Normally, when you apply for a job, you send two documents in one envelope: the letter of application and the resume (or vita). The letter of application should be written anew for each prospective employer, whereas the resume is usually not modified for different prospective employers.
Because it is a letter, the letter of application should have the traditional elements of a business letter: the heading at the top (consisting of your return address and the date), followed by the inside address, and the salutation. After the salutation comes the message of the letter, the complimentary close, and the signature.
Although the letter should be rewritten for each new application (showing that you have enough interest to avoid sending a boiler-plate letter), the message section of letters of application usually follow a predictable pattern.
The body is composed of from one to three or four paragraphs. These paragraphs discuss your strengths in terms of how they can be used by the prospective employer, and they normally begin with your strongest qualification and work down. Each paragraph should be unified and coherent. For instance, if paragraph one is about your education, it should stick to that subject, but it should do more than list courses: it should emphasize the skills and knowledge you have picked up in the courses. Always explain what you are able to do for the prospective employer. Although the letter seems to be about you, it is really about the employer and his or her needs.
If your first paragraph is about education, then you might want to discuss your work experience next. If your work experience is a greater qualification, then it should be discussed first. But what if your experience doesn't help you much? All work teaches you discipline and responsibility, so you might try to emphasize those qualities rather than your knowledge of french fries and hamburgers. Or perhaps you might skip the work experience as a topic for the letter and use the second paragraph of the body to describe an internship or a special design or lab project you worked on.
The conclusion of a letter of application, like a sales letter, calls for action and refers to supplemental material. Draw attention to the enclosed resume, and, if you have a self-promotional web page, give the http address and invite the reader to visit it. Tell the reader that you are interested in an interview, and tell her or him how to get in touch with you--by mail, phone, E-mail. If you can be reached by phone only at specific times, say so.
The following fictitous resume shows the sections mentioned above: the heading, the education section, and the experience section.
Jersey H. Gnew
123 Walking Lane
Anytown, Illinois 12345
|Really Fine University, Newtown, Wisconsin. Bachelor
of Science in Technical Communication, May 1997. Cum Laude. |
Studied document design, technical editing, scientific and technical writing, on-line documentation, organizational communication. Gained a working knowledge of Word 6.1, WordPerfect 7.0, Power Point, Page Maker, HTML coding, Lostus 123.
Worked collaboratively to create camera-ready materials for client's name. Developed extensive portfolio containing examples of technical editing, web page design, technical report, business correspondence.
|Really Fine University, Newtown, Wisconsin. Librarian's
Assistant. School years 1994-1997.|
|Anytown Mental Health Clinic, Anytown, IL.
Public Relations Writer. Summers 1995 and 1996. |
|Shooneys, Inc., Anytown, IL. Stocker and Checker.
Summers 1991-1994, and after school during the school years if
1991 and 1992.|
|References available upon request.|