply Chain – Financial Modeling
Responsibilities Requests vendor quotes RFQs Create vendor pricing comparison spreadsheet Negotiate pricing and terms with vendors Assist in new vendor identification Create and reconcile purchase orders and schedule for payment Lead planning, scheduling, and feedback communication with vendors Requirements Strong financial (cost estimation) background Must have financial modeling experience Excellent Excel skills are a must Must be a systems thinker and possess process experience Must have 2+ years of applicable financial and/or supply chain services experience BS degree in Finance/Accounting or Supply Chain Management preferred. Will consider other relevant degrees

22 Adjunct Art History Professor
The Delaware College of Art and Design, located within walking distance of the Wilmington train station (Amtrak and SEPTA) is a creative partnership between the Pratt Institute and the Corcoran College of Art. Independently accredited by Middle States and NASAD, DCAD offers the AFA in Animation, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interior Design, and Photography. The curriculum requires a three-semester survey of world art (using Stokstad) and a corresponding three-semester survey of world literature taught in conjunction with composition. The college is seeking faculty to teach Art History survey courses in the summer 2014, twelve-week semester and the fifteen week Fall semester. Classes generally meet in the daytime, twice-weekly. A doctorate is preferred but not required. Graduate training and the ability to engage students is a must; an ABD, MA, or MS is acceptable. letter of interest with CV to the Academic Studies Area Coordinator

23 Decide which qualities to include based on matching the most important qualities identified in the posting: Leadership qualities Teaching qualities and philosophy Ability to complete multiple tasks at the same time ("multi- tasking") Teamwork skills Ability to meet deadlines Interpersonal skills Initiative to complete projects without supervision ("ability to work independently") Written communications skills Verbal communications skills Computer skills

24 Be specific. Simply “name-dropping” the buzz words from the job posting will not help you. You must connect these terms to your specific skills and examples of you having demonstrated these skills or qualities in ways that led to positive results. For example, if the job asks for strong written communications skills, think about your experiences with writing. Have you done any writing at a previous workplace? If so, what kind of writing? Memos, business letters, manuals, reports? Have you taken writing classes at college? Have you won any writing awards? Have you undertaken a writing project in a previous job that was particularly successful? Yielded a positive result? For example, did you create a new training manual that made new employee orientation take less time or require fewer training resources?

25 What if you don’t meet the requirements?
You should apply for any job you want – within reason. Carefully consider your past experience and accomplishments to see if they are a good match for the employer. Be honest with yourself and with potential employers. They have done this hiring exercise before. They can spot liars very easily. Even if you make it past the hiring phase, having lied about your skills, abilities, or experience will quickly reveal itself when you begin working with other more experienced employees.

26 Drafting the Introduction (PS)
The introduction should include a salutation, such as "Dear Mr. Roberts:" If you are uncertain of your contact's gender, try to find out. Call the company. Ask the receptionist. Try to avoid having to write a salutation that uses the person’s full name, such as “Dear Caroline Carpenter.” The body of your introduction can be organized in many ways. However, it is important to include, who you are and why you are writing. It can also state how you learned about the position and why you are interested in it. This might be the right opportunity to briefly relate your education and/or experience to the requirements of the position. Many people hear of job openings from contacts associated with the company. If you wish to include a person's name in your cover letter, make certain that your reader has a positive relationship with the person you are naming and that the person you are naming knows that you are naming him/her. In some instances, you may have previously met the reader of your cover letter. In these instances it is acceptable to use your introduction to remind your reader of who you are and briefly discuss a specific topic of your previous conversation(s). Most important is to briefly overview why your values and goals align with the organization's and how you will help them. You should also touch on how you match the position requirements. By reviewing how you align with the organization and how your skills match what they're looking for, you can forecast the contents of your cover letter before you move into your argument.

27 Drafting the Argument (PS)
A very important part of the cover letter. Choose what to include carefully. Avoid excessive detail. Connect back to those few most important requirements you thought about earlier when examining the posting. Use your resume (and refer to it) as the evidence you will use and expand on in this section. Show your reader you possess the most important skills s/he seeks (you're a good match for the organization's mission/goals and job requirements). Convince your reader that the company will benefit from hiring you (how you will help them). Include in each paragraph a strong reason why your employer should hire you and how they will benefit from the relationship. Maintain an upbeat/personable tone. Avoid explaining your entire resume but use your resume as a source of data to support your argument (the two documents should work together).

28 Drafting the Closing (PS)
Your closing restates your main points and reveals what you plan to do after your readers have received your resume and cover letter. We recommend you do the following in your closing: Restate why you align with the organization's mission/goals. Restate why your skills match the position requirements and how your experience will help the organization. Inform your readers when you will contact them. Include your phone number and address. Thank your readers for their consideration.

29 Academic Cover Letter Quirks
Academic letters are a little different from private sector letters, but they align to the same overall goals. Show who you are: your values, your philosophy about education, teaching, and research. Show how your experiences match with what they want you to do. Show how your education has prepared you to do what they want you to do. Show how you are a good fit for the culture of their institution. Because they are a longer piece of writing, they will also be used to assess your written communication skills, and they should be well-organized, cogent, and cohesive. They always take much longer to write than you think. Start early. Plan to consult your faculty advisor and the Writing Center or Career Management.

30 Thank you! After today’s session, I will this powerpoint to all session participants who signed in and provided an address. You can visit the Writing Center ( or make an appointment with the Career Management Office ( for help with cover letters. If you are planning to work in academia, the Preparing Future Faculty program can help you enormously: teaching philosophy statements, syllabus development, classroom management, and much, much more, including a certification showing your commitment to a career as an educator.

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