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Connecting UW Students and Employers

Cover Letters and Emails

Please note: If you are already in a major, your home career services office may have major-specific career resources to aid you in your search. Search by your major or career word for the appropriate career services office:

Haven't chosen a major? The Cross-College Advising Service and Exploration Center can help you find a fit.

Employer-Directed Letters and E-mails
E-mail Reminders
Sample Letters and E-mails

Every resume requires an introduction - an explanation as to why a resume is sent. An effective cover letter introduces your resume, summarizes your immediate career goals, and is used for many reasons:

Form Letters
Never send a "form" letter to employers. At first glance to the student, a form letter is an easy and quick way to contact hundreds of employers with resumes. Often called the "shot gun" approach, students erroneously use this approach to claim that they have done an exhaustive job search, sending resumes to hundreds of employers and receiving no responses. Upon this premise, they conclude that there are no jobs out there, and they blame the bad economy or others for their joblessness. How often have you heard, "I've sent out 400 resumes and posted a resume on every major job board, but no one is-getting back to me. There are no jobs." Please know that this is not an effective job search strategy.

Employer-Directed Letters and E-mails

The use of form letters is a waste of your time, so create a targeted list of employers. Then develop letters or E-mails specifically for each employer. Each communication will include these basic elements:

Clearly and simply state why you are writing to the employer. It is crucial for you to make it clear that you deserve further consideration. If appropriate, identify the person, by name, who suggested you contact the employer. This use of networking is particularly effective.

Emphasize the match between your qualifications and the employer's needs. Do not simply repeat your resume; but expand upon resume details that fit the specific position for which you are applying. Describe how your background has prepared you as a "good match" for the ongoing and/or future needs of that specific employer.

Request employer action (i.e., an interview, an INVITED letter, or a response for a site visit) at the employer's earliest convenience. Indicate the next step you will take, such as "I will contact you during the week of October 2 to follow up on this request." Close with a goodwill/appreciation statement: "I look forward to meeting with you. Thank you for your time and consideration."

Professional Tone:
While the message content is important, the tone is equally important. Be professional. Address the message to Mr., Ms. or Dr. XXX. It is rarely acceptable to use first names in a business salutation. Avoid using slang and contractions ("I've" and "you'll"). Be courteous and respectful.

Effective Timing:
Traditionally, new college hires are recruited on campus in early fall and early spring, but new market needs and budgets affect timing.

Requests for Direct Hire:
"Direct hire" is a term generally referring to those contacts made with employers who are not at career fairs or campus interviews. You contact targeted employers to respond to a job posting or inquire about opportunities. Individuals are hired throughout the year, so do not limit yourself to campus events or on campus employers.

E-mail Reminders for Job Seekers

In most cases, it is acceptable to communicate with employers by E-mail. This includes the initial contact, follow-ups after an interview, and thank you's. E-mail can be very effective (i.e., quick)—or disastrous if sent to the wrong person, written too informally, conveying a negative message, or containing spelling or grammatical errors. Use strictly formal business communication tones when communicating with an employer by E-mail.

Business E-mail Etiquette

Source: "Guide to Effective E-mail," Kaitlin Duck Sherwood,, 2001.

A True (but unfortunate) E-mail Story

CHARACTERS: (names changed)

Bob (UW-Madison student; strong candidate)
Ms. Hanson (Human Resources Manager, Large, Good Co.)
Wally (Student's buddy)

PLACE: (place not changed; it really happened)

Computer lab, late one night, not too long ago


Bob returns from an excellent second interview with Large, Good Co. in San Francisco. Soon after arriving back on campus, he is contacted by Ms. Hanson with an offer; an excellent offer for permanent employment upon graduation. Bob is very pleased and ready to accept offer.

All things are good.

Late that night, while doing homework at CAE and talking with buddies online, he opens Ms. Hanson's E-mail one more time to look at the job offer details and dream. His mind wanders to the great time he had on the flight to the second interview, the people he met, and the beginning of an excellent career with Large, Good Co.

