Guidelines for Correspondence in your Job Search
Email in Your Job Search
Email Business Etiquette
Researching Employers — Why and How
Cover Letter – Types and Samples
Thank You / Follow Up Letters

Guidelines for Correspondence in Your Job Search

Written Communication:
Whether hard copy or email — serves many purposes in a job search. In a thorough job search, you will write many types of letters. Cover letters, which accompany and introduce your resume, are the ones you may hear about most (and NEVER send a resume without one), but are not the only letters you will need. Letters also precede, follow-up and confirm verbal conversations, so they serve as a record and reminder of interactions, as well as evidence of your communication skills.

For all Business Correspondence, Including Email:
Individualize: While there are specific components to types of letters, each letter should be individually tailored and targeted to the recipient. There is no such thing as an effective "form letter" in a job search. You know when you get a form letter in the mail; a prospective employer knows too.

Make your purpose clear: Don't make an employer guess why you are writing or what the heck you are writing about. In choosing your words, think about the purpose of your letter and details of your individual circumstances. For example, if you make a telephone call to an employer prior to sending a cover letter, it makes sense for your letter to refer to the telephone call. If you must respond to an employer's letter to you, read the letter carefully to draft an appropriate response.

Grammar, spelling and punctuation should be error-free; wording should be clear, concise and business-like; avoid gimmicky language and slang terms.

Be Yourself:
Be your formal, business-like self, but express yourself in a manner that is natural to you. Avoid too much "borrowing" of language from sample letters and friends' letters. Use good examples as inspiration, but don't copy.

Retain a copy of every letter you send, including email; mark your calendar for any appropriate follow-up.

For Print (hard copy) Correspondence:
Paper: Use 8 1/2 by 11 inch, good quality paper; preferably the same paper as used for your resume. Particularly for your resume, make sure you choose paper which produces clean photocopies. Some papers with flecks make hazy copies.

Produce laser quality print; choose a proportionally spaced font, rather than an evenly spaced font. You may choose either


Email in Your Job Search

Use email in your job search when an employer specifically invites or instructs you to do so (on a web site, in verbal conversation, etc.); or let the employer initiate email contact.

Include your email address on your resume and on the address block of your hard-copy letters so employers can initiate email contact with you.
The same rules of hard copy correspondence apply to business email.

An obvious advantage of email is that you can correspond much more quickly and don't need to be concerned with paper quality, envelopes, and postage, as you would with hard copy correspondence.

The speed and convenience of email is an advantage to busy employers as well. The degree to which email is used will depend on the types of employers with whom you are dealing.

Be aware that email is a form of written communication and it creates a written record. Retain copies of the email you send and receive. Don't let the speed and ease of sending email blind you to the fact that you will be judged on what you say and how you say it. Email, like other written correspondence, doesn't reveal your tone of voice. Choose your words carefully.


Email Business Etiquette

Do not abandon business etiquette in your use of email! Remember:
Business-like writing style.

Attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation (same rules as for hard copy correspondence)

Clear "signature block" with your full name, postal mailing address and return email address (obviously there is no handwritten signature)

Be careful about including quotations and sayings in your signature block. Obviously don't include anything that has potential to be offensive or misunderstood. Think about the impression your message sends to someone who doesn't know you, and be judicious.

Don't use all capitals. It's the email equivalent of SHOUTING and people don't like it.

By the same token, don't use all lower case letters. (Your purpose in business correspondence is not to attempt to pass for e.e.cummings.) See the first two items above.


Researching Employers – Why and How

Why Research?
To effectively sell yourself as a job candidate, you need to be able to persuade the employer that you are a "fit" for that employer's needs. Even when the job market is great for job seekers, employers aren't going to interview and hire candidates who are not a match for their needs.
You can't present yourself — in cover letters or interviews — as a match for the employer's needs if you don't know enough about the employer to do so.

By doing research, you get information to decide which employers to contact. Rather than sending (and incurring the associated costs of sending) fifty letters and resumes to employers you know little to nothing about, send ten letters and resumes to employers you know something about and have a greater chance of securing an interview. Targeted letters, individualized to the recipient are more effective than "form" letters — you know a form letter when you receive one; employers do too.

In interviews, employers expect you to arrive knowing background information about the organization. If you don't, you look like you're not really interested in the job. You have to be able to answer the critical question of why you would like to work for that employer — and not sound like you would take any job.

Research helps you formulate intelligent and appropriate questions to ask in your interview.

How to Research Specific Employers
Talk to people: Find people who work for or know about the organization. This could be people you meet at a career fair, family members, neighbors, parents of friends, students who graduated ahead of you, alumni contacts — VT CareerLink is Career Services' alumni networking database — you can search it for alumni contacts working for particular organizations.

