Make Sure Your Business Correspondence is per-F-E-C-T!
Whether it is a writing sample or another type of correspondence, you must make it Per-F-E-C-T.
Formal. Error-free. Concise. Tailored.
Business Letter Basics
Take a look at the business letter template in the related links. Notice that there is plenty of white space and margins and the font type and size are all consistent and professional-looking. There is no crowding or inconsistent spacing.
You can use the header from your resume so that it looks like letterhead. OR you can use an alternate header which includes your full name and full address including city, state and zip code. Some students just put their name here or just their street address which is not formal or complete enough.
For the date, you should use the formal format of full month, day and full year. Don’t just use digits or numbers as a shortcut.
For the company information, you should use contact name and title, company name and full company address. Even if you are applying online, you must use a full mailing address on your cover letter so it looks proper and professional. You can easily look this up on the Internet or by calling the company.
For the salutation, never just write “To Whom It May Concern”. Take the extra effort to figure out who you are writing to! And make sure you get the Mr. or Ms. right. If you don’t know or can’t figure it out from the name, you can use the title instead such as “Dear Head of Recruiting:”. If you really can’t figure out who to address it to, you can use “Dear Hiring Committee:” as a final resort.
“Best regards” or “Sincerely” are both fine choices to close with. End with your full name and your program and year.
The Per-F-E-C-T Cover Letter
Introduction: Tailor your resume to the company and position you are applying for. Include your degree, the position you are applying for, and any inside knowledge you have learned about the company through your networking and informational interviews, if you have been referred make sure to give the person’s name.
Remember that you need to show how YOU can help the company or its clients, rather than how IT can help you.
Skills: This is the section where you match your skills to the job needs. The related links to the right have three different formats you can choose from: Block, Key Word and Value Proposition. You can take a closer look on the Career Resources webpage to pick the format you prefer. If you are not sure which format suits your industry or function best, talk to your career coach, a mentor or someone from that industry or function.
Closing: Reiterate your interest and match with the position and say thank you.
If you write that you are going to follow up (in your closing), then you should follow up. The general rule is that if it’s a large company and you don’t really know the person, the chance of follow-up making an impact is small. Large companies tend to follow the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach for strangers. However, if you are sending a cover letter to a smaller company or you actually have networked with the person in the past, then a follow up call or email might actually have an impact.
Take a look at examples of an approach and a follow-up email (related links). Notice the length – each is under 100 words, easy-to-follow and concise. They also are formal and error-free. Take note of the tailored subject lines and content as well.
For LinkedIn connection requests don’t use the standard, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” You have a 300 character limit so choose your words wisely
Saying Thank You!
Always send a thank you note! Send thank you notes within 24 hours of meeting with that person, whether you met them during an interview, informational interview, conference or networking event. Keep your response concise (150-200 words at most) and reference something specific that you talked about. You can also use your thank you email after an interview to expand briefly on an answer you gave during the interview, especially if you felt like you didn’t cover everything you wanted to. Maybe it will make them remember you better as well, which is always important if you are trying to expand your network.