A letter of application, also known as a cover letter, is a job application document sent with your resume to provide additional information about your skills and experience. The letter of application is intended to provide detailed information on why you are a qualified candidate for the job you are applying for. Effective application letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills or experiences.
Your application letter should let the employer know what position you are applying for, what makes you a strong candidate, why they should select you for an interview, and how you will follow up.
Letter of Application Tips
- Always write one: Unless a job posting specifically says not to send a letter of application or cover letter, you should always send one. Even if the company does not request a letter of application, it never hurts to include one. If they do ask you to send a letter, make sure to follow the directions exactly (for example, they might ask you to send the letter as an email attachment, or type it directly into their online application system). Following application directions is the first step to getting selected for an interview.
- Use business letter format: Use an official business letter format when writing your letter. Include your contact information at the top, the date, and the employer’s contact information. Be sure to provide a salutation at the beginning, and your signature at the end.
- Sell yourself: Throughout the letter, focus on how you would benefit the company. Provide specific examples of times when you demonstrated skills or abilities that would be useful for the job, especially those listed in the job posting or description. If possible, include examples of times when you added value to a company. Numerical values offer concrete evidence of your skills and accomplishments.
- Use keywords. Reread the job listing, circling any keywords (such as skills or abilities that are emphasized in the listing). Try to include some of those words in your cover letter. This will help the employer see that you are a strong fit for the job.
- Keep it brief. Keep your letter under a page long, with no more than about four paragraphs. An employer is more likely to read a concise letter.
- Edit, edit, edit. Employers are likely to overlook an application with a lot of errors. Therefore, read through your cover letter, and if possible ask a friend or career counselor to review the letter. Proofread for any grammar or spelling errors.
Writing a Letter of Application: Step-by-Step
1. Heading (for a business letter):
Your heading should include your name, address, city, state, and zip code, followed by your phone number and email. The date should be on the next line. Then you should list the name of the company contact, their title, the company address and city, state, and zip code. If you are sending your letter via email as an attached document, title the document with your name and the job title.
- Subject (for an email letter)
List the job you are applying for and your name in the subject line of your email message, so the employer is clear as to what job you are interested in and who you are.
Begin your salutation with “Dr./Mr./Ms. Last name.” If you do not know the employer’s last name, simply write “Dear Hiring Manager” or leave the greeting off the letter and start with the first paragraph.
- First Paragraph: Explain why you are writing – mention the job you are applying for and where you found the listing.
- Middle Paragraph(s): State what you have to offer the employer – mention why your skills and experiences are a good fit for the job. For each skill or quality you mention, provide a specific example.
- Last Paragraph: Say thank you to the hiring manager for considering you and note how you will follow up.
End your letter with a polite closing, such as “Sincerely” or “Regards”, and your signature (handwritten if you are sending it by post), followed by your typed name. If this is an email, simply include your typed name, followed by your contact information.
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