The employer's web site: If you know the URL for an employer's web site, go there. If you don't know the URL, do an internet search on the organization name (don't forget to spell it correctly). Obviously some employers' web sites will be more helpful / informative / useful to you than others. If the web site posts jobs and/or the organization invites email from job seekers and/or accepts resumes online, this can save time in your job search.

Do some Internet research. CEO Express is a very comprehensive meta-site. Explore the links it provides.

Call or write the organization and ask for information. This is perfectly appropriate to do, especially if the organization is small and/or you simply cannot find information about the organization through other sources. If you have an interview scheduled with an employer, the employer should have already provided information (web site, brochures, etc.); if not, by all means, ask for this.


Cover Letters – Types and Samples

The guidelines here apply to both hard copy correspondence and email. (To decide which to use, see email in your job search.) The main difference between email and hard copy correspondence is format: your signature block (address, etc.) goes below your name in email, while it goes at the top of the page on hard copy. Of course you won't have a handwritten signature on email, but don't forget this on hard copy.

All Cover Letters Should:

Explain why you are sending a resume. Don't send a resume without a cover letter. Don't make the reader guess what you are asking for; be specific: Do you want a summer internship opportunity, or a permanent position at graduation; are you inquiring about future employment possibilities?

Tell specifically how you learned about the position or the organization — a flyer posted in your department, a web site, a family friend who works at the organization. It is appropriate to mention the name of someone who suggested that you write.

Convince the reader to look at your resume; the cover letter will be seen first. Therefore, it must be very well written and targeted to that employer.

Call attention to elements of your background — education, leadership, experience — that are relevant to a position you are seeking. Be as specific as possible, using examples.

Reflect your attitude, personality, motivation, enthusiasm, and communication skills.

Provide or refer to any information specifically requested in a job advertisement that might not be covered in your resume, such as availability date, or reference to an attached writing sample.

Indicate what you will do to follow-up your letter.

In a letter of application — applying for an advertised opening — applicants often say something like "I look forward to hearing from you." However, it is better to take the initiative to follow-up, saying something like, "I will contact you in the next two weeks to see if you require any additional information regarding my qualifications."

In a letter of inquiry — asking about the possibility of an opening — don't assume the employer will contact you. You should say something like, "I will contact you in two weeks to learn more about upcoming employment opportunities with (name of organization)." Then  mark your calendar to make the call.

Sample Cover Letter Format Guidelines (below).

City, State Zip Code
Telephone Number
Email Address
Month, Day, Year

Mr./Ms./Dr. Name
Name of Organization
Street or P. O. Box Address
City, State Zip Code

Dear Mr./Ms./Dr.:

Opening paragraph: State why you are writing; how you learned of the organization or position, and basic information about yourself.

2nd paragraph: Tell why you are interested in the employer or type of work the employer does (Simply stating that you are interested does not tell why, and can sound like a form letter). Demonstrate that you know enough about the employer or position to relate your background to the employer or position. Mention specific qualifications which make you a good fit for the employer’s needs. This is an opportunity to explain in more detail relevant items in your resume. Refer to the fact that your resume is enclosed. Mention other enclosures if such are required to apply for a position.

3rd paragraph: Indicate that you would like the opportunity to interview for a position or to talk with the employer to learn more about their opportunities or hiring plans. State what you will do to follow up, such as telephone the employer within two weeks. If you will be in the employer’s location and could offer to schedule a visit, indicate when. State that you would be glad to provide the employer with any additional information needed. Thank the employer for her/his consideration.


(Your handwritten signature)

Your name typed

Enclosure(s) (refers to resume, etc.)

(Note: the contents of your letter might best be arranged into four paragraphs. Consider what you need to say and use good writing style. See the following examples for variations in organization and layout.)


John J. Smith
123 Main St.
Bangor, ME 04101
(207) 555-3333

July 1, 2012
Mr. Robert Burns
MEGATEK Corporation
123 Main St
Bangor, ME 04444

Dear Mr. Burns:

I learned of MEGATEK through online research using the MY NTINOW database through Northeast Technical Institute where I am completing my Network certification training. From my research on your web site, I believe there would be a good fit between my skills and interests and your needs.

I am interested in a programming position upon completion of my industry certifications in June 2012.  As a Northeast Tech student, I am one of six members of a networking development team where we are upgrading network configuration for the school. My responsibilities include designing, implementing, and the security of a Microsoft network. I have a strong desire to apply these skills in the real-world, and believe that these skills would benefit your clients. Enclosed is my resume which further outlines my qualifications.

