ENGINEERING CAREER SERVICES
 

Letter Writing

Employers look for potential employees with effective communication skills. The job search process is documentation of both your written and oral skills. Your written communication should clearly enunciate your competencies and positively represent you to the employer. An effective letter demonstrates your:
l professional communication skills,
l competencies relevant to an open or potential position,
l enthusiasm and motivation for a specific position or type of work, and your
l research about the employer.
                                                  
LETTERS IN THE JOB SEARCH PROCESS
Cover Letters Accompany the Resume
Goal: Establish contact with the employer to explore a mutual "fit" between your competencies and motivations and their needs
Types and definitions of cover letters:
l Letter of Application -- use for an advertised position
m    General Guidelines for Letter of Application

m

   Sample Letter of Application
l Letter of Inquiry -- express your interest although positions not advertised
m    General Guidelines for Letter of Inquiry
m    Sample Letter of Inquiry
l Letter to Request Consideration for an Interview or a Posted Job -- use when a
requirement (GPA, degree, major, or citizenship) not met for an advertised position
m    General Guidelines for Letter to Request Consideration
m    Sample Letter to Request Consideration for an Interview or a Posted Job
Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
Follow-up Letter after Initial Contact
Goal: Continue contact with the employer after the Career Fair or other occasion
l General Guidelines for Follow-up Letter after Initial Contact
l Sample Follow-up Letter after Initial Contact

Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication

Follow-up Letters Related to Interviews and/or Offer(s)

Goal: Acknowledge appreciation and/or confirm details

Types:
l Guidelines Thank You for an interview, plant/site visit, or other courtesy
l Guidelines to Confirm your plans for a plant or site visit
l Corroborate receipt of a job offer
m Guidelines to Accept a Job Offer
m Guidelines for Extension of Time to Respond to an Offer
m Guidelines to Decline a Job Offer
Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

Reference books
 
Available at ECS - 308 Marston Hall
 
Adams, Robert L. Senior Editor. Adams Cover Letter Almanac, Adams Media Corporation.
Provides an introduction to letter writing from pp. 25-47.
Yate Martin. Cover Letters that Knock’ em Dead, Adams Media Corporation.
Introductory information on letter writing from pp. 1-61. Includes information on "Creating Punchy Sentences."
 

 

General Guidelines for Letter of Application
  
Writing letters to employers is like a campaign. After your cover letter, plan to send follow-up letters particularly to your favorite employers. This persistence can often provide success.
l Address to a person rather than a title; for example avoid a title such as Human
Resources Representative; use the phone to obtain the contact name
l Salutation if uncertain about gender; use RE: with the subject; for example: RE:
Full-time Position Listed with ISU Engineering Career Management Services. In the content suggestions, there is an example for using both "RE" and "Dear" as the salutation. Choose the option that is most appropriate for your letter, DO NOT use BOTH in the same letter.
l Use your competencies or STARs, your resume lists Results and letters provide
specific details about the Situation/Task or your Actions; remember to plan subsequent letters to the same employer when writing your cover letter
l Customize the letter to the specific employer and job description; most important if the
employer is one of your top choices
Choose descriptive words and phrases; for example action verbs and keywords
Write clearly and concisely; make each word count; desired length one page
Vary words and/or phrases; use "I" but do not over use
Represent yourself positively and honestly
Content Suggestions for Letter of Application
Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

General Guidelines for Letter of Inquiry
 
l Address to a person rather than a title; for example avoid a title such as Human
Resources Representative; use the phone to obtain the contact name
l Salutation if uncertain about gender; use RE: with the subject; for example: RE:
Full-time Position in Mechanical Engineering in May 20XX. In the content suggestions, there is an example for using both "RE" and "Dear" as the salutation. Choose the option that is most appropriate for your letter, DO NOT use BOTH in the same letter.
l Use your competencies or STARs that would be applicable in most employment
situations; the five most common STARs are listed; your resume lists Results and letters provide specific details about the Situation/Task or your Actions; remember to plan subsequent letters to the same employer when writing your inquiry letter
l Research the employer web site for job descriptions, organization, and mission
l Customize the letter to the specific employer and type of position you are seeking; most
important if the employer is one of your top choices
l Choose descriptive words and phrases; for example keywords and action verbs
l Write clearly and concisely; make each word count; desired length one page
l Vary words and/or phrases; use "I" but do not over use
l Represent yourself positively and honestly
Content Suggestions for Letter of Inquiry
Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

