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A presentation brought to you by the Purdue University Writing Lab

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1 A presentation brought to you by the Purdue University Writing Lab
Cover Letters A presentation brought to you by the Purdue University Writing Lab Rationale: Welcome to “Cover Letters.” This presentation is designed to help students understand more fully the expectations readers have when reading a cover letter. The seventeen slides presented here are designed to aid the facilitator in an interactive presentation of cover letters. This presentation is ideal for any student, especially those students who are nearing the time when they will be ready to apply for jobs or internships. Directions: Each slide is activated by a single mouse click, unless otherwise noted in bold at the bottom of each notes page Writers and Designers: Angela Laflen and Jennifer Liethen Kunka Developed with resources courtesy of the Purdue University Writing Lab Grant funding courtesy of the Multimedia Instructional Development Center at Purdue University © Copyright Purdue University, 2000. Purdue University Writing Lab

2 What Is a Cover Letter? A cover letter expresses your interest in and qualifications for a position to a prospective employer. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress that a cover letter is highly personalized. There is no one correct way to write a cover letter, and writers should never simply copy another cover letter. Job applicants should think about what makes them qualified for the position they are seeking, and they should stress these qualifications throughout their letters.

3 What Should My Cover Letter Accomplish?
Your cover letter should introduce the main points of your resume. It should also help you to “sell” your qualifications to the prospective employer. Key Concept: The cover letter should give the employer a sense of what makes an applicant unique and how their experiences and skills have prepared them for the job they are seeking. Applicants should demonstrate their knowledge of the company in the cover letter, and they should write persuasively, using solid facts and figures to support their claims.

4 Header Emma Markley Human Resources Director St. Luke's Medical Center
729 S. Paulina Chicago, IL 60612 Dear Ms. Markley: Address your letter to a specific person, ideally to the person who will interview you. Look for the person’s name in company publications, or phone the organization and ask for the person’s name or for the personnel manager. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress that the key is to get the cover letter into the correct person’s hand with as few extra steps as possible. Sending the cover letter and resume to the person who is actually interviewing and/or hiring for a specific position will reduce the possibility of the letter “falling through the cracks” and being misplaced or lost. If an applicant does not know to whom they should address their letter, then they probably have not done enough research on the company to which they are applying. Visiting a company’s web page or consulting a reference librarian is the most minimal amount of research that an applicant should expect to do, and this research should yield the name of the person who should be addressed. In some cases, companies will post “blind ads” and will not reveal the name of the person interviewing. In this case, it is acceptable to address the “Personnel Manager” or the title listed in the job ad.

5 Preliminary Research Find out * General job information
* Desired qualifications and skills * Key values and words Check with * Placement office files * WWW * Trade journals, magazines, and newsletters * Directories * Professors * Company literature Key Concept: Doing preliminary research helps a writer to tailor their cover letter for the job they are applying for, and writers should do as much preliminary research as possible about the companies to which they are writing and the jobs for which they are applying. Applicants should conduct research whenever possible, especially for top choices. Job applicants should look at the vocabulary of job ads, especially the vocabulary of the ad to which they are responding. There are many job bank sites on the World Wide Web and browsing through some of the postings at these sites will help applicants understand how to discuss their experiences and skills in their cover letter. Activity: To browse job bank sites on the Internet, researchers can enter “jobs” as the key word in a search request. This will produce thousands of potential sites to look through, some of which will not be at all relevant to the researcher’s job search. is a particularly helpful source of information on jobs and can be accessed at Some directories researchers might consult for career related information are Barron’s, Ward’s, and Thomas’ Register. For more information on conducting preliminary research, check out Bryan Kopp’s Job Search Workshop, available at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab at

6 Introductory Paragraph
Your first paragraph should: Get the reader’s attention, stimulate interest, and be appropriate for the job you are seeking. Make your goal clear to readers. Preview the rest of your letter. Highlight the qualifications you will discuss throughout the letter. Key Concept: It is important for applicants to write persuasive opening paragraphs. Writers can capture their reader’s attention best by demonstrating their knowledge of the job or company. If the job an applicant was advertised, applicants might tell where they learned of the opening. If applicants are writing to find out if a job is available, they might mention a product or project on which they are interested in working. In either case, applicants should work to tie their qualifications in with the job they are seeking. The approach writers take will be guided in large part by whether they are writing a solicited application letter or an unsolicited application letter.

7 Solicited Application Letters
Solicited application letters are letters written in response to an advertised job opening. It is appropriate to mention where you learned of the opening in the first paragraph. I believe that my knowledge of public relations and my proven communication and leadership skills make me a strong candidate for the position of Media Relations Coordinator that was posted by the Delta Airlines Job Opportunities Program. Example: The facilitator might point out that in the above example the applicant specifically names the position for which they are applying and where they learned of that position. They also start off by demonstrating what they can do for the company and how their qualifications have prepared them for the job.

8 Unsolicited Application Letters
Unsolicited application letters are written to companies that have not posted a job opening. It is important to gain the reader’s attention and persuade them that you can contribute to the company’s goals. As a member of one of the fastest growing publishing houses in the world, do you have an opening in your acquisitions department for a recent college graduate with a major in English and publishing and editing experience? Example: The facilitator might point out that in the above example the applicant demonstrates their familiarity with the company and its departments, and emphasizes their qualifications for the position they are seeking, but does not mention a specific position by title since one has not been advertised.