He has done all the right things and it is paying off.

Then he receives an E-mail from Wally who is going out of town to party over the weekend. Bob wants to tell Wally about his job offer and "wish him well" for the weekend.

He selects "Reply to E-mail" and tells Wally about his second interview, the job offer. He closes by telling Wally to have a very good time (in graphic detail) at the out-of-town party.

You know what happened already, don't you? Bob, thinking he was replying to Wally, was actually replying to Ms. Hanson. The message intended for Wally was casual and social with inappropriate language for business communication.

When Ms. Hanson (expecting a respectful, businesslike response to her offer of employment with Large, Good Co.) received the E-mail response, she immediately rescinded the job offer. Even after repeated phone calls to explain the situation, the job offer remained pulled. Bob had to start over in his job search.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Pay attention to e-mail content. Don't mix business and social e-mail. Slow down. check the "to" box. Don't select "send" too quickly.

Sample Letters and E-mails

Sample Cover Letter 1
Sample Cover Letter 2

Interview Thank You and Follow-up

Send immediately after interview.

Thank you for your time and consideration during our interview on Thursday. I enjoyed our discussion on the new widget product you are developing and appreciated your taking me on a tour of your facility. As we discussed your needs and toured the facility, my interest in joining your team became even stronger.

In giving further thought to our discussion about working in the widget industry, I realized I had a similar experience several years ago while working with new optical technology at ABC Corp. While it required more time to get up to speed, I dedicated extra personal time to become familiar with the specifics of that project, and was able to deliver our prototype ahead of schedule. With my dedication, team work, and experience in developing optical technology, I am confident I would be an asset to your team and make a valuable contribution to Techno Products, Inc.

I appreciate your consideration and am excited by the prospect of working with you and developing the new widget product line. Enclosed is an additional copy of my resume for your convenience. I look forward to talking with you again soon.

1st Follow-up E-mail

Send 2 weeks after thank you e-mail for interview.

I am still very interested in pursuing opportunities with ABC Corp. in the widget division. As we discussed on campus in Madison last month, my academic project in _________ will enable me to make immediate contributions as an entry-level engineer. Please let me know if I can provide you with any other materials to help you make your decision. As I mentioned in my E-mail of October 10, my enthusiasm is strong for this kind of work (be specific). I look forward to scheduling an on-site visit at your convenience. Thank you, once again, for your time and consideration.

2nd Follow-up E-mail to Interview

Send 2 weeks after 1st follow-up e-mail. A professional phone call of continued interest is also appropriate instead of this e-mail.

Although I have not yet heard from you regarding the opportunity to work in the ABC widget division, I remain enthused about this prospect. ABC has long been a leader in this field with a history of ______. I feel confident that I can work with your team to maintain your high level of performance and customer service.

I respectfully request the opportunity to conduct a second interview on-site with you. Recently, I have scheduled second interviews with two other companies and received one offer on which I will need to decide by the end of the month. Since ABC has always been my employer of choice, I would very much appreciate a communication regarding my application status.

Acceptance of Job Offer

Send AFTER first accepting job offer by phone (in person).

I am pleased to formally accept your offer of a position as an industrial engineer with Maynard, Inc. After our phone conversation of last week and after reviewing your written offer, I understand my starting date will be January 15, 2007 and that my monthly salary will be $4,020.00.

Enclosed is a copy of your formal offer letter with my acceptance signature. I look forward to beginning my career with you. Thank you for your confidence in my qualifications. I will work hard to meet and exceed your expectations.

Rejection of Job Offer

This letter confirms our phone conversation this morning indicating that I cannot accept your job offer to join the staff at Rollando Products. As you know, this was a very difficult decision for me, but I have decided to accept another opportunity.

As I approach graduation and reflect on my experiences and prepare for the future, I am grateful for the many opportunities offered me. While at Rollando as an intern engineer, I learned a great deal. You have always treated me with professionalism and provided me with mentorship that forms a solid foundation upon which I will build my career. Thank you.

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