COVER LETTER GUIDELINES

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1 Robert R. McComsey Career Development Center COVER LETTER GUIDELINES Alfred University Alfred, NY Phone: Fax: Hours: 8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday Walk-in hours: 1:00-4:30 Tues., Wed., and Thurs. A customized cover letter is necessary with every resume you send. It introduces your resume, showcases your written communication skills, and allows you a first chance to stand out from the crowd. We recommend you write your resume before you start your cover letter. Once you have a completed resume in front of you, it will be much easier to pull out your skills and put them into a narrative format. Your cover letter will be slightly different based on the type of situation you encounter. The following pages will give you examples of an advertisement-response letter (when you are writing in response to an advertised job opening) and a prospecting letter (when you aren t sure if there s a position but want to work for that organization). Addressing your letter: Here are some simple rules you may want to review when writing a professional correspondence to a potential boss: 1. If you know the person holds a doctorate, use the salutation Dr. Name: John Smith, PhD Your salutation should read Dear Dr. Smith: 2. If you know the person is a woman, but you do not know whether or not she holds a doctorate, use the salutation Ms. Name: Janine Jones Your salutation should read Dear Ms. Jones: 3. If you know the person is a man, but you do not know whether or not he holds a doctorate, use the salutation Mr. Name: Kenneth Jones Your salutation should read Dear Mr. Jones: 4. If you do not know what the person s sex is, use both the first and last name. Name: Pat Jones Your salutation should read Dear Pat Jones: This is trickier than it seems. Men can be named Lynn, Tracy, and Marion (look up John Wayne s real name, for example) and Devon, Jamie and Morgan can be women. When in doubt, use both names. 5. If you have no name to address your correspondence to, and you have tried to find one, address the letter to Dear Hiring Manager. Do not use Dear Sir or Madam, and definitely stay away from Dear Sir. 1

2 6. Whenever a name is given, use the name rather than a generic Dear Hiring Manager. 7. Do not ever use Miss or Mrs. in business correspondence unless you know beyond a doubt that the person prefers that salutation. Both these salutations make assumptions about a woman s marital status, which presumably you do not know and is not a factor in a work environment anyway. Many women find it offensive to be addressed as either in a business setting, so err on the side of caution and use Ms. (or Dr. if the person has PhD, PsyD, EdD or some other doctoral designation after her name). Show that you know how to communicate in writing: The cover letter is a business correspondence. It must include a date, heading, inside address, greeting, body, closing and signature. Proofread carefully. Sloppy work, typos, poor punctuation, and letters that look mass-produced may cost you an interview. We recommend that you have at least two others proofread your cover letter, including a staff member at the CDC and/or the Writing Center. Use the CDC s 24-hour critiquing service drop off your cover letter and a counselor will critique it within a day. You can also send it to and we ll critique it via . Employer-focused, not self-centered: Make your letter interesting and personalized without bragging. Explain how you can fill the needs of the company, not what the company can do for you. Never lie or exaggerate your credentials. Show you have done your homework, but do not use insincere flattery of the company or the person you are writing to. Be careful of statements such as I am interested in working for the best school district in the nation. Appearance: Keep the cover letter to one page. Remember to sign your name with blue or black ink. Match your cover letter paper, font, style, and type size to what appears on your resume. Never use smaller than 10pt font size. Use a matching envelope, or a large mailing envelope. Be sure your cover letter is typed or word-processed, never handwritten. Salary requirements: Do not mention salary requirements unless specifically asked to. Even then, do not be too definite; rather, give an acceptable range or state salary is negotiable. If you are unsure about an appropriate range, check with the Career Development Center for the local and national averages for your type of position or pick up our Negotiating Salary and Benefits handout. See sample letters on following pages. 2