9 Goals of the Body Paragraphs
Highlight your strongest qualifications for the position for which you are applying. Demonstrate how these qualifications will benefit the employer. Refer employers to your enclosed resume. Key Concept: It isn’t necessary for writers to summarize their resumes in the cover letter. Rather, writers should focus on the few most significant things that qualify them for the position. Even one relevant experience is enough to discuss in the cover letter. Writers should also take the opportunity to refer employers to their resume.

10 Detailing Your Experience
Show (don’t tell) employers your qualifications Include specific, credible examples of your qualifications for the position. Use numbers, names of equipment you've used, or features of a project that may apply to the job you want. As a banking representative at Bank One, I provided quality customer service while promoting the sale of products to customers. I also handled upwards of $20,000 a day and was responsible for balancing the bank’s ATM machine. Key Concept: Writers should not simply restate descriptions from their resume in discussing specific experiences. They should be anecdotal instead, helping the employer to picture the writer working on the job.

11 Using Active Language—Don’ts
Don’t be vague in your descriptions. Don’t use weak verbs such as endeavored, tried, hoped, and attempted. Don’t use sexist language such as chairman and manpower. Vague: I worked as a ramp agent at Comair. Weak: I attempted to attract customers. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress that writers want their readers to get a clear sense of what they have done and are capable of doing from their cover letters. The writer’s language should help, and not hinder, the employer’s understanding. Using language that is unprofessional, offensive, or vague creates obstacles in the reader’s understanding and therefore considerably weakens the cover letter and the writer’s chances of success. Click mouse to reveal each example.

12 Using Active Language—Do’s
Use concrete words to describe your experience. Use present tense to discuss current activities and past tense for previous job duties or accomplishments. Be as specific as possible in descriptions; list dollar amounts and figures when you can. Vague: I worked as a ramp agent for COMAIR.  Specific: As a ramp agent, I assisted in loading baggage, oversaw fueling the aircraft, and stocked commissary items on the aircraft. Weak: I attempted to attract customers. Strong: I initiated a program to attract customers to Pizza Hut, which resulted in a 5% increase in sales for the month of June. Examples: The facilitator might point out that when the vague and weak sentences are rewritten, they become much longer. This is due to the additional information added to convey meaning more clearly. If applicants find themselves writing very short sentences throughout the letter, it may be one sign that they are not including enough detail. Click mouse to reveal each example.

13 Organizing Your Letter
In general, cover letters should be no longer than one typed page. Organize your body paragraphs to emphasize your strongest and most relevant qualifications. Only include the two or three strongest qualifications from your resume. Make it easy for readers to scan your letter by beginning each paragraph with a topic sentence. Key Concept: Writers should consider the needs of their audience as they organize the information in their cover letter. Prospective employers will most likely scan the cover letter before they read it to decide whether to read or discard it. Therefore, writers should make the cover letter easy to scan by including only their most relevant qualifications and by devoting a short paragraph to each of these qualifications.

14 Concluding Your Letter
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these and other qualifications with you. If you are interested, please contact me at (317) 555- 0118 any morning before 11:00 a.m., or feel free to leave a message. Conclude by asking for a personal interview. Be flexible regarding a date and time for the interview. Be specific about how the interviewer should contact you. Include a thank you. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress the importance of politely asking for an interview in the conclusion of the letter. Writers should not assume that because they are writing a cover letter it is obvious and doesn’t need saying that they want an interview. Writers should also give specific instructions on how to be contacted. For those in transition, it is a good idea to include a phone number they will always have access to or where someone will always know how to reach them.

15 Mailing Your Letter With Your Resume
Coordinate the design of your letter with the design of your resume. Be sure to send both to prospective employers; they both reveal different kinds of information about you. Key Concept: It is best for writers to be consistent in their use of font, paper, and page layout for both the cover letter and the resume. This conveys an attitude of professionalism to the employer and demonstrates that the applicant has spent time customizing both.

16 Key Points to Remember Appeal to company values, attitudes, goals, projects, etc. Elaborate on the information in your resume. Provide evidence of your qualifications. Proofread carefully for grammatical and typographical errors. The letter should be error-free. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress the importance of proofreading the cover letter before mailing it and of having a critical reader proofread the cover letter as well. A critical reader will often pick up on typographical errors or vague wording that the writer may overlook due to familiarity with the content.

17 Where can you go to find extra help with your cover letter?
Purdue University Writing Lab Heavilon 226 Grammar Hotline: (765) Check our web site: brief questions: Help with drafting, revising, and editing your resumes and cover letters Key Concept: Purdue’s Writing Lab offers a variety of services to writers. Purdue students can schedule one-on-one tutoring sessions with tutors trained in writing cover letters. Writers can also call the Grammar Hotline or the writing lab with brief questions they have as they write their resume and cover letter. It is also a good idea to check out the writing lab web site which offers a variety of online handouts and workshops related to the job search.

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