General Guidelines for Letter to Request Consideration for an Interview or a Posted Job
   
l Address to the person listed in ISUCMS
l Salutation if uncertain about gender; use RE: with the subject; for example: RE:
Interview for Full-time Position Listed with ISU Engineering Career Services. In the content suggestions, there is an example for using both "RE" and "Dear" as the salutation. Choose the option that is most appropriate for your letter, DO NOT use BOTH in the same letter.
l Mention that you would like to interview or be considered for a posted job; do not cover
details about why you do not meet the qualifications; describe your qualifications positively
l Use your competencies or STARs, your resume lists Results and letters provide
specific details about the Situation/Task or your Actions
l Customize the letter to the specific employer and job description
l Choose descriptive words and phrases; for example keywords and action verbs
l Write clearly and concisely; make each word count; desired length one page
l Vary words and/or phrases; use "I" but do not over use
l Represent yourself honestly
Content Suggestions for Letter to Request Consideration for an Interview or Posted Job
Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
   
l Sending by e-mail requires the same scrutiny as postal mail
l Have you carefully checked grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
m Use spell check; remember spell check verifies the correct spelling of the word and
not the context for the use of the word
m Read in addition to using spell check; read aloud to catch mistakes
m Leave the correspondence for a hour or so; re-read before hitting "send" or mailing
m Let a friend check your letter for errors
l Have you maintained a record of the letter and resume?
l Have you noted the date for any promised follow-up?
 

 

General Guidelines for Follow- up Letter after Initial Contact
   
l Address to the person suggested by your contact; if different than your initial contact
mention the person you met
l Salutation if uncertain about gender; use RE: with the subject; for example: RE:
Interview for Full-time Position Listed with ISU Engineering Career Services. In the content suggestions, there is an example for using both "RE" and "Dear" as the salutation. Choose the option that is most appropriate for your letter, DO NOT use BOTH in the same letter.
l Express your appreciation for the contact
l Refer to specific details of the conversation with your initial contact; concentrate on
details about the employer that are a fit for you
l Use your competencies or STARs, your resume lists Results and letters provide
specific details about the Situation/Task or your Actions; if this is a new contact you may repeat a competency mentioned to your original contact; include an additional competency
l Customize the letter to the job description or the employer fit if no specific job listed
l Choose descriptive words and phrases; for example keywords and action verbs
l Write clearly and concisely; make each word count; desired length one page
l Vary words and/or phrases; use "I" but do not over use
l Represent yourself positively and honestly
Content Suggestions for Follow-up Letter after Initial Contact
Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

Guidelines Thank You
   
l Obtain addresses during contact
l Address to each individual contact; may be several for site visits
l Respond within twenty-four hours after interviews
l Express your thanks or appreciation
l Refer to specific details related to your contact
m Emphasize an important STAR from the interview
m If you forgot to mention important information; provide an additional STAR
l Communicate clearly your interest in the job if it is "right" for you (if you have decided
the job is not for you and you want to close the door; thank the employer for the interview and briefly indicate you have decided the job does not fit your interests; make this decision carefully because you can not professionally change your mind)
l Invite them to contact you for more information if needed
l Mention any significant dates and your commitment to follow-up
l Write clearly and concisely
l Send by e-mail; review Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

Guidelines to Confirm your Plans
   
l  Obtain the name and spelling if the contact calls to arrange a site visit; ask for e-mail
address to confirm details of phone conversation
l Express your thanks or appreciation
l Details to confirm
m Date and time of arrival
m Amount of time to expect for the visit
m Format for the visit; will you interview with several people; if so how many
m Transportation method
m Directions to location and parking; estimates of travel time
m Verify who covers expenses (some employers may not); if the employer pays,
confirm the type of receipts to collect (some employers may make all reservations, mail the required documents to you, and no receipts are required)
m If employer is mailing information with the details; your e-mail will confirm the receipt
of the mailed information without repeating the details since you have a written record; if any unclear details use e-mail or call
l Send by e-mail; review Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication

 