3 Sample format for a basic cover letter Your present address City, State, Zip Code Date of Writing Mr. John Blank, Title Company Street Address City, State Zip Code Dear Mr. Blank: First paragraph - tell why you are writing; name the position, field, or general vocational area about which you are asking. Tell how you heard of the opening or organization. If you are planning to relocate to the area, mention that! Second paragraph - refer the reader to the enclosed resume. Mention the qualifications you think would be most appropriate for the position and/or organization. Briefly discuss your education (degree, major, college). If you have had related experience or specialized training (i.e. special projects, internships, awards), it should be discussed here. You may want to mention skills or personal qualities that you bring to the job such as creativity, self-motivation, organizational skills, etc. Third paragraph - make a specific request for an interview, offer any additional information, and thank the reader for his or her time and consideration. It is also very effective to say that you will call within two weeks to arrange a time to meet- but if you write that, you d better plan to do it. Many employers will hold your resume until they get that call. (Handwritten signature) Type your name 3

4 Sample Advertisement-Response Cover Letter 17 West University Street Alfred, NY September 18, 2010 Mr. Calvin Appleseed Director of Human Resources Appleseed Restaurant Chain, Inc Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC Dear Mr. Appleseed: Please accept this letter as application for the position of Assistant Director of Public Relations/Marketing with Appleseed Restaurants, Inc. as advertised by the Alfred University Career Development Center. By May 16, 2011 I will have earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Alfred University. My education and experiences at Alfred have given me a good background in public relations operations, promotions/special events, and target marketing. One project I m especially proud of is a successful market research analysis I conducted for a local restaurant owner who wanted an image change. This project entailed assessing the local market, analyzing trends, developing a promotional package, contracting with local graphic designers, and facilitating media coverage. I am a self-starter who requires little direct supervision and my scholastic record should indicate my dedication to my field. I would like the opportunity to personally discuss my qualifications with you at your convenience. Please contact me at my college address or phone number if I can provide additional information or to arrange an interview. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Matthew P. Jones 4

5 Sample Prospecting Cover Letter P.O. Box 000 Alfred, NY January 25, 2011 Ms. Pauline Burrent Director, Resource House for Women 1400 Terrapin St. Cassidy, PA Dear Ms. Burrent: I read your company description in Petersen s Internship Guide, and I am writing to inquire as to the possibility of obtaining a summer position as a Community Aide at the Resource House for Women this summer. If you are still offering internships, please consider me an enthusiastic candidate. I am currently in my junior year at Alfred University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Spanish. For the past two years I have been employed as a Resident Assistant for a floor of 30 women. My responsibilities included supervision of my floor, educational and social programming using a developmental model, peer counseling and confrontation of peers who were not abiding by college and residence hall policies. In addition, I have been a member of the Sexual Assault Victim s Advocacy Program, for which I received crisis management and peer counselor training. My coursework in Psychology, as well as these leadership experiences, have enhanced my ability to work with women in the areas of self-esteem building, assertiveness training, and community outreach. Utilizing my skills in Spanish, I will also be able to understand and work to meet the needs of women from diverse family, social, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds. I would welcome the opportunity to interview with you at your convenience. If you have questions or need the names of references, please contact me at the above address. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you. Jane K. Doe 5

6 Sample You Want I Have Cover Letter John Lee 3206 East 89 th Street, Apt. 4B New York, NY May 4, 2010 Sandra Stevens, Personnel Director N.Y.C. Administration for Children s Services Division of Personnel 80 Lafayette Street 11th Floor New York, NY Dear Ms. Stevens: I am forwarding my resume in response to a job posting I received through the Career Development Center at Alfred University. I am very interested in the position of Child Welfare Caseworker and would appreciate being considered as a candidate. You will note from the enclosed resume that I have many of the attributes that you are seeking in a caseworker. Please consider the following: Bachelor s degree in Sociology Four years experience working in human services in New York City Experienced at working with dysfunctional children Calm and dependable in crisis situations Dedication to helping people improve their lives in an urban setting Conversational ability in the Cantonese dialect I am a compassionate and understanding individual who has been active on and off campus working to help and improve the quality of the lives in my communities. I have contributed to various organizations like Adopt-A-Youth, Student Health Advisory Council, and Peer Review Board (which adjudicates discipline hearings.) I would be pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this position with you personally, and I hope that you will view my candidacy favorably. I will contact you within two weeks to confirm receipt of my application and see if we can set up an appointment. Thank you for your time and consideration. John Lee Acknowledgements to Kwok Kei Wong 98 McComsey Career Development Center Saxon Drive, Alfred NY (t) (f) (e) Revised 3/23/11 6

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