Letter of Application and Resume

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.

The Letter of Application

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.


A resume is a carefully crafted, table-like document that displays your education, skills, and work experience in such a way that the reader can scan down through the page rapidly and pick up the essentials. Layout of the page--the use of headers, bold print, white space--is very important. Norally resumes contain a heading, a section on education, and a section on work experience. Sometimes they contain a list of references with addresses and phone numbers. It was once common for resumes to have a personal information section, but those sections are now strongly discouraged because they can be thought of as an attempt to influence the reader with information that is illegal to take into consideration when hiring. Similarly, it was once common to put a career objectives or goal statement near the top, but those statements can do more damage than good by making you appear inflexible or by creating the impression that you do not fit the opening being applied for.

The following fictitous resume shows the sections mentioned above: the heading, the education section, and the experience section.