Guidelines to Accept a Job Offer
 
Managing the timing for multiple offers may be a challenge. If you receive an offer in fall or early spring semester for a job to begin in May or June, you may ask for time to interview with other employers. Your request may be made to the employer by phone. Allow enough time for interviews with your favorite employers. Be prepared by checking:
l the timing of ECS interviews for the employers that interest you
l the amount of time you need after subsequent interviews for the employers to make
decisions
l the interviewing schedule for any favorite employer, establish contact with them and let
them know they are a favorite; this must be a truthful assessment
Be prepared to compromise if the employer can not allow as much time as you ask. For example, if you ask to wait until May 1 to respond to an offer for a start date in mid-June, be prepared if the employer asks you to decide by mid-March or early April. Think like an employer—remember they have jobs to fill and if you cannot work for them they need time to make other offers. When the details are confirmed, send an e-mail or postal letter to verify the extension of time. Allow plenty of time to ask for an extension. Do not wait until the day before your acceptance is expected to ask for more time. Courtesy is important. When you accept the offer, correspond with the employer.
Assessing and negotiating an offer is possible but this takes preparation and knowledge. Keep careful notes of conversations because the phone is often used in this process. At the end of the discussions, confirm your understanding of any written information and changes you may have negotiated. You may write a formal letter since this is an important document related to your employment. Keep all documents from the employer and your responses.
Guidelines to Accept a Job Offer
l Address to the appropriate person; this may be a person you have not met
l Express your thanks or appreciation for the offer
l Confirm your acceptance of the written offer and outline any new details covered by
phone or e-mails
l Clarify your start date and the location to report to work
l Conclude with why you are excited about the offer
 

 

Guidelines for Extension of Time to Respond
     
l Allow plenty of time to ask for an extension; do not begin the process the day before
your response if due
l Address to the appropriate person; this may be a person you have not met
l Express your thanks or appreciation for the offer
l Negotiation of the extension may occur by phone or e-mail; the correspondence
confirms the outcome
l Confirm the new response date; this should be a firm date without the expectation of
asking for more time
l Review Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

Guidelines to Decline a Job Offer
   
l Address to the appropriate person; this may be a person you have not met
l Express your thanks or appreciation for the offer
l Respectfully decline; do not need to provide reasons or you may if you think you might
be interested at a later date; for example. "I decided to accept an out of state offer, but I would like to keep you in mind if I re-locate in the future."
l Review Final Checklist before Sending any Written Communication
 

 

Use of the Phone
The phone is an important tool in the job search process. The phone may be used to:
l discover the name of the contact to receive a resume and
l follow-up after writing a letter.

Letters addressed to "Human Resources Representative" are less effective than addressing the letter to a specific person. If you are mailing fifty letters and the cost of making phone calls to each is prohibitive, choose the companies that are of most importance to make phone contact. Will you always receive the contact information by phone? No, there will be times when you are not successful, but it is important to try.

When calling for contact information, your request is direct and to the point.
"I am interested in sending a resume to (use the name of the company). I would like the name of the person who will receive the resume."
If the person provides the name, take the time to verify the following:
l spelling of the name,
l title,
l exact name of the company,
l mailing address,
l city, state, and zip code.
Does this guarantee success? No, but you have tried. If you do not receive the name, the person may provide a method to submit your resume to the company.
Follow-up after writing a letter
When communicating with companies that are of special interest, choose an "active" rather than passive close for your letter or e-mail. If the letter was specifically targeted to the company, promise to contact the employer in a week or ten days. This is an active close for your letter or e-mail.
How will you follow-up in your phone conversation? Use the number for the company and ask to speak to the person who received your letter or e-mail. The individual who answers the phone may screen callers and not direct your call to the person. If your call is screened, you can respond as follows:
"On (month and date), I wrote a letter to (name of person) and promised to call in a week or ten days. I made a commitment to (him/her) and I want to make certain that (he/she) knows that I called. Is it possible for you to let (him/her) know I called?"
Possibly you will be allowed to speak to the person. What is the goal of your call? What question will you ask? Remind the person of your letter and ask if he/she anticipates hiring in the near future. If the company is hiring soon ask "Is there additional information that I need to supply?"
Caution about use of the telephone
Use of the phone and e-mail are communications of urgency and professionals may carefully guard access to their numbers and addresses. Professional persistence on your part is an important quality for success, but when you are denied access it is important to cease your efforts. Too much persistence can become a negative and detract from your job seeking efforts. When the phone is no longer an avenue for contact, you can write the company.
 

 

