Cover Letters and Emails
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:
- Respond to specific job postings for direct hire
- Request INVITED status for campus interview sign-up
- Inquire about opportunities
- Follow-up an interview to show appreciation
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:
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, www.webfoot.com, 2001.
- The biggest mistake students make in using E-mail for their job search is-treating it too casually. This is business! Not social.
- Be professional. Edit your message and double check the address prior to selecting the "send" button.
- Don't be sloppy. This isn't instant message or texting. You are not asking someone for a date, or gathering a group to study or party. You are looking for a job.
- What emotion does your E-mail convey? What are the implications and perceptions? E-mail does not project emotions as well as face-to-face or even phone conversations. It lacks vocal inflection, gestures, and a shared environment. It also does not communicate normal cues such as dress, diction, or dialect. The reader will make assumptions based on your name, E-mail address and facility with the language. You need to be meticulous. Write in a precise, clear manner.
- Make everything completely clear and unambiguous. Use perfect spelling, eloquent words, and correct grammar. Don't be conversational. Do not use funny, cute, or non-professional E-mail addresses.
- Sarcasm and humor are particularly dangerous to use in E-mail. Don't.
- Choose your words very carefully. Sadly, a large number of people suffer mishaps because they did not understand how to adjust their communication styles to the medium of E-mail.
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
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.