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Writing an Effective Resume Letter

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When it comes to crafting a resume letter, a lot of folks make the mistake of assuming one size fits all. But prospective employers can spot a form letter a mile away; if you compose your resume letter without giving it any thought, odds are it’s going to end up in the trash with the rest of the junk mail.

A good resume cover letter is specific. It explains to your potential employers why you are interested in working with them, it identifies your most relevant experiences and skills, and it demonstrates your interest and your knowledge about the position.

In general, the resume letter can be one of three types:

  • The application resume letter is written in response to a particular job opening.
  • The prospecting resume letter is a letter of inquiring, written to find out about possible job openings.
  • The networking resume letter requests information that can assist you in your job search.

Resume Letter Format

No matter which type of resume letter you’re writing, it should adhere to a basic three-section format.

Section 1: Explain why you are writing the letter.

If you were referred to the company by a mutual friend or business acquaintance, be sure to mention this contact by name as early as you can. A familiar name is practically a guarantee that your potential employer will keep reading.

Example: “Lionel Artnik suggested that I write you regarding the help desk analyst position in your department.”

If you are writing an application resume letter, let the reader know where you learned about the job opening. Be enthusiastic, and be sure to emphasize the match between your credentials and the job requirements.

Example: “Please accept my application for the Quality Assurance Analyst position you posted on your corporate website. I am confident that my skills and experience will prove to be an effective match for your needs. I am looking forward to speaking with you about the position, as well as our respective goals.”

For a prospecting resume letter, you’ll need to state your job objective as precisely as you can. Since these types of letters are unsolicited, you may have to work even harder to maintain the reader’s attention.

Example: “I read with interest about XYZ Company in a brochure at the Career Services office at ABC University, and would like to inquire about employment opportunities in your management training program. Once I receive my B.A. in Communications in May, I will be relocating to the Chicago area and would like to work in retail management.”

If you’re writing a networking resume letter, be clear and upfront with your request for information.

Example: “I am most interested in talking with you about the field of taxonomy to learn more about typical entry-level positions and the necessary qualifications.”

Section 2: Tell your prospective employer what you have to offer.

It’s important to emphasize your ability to meet the company’s needs, rather than focusing on what the employer can offer you. In an application resume letter, you can do this by referring to the qualifications in the listed job opening and explaining how your experience and skills relate to them.

Example: “Your posting indicates that you are seeking candidates with strong leadership and organizational skills, as well as an understanding of the technology. My educational background in computer science and my experience as a Project Coordinator at ABC Company have been excellent preparation for your Business Analyst position.”

For a prospecting resume letter, you’ll have to work a little harder to convince the reader that the experience and skills you possess can benefit the company.

Example: “I believe my degree in English, combined with my experience as a programmer/analyst, would allow me to bring a unique perspective to your newly-formed Technical Writing department.”

If you’re writing a networking resume letter to request an informational meeting, be sure to emphasize your experiences, skills, and interests as they relate to the subject at hand.

Section 3: Explain how you will follow up.

A resume letter is no time to be timid or coy. Once you’ve assured your prospective employers that you’re are interested in interviewing for the job (or for information), let them know that you will follow up with a telephone call to set up an appointment. And be sure to make the call during the time frame you specified!

Finally, if you have references, a portfolio, or writing samples, you should state that they are available on request in the closing of your resume letter.

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