Keywords and Action Verbs
Employers receive numerous letters and resumes from eager applicants. Often you prepare your letters and resume without emphasizing your unique qualifications and losing your opportunity to stand out from others. Letters should be professional and each word and phrase should communicate that you can achieve results. Review the information on keywords and action verbs and prepare your letter and resume to achieve more concise and clear communication.
Keywords
What are keywords?
Keywords describe the knowledge, understanding, skills or motivation that demonstrate you can perform a task or job. Keywords are:
l nouns
l adjectives
l phrases and/or
l action verbs1
Keywords can be:
l job titles
l responsibilities
l competencies
l acronyms, jargon, and employer terminology
l education, memberships, leadership roles, certification1
Why are they important?
Many employers are electronically scanning resumes. Scanning resumes for keywords produces "hits" related to the experience and competencies the employer determined are important for the job. With more "hits," the chances increase the employer will contact you for an interview.
Some Tips for Using Keywords
l Evaluate your resume to identify the nouns the computer might use as keywords and
add more words to emphasize your experience
l Use different keyword forms; for example, if you use "coordination" in the resume use
"coordinate" in the cover letter or elsewhere in the resume
l Use both full keywords and acronyms in the letter and resume: for example, "BS" and
"Bachelor of Science"
l Develop a master keyword log by compiling a list of keywords that apply to a particular
job that you have performed or would like to perform, a particular type of industry; include unique "buzzwords"1
Where can you learn more about keywords?
As a first year student your resume will contain more action verbs than keywords. Progressing through your curriculum and obtaining work experience you learn more about the keywords that are important to perform as a professional in the workplace. When at work on cooperative education, an internship or a summer job, discuss with your mentor or supervisor the types of keywords that should be emphasized in your letters and on your resume.
1Donna Vinton, "Keyword Resumes," Career Center, University of Northern Iowa, at Iowa Association for Internships and Cooperative Education, April 30, 2002.
Action Verbs
accelerated depreciated inventoried rehabilitated
acclimated described invested reinforced
accompanied designated investigated reinstated
accomplished designed involved rejected
achieved determined isolated related
acquired developed issued remedied
acted devised remodeled
activated devoted joined renegotiated
actuated diagrammed judged reorganized
adapted directed replaced
added disclosed launched repaired
addressed discounted lectured reported
adhered discovered led represented
adjusted dispatched lightened requested
administered displayed liquidated researched
admitted dissembled litigated resolved
advanced distinguished lobbied responded
advertised distributed localized restored
advised diversified located restructured
advocated divested resulted
aided documented maintained retained
aired doubled managed retrieved
affected drafted mapped revamped
allocated marketed revealed
altered earned maximized reversed
amended eased measured reviewed
amplified edited mediated revised
analyzed effected merchandised revitalized
anticipated elected merged rewarded
appointed eliminated met routed
appraised employed minimized
approached enabled modeled safeguarded
approved encouraged moderated salvaged
arbitrated endorsed modernized saved
arranged enforced modified scheduled
ascertained engaged monitored screened
assembled engineered motivated secured
assigned enhanced moved segmented
assumed enlarged multiplied selected
assessed enriched sent
assisted entered named separated
attained entertained narrated served
attracted established negotiated serviced
audited estimated noticed settled
augmented evaluated nurtured shaped
authored examined shortened
authorized exceeded observed showed
automated exchanged obtained signed
awarded executed offered simplified
exempted offset sold
balanced exercised opened solved
bargained expanded operated spearheaded
borrowed expedited operationalized specified
broadened explained orchestrated speculated
budgeted exposed ordered spread
built extended organized stabilized
extracted oriented staffed
calculated extrapolated originated staged
canvassed overhauled standardized
capitalized facilitated oversaw steered
captured familiarized stimulated
carried out fielded paid strategized
centralized figured participated streamlined
challenged financed passed strengthened
chaired fit patterned stressed
changed focused penalized structured
channeled forecasted perceived studied
charted formalized performed submitted
checked formed permitted substantiated
chose formulated persuaded substituted
circulated fortified phased out suggested
clarified founded pinpointed summarized
classified framed pioneered superseded
cleared fulfilled placed supervised
closed functioned planned supplied
co-authored furnished polled supported
collaborated prepared surpassed
collected gained presented surveyed
combined gathered preserved synchronized
commissioned gauged presided synthesized
committed generated prevented systematized
communicated governed priced
compared graded printed tabulated
compiled granted prioritized tailored
complied grouped probed targeted
completed guided processed taught
composed procured terminated
computed handled produced tested
conceived headed profiled tightened
conceptualized hired programmed traced
concluded hosted projected traded
condensed promoted trained
conducted identified prompted transacted
conferred illustrated proposed transferred
consolidated illuminated proved transformed
constructed implemented provided translated
consulted improved publicized transported
contracted improvised published traveled
contrasted inaugurated purchased treated
contributed indoctrinated pursued tripled
controlled increased
converted incurred quantified uncovered
convinced induced quoted undertook
coordinated influenced unified
corrected informed raised united
corresponded initiated ranked updated
counseled innovated rated upgraded
created inquired reacted utilized
critiqued inspected received
cultivated inspired recommended validated
cut installed reconciled valued
instigated recorded verified
debugged instilled recovered viewed
decided instituted recruited visited
decentralized instructed rectified weighed
decreased insured redesigned welcomed
deferred interfaced reduced widened
defined interpreted referred witnessed
delegated interviewed refined won
delivered introduced regained worked
demonstrated invented regulated wrote