My qualifications make me well suited to the projects areas in which your division of MEGATEK is expanding efforts. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss a position with you, and will contact you in a week or ten days to answer any questions you may have and to see if you need any other information from me such as a company application form or transcripts. Thank you for your consideration.


William Robbins

Resume attached as MS Word document


Thank You and Follow Up Letters

Thank you letters are critical to your job search success, and interviews are not the only occasions to send thank-you and follow-up letters. If you've ever experienced helping or doing something for someone, and not receiving a thank-you, you understand how employers view this lack of courtesy on the part of job seekers.

When to Write Thank-You Letters:
A thank-you letter should be written after:
An interview
A contact is helpful to you in a telephone conversation or email;
Someone provides / sends information to you at your request;
A contact was particularly helpful to you at a career fair;
You visit a contact at their work site; and
Any other contact for which you want to express thanks and develop a good relationship.

Hard Copy, Handwritten or Email:
Thank-you letters can be hard copy typed, handwritten or emailed. Hard copy are most formal and are always appropriate after an interview. Handwritten are more personal, and can be appropriate for brief notes to a variety of individuals you may have met during on on-site interview or who may have helped you in other ways. Email is appropriate when that has been your means of contact with the person you want to thank, or if your contact has expressed a preference for email.

Follow up to
Telephone Call

July 1, 2012

Ms. Selma Haynes
ABC Corp.
34 South St.
Bangor, ME 04444

Dear Ms. Haynes:

Thank you for talking with me on Wednesday in response to my inquiry about the possibilities in desktop support with ABC Corporation. After speaking with you and another Northheast Technical Institute graduate whose name I obtained through Career Services, I think I am much better prepared to pursue employment opportunities.

On your advice, I have updated my resume, emphasizing my recent experience and activities. A copy is enclosed for you. I also plan to contact Joe Smith as you suggested, and appreciate your giving me her name.

Thank you for inviting me to visit your office. I will call your office two weeks prior to see if it would be convenient to schedule a visit.

Again, thank you so much for your help and advice. I look forward to meeting with you soon.

(your handwritten signature)
John J. Smith



Interview Follow-up

Interviews are not over when you leave the interview: Follow up!

Following an interview, promptly (within 2 business days) write the interviewer a letter expressing appreciation and thanks for the interview. The purpose of this letter is to:

  • Show appreciation for the employer's interest in you
  • Reiterate your interest in the position and in the organization
  • Review or remind the employer about your qualifications for the position. If you thought of something you forgot to mention in the interview, mention it in your follow-up / thank-you letter
  • Demonstrate that you have good manners and know to write a thank-you letter
  • Follow up with any information the employer may have asked you to provide after the interview.

Hard Copy, Handwritten or Email?
Thank-you letters can be hard copy typed, handwritten or emailed. Hard copy are most formal and are appropriate after an interview. Handwritten are more personal, and can be appropriate for brief notes to a variety of individuals you may have met during on on-site interview. Email is appropriate when that has been your means of contact with the person you want to thank, or if your contact has expressed a preference for email. (Also see guidelines for using email in your job search and email business etiquette.)

What to do if you Don't Hear from the Employer:
Before your interview ended, your interviewer should have informed you of the organization's follow-up procedures — from whom, by what means, and when you would hear again from the organization. If the interviewer did not tell you, and you did not ask, use your follow-up / thank-you letter to ask.

If more than a week has passed beyond the date when you were told you would hear something from the employer, call or email to politely inquire about the status of the organization's decision-making process. Someone (or something) or an unexpected circumstance may be holding up the process. A polite inquiry shows that you are still interested in the organization and may prompt the employer to get on schedule with a response. In your inquiry, mention the following: name of the person who interviewed you, time and place of the interview, position for which you are applying (if known), and ask the status of your application.

Thank you for Initial Interview

William Jones
124 West St.
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 555-1111

October 26, 2012

Ms. Lisa Wright
Human Resources Manager
DEF Company
2000 Mamouth Drive
Westbrook, ME 04000

Dear Ms. Wright:

I enjoyed interviewing with you at DEF Company on October 25. The Network Administrator position you outlined sounds both challenging and rewarding
and I look forward to your decision.

As mentioned during the interview, I have one final certification remaining to
become a MCSE. Through my education and experience I’ve gained many
skills, as well as an understanding of business environments. I have worked
several years in the IT field and I think my education and work experience
would complement DEF's IT staff.

I have enclosed a copy of my certifications and a list of references that you

Thank you again for the opportunity to interview with DEF Company. The
interview served to reinforce by strong interest in becoming a part of your
team. I can be reached at (207) 555-1111 or by email at
should you need additional information.


William Jones