Writing Job Search Letters
Writing letters is an integral part of communicating with employers when you're looking for a job. Several different types of letters are used for different circumstances.
The most common term used to refer to job search letters is "cover letter." It literally means any letter that accompanies (or "covers") another piece of paper, such as a resume or an application. In everyday usage, however, it has generally come to mean the first letter you send to an organization to initiate contact with them. It should always be accompanied by a resume unless it is an information request letter.
There are two types of "cover" letters:
- letter of inquiry - used when you are contacting an organization to inquire about and apply for possible openings when you don't know if any vacancies exist
- letter of application - used when you are applying for a specific position that you know is open because you saw it advertised or someone told you about it
Another type of letter frequently used in the job search can be called the follow-up letter. Just as its name implies, it is used to "follow up" previous contact with the organization. It should always refer to that previous contact, tell the reason for writing this letter, and mention future contact or action, when appropriate.
Typical follow-up letters may include:
- A letter accompanying a completed application that the organization has given to you
- A letter checking on the status of your application (although a telephone call is a more timely approach)
- A letter accompanying a revised or more current version of your resume and reiterating your interest in the position/organization
- A letter accepting a job offer
- A letter rejecting a job offer
- A letter withdrawing your application because you have accepted an offer from another organization
- A letter written after receiving a rejection to keep the employer aware of your interest in future opportunities
A thank-you letter is written after an interview. It can help you to be unique among candidates because although it is considered common courtesy, it isn't all that common. It reminds the interviewer of your conversation, shows that you are conscientious and interested, as well as expresses your sincere appreciation.
An information request letter is written prior to applying to the organization. Its purpose is to request information about an organization, specific job titles or functions and/or career opportunities. It does not request information about possible openings. This can also be done by telephone.
TIP: Keep a record of your activity (letters, phone calls, dates, names, titles, and notes) for each organization you have contacted. Keep a copy of everything. This helps you to know when you last communicated, what kind of information they have about you (resume, credentials file, application), and when to follow up with them. It also helps you to respond appropriately when you are contacted for an interview and to prepare for that interview. Most important, it keeps you organized and makes job searching easier.
A final thought: A CDO counselor can critique your letters and make suggestions. Call the CDO at (716) 673-3327 or schedule an appointment using our online form.