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The preliminary application for a professional position generally consists of two documents: a cover letter and a CV. This handout describes the cover letter; the CV is described in a separate Writing Center handout. While the CV is a somewhat generic advertisement for yourself, which you may send unaltered to scores of different companies, the cover letter allows you to tailor your application to each specific job. Although the thrust of your various letters may remain the same, with the assorted text-processing options available at RPI - options that include find-and-replace and merging capabilities - there is really no reason to have a single, generic cover letter.

Each of your cover letters should bear the name and address of the company to which you are applying and should address by name the specific individual who will process your application. Each letter should also make specific references to the company and indicate your knowledge of and interest in the work the company is currently doing.

In addition to tailoring your application to a specific job, the cover letter also allows you to highlight the most important and relevant accomplishments, skills, and experience listed in your CV. And it is where (if appropriate) you specifically request an interview.

Finally, remember that your cover letter is, in a very real sense, a schematic of yourself. It reflects your personality, your attention to detail, your communication skills, your enthusiasm, and your intellect. Your cover letter and CV are usually all a prospective employer has to decide whether or not you will reach the next phase in the application process--the interview.

Content of the Cover Letter

In the very first paragraph of your letter, you should state what job you are applying for and how you learned about it. If you have any personal contacts in or with the company, you may want to mention them here. You should also state your general qualifications for the job. This paragraph should be brief, perhaps two or three sentences.

The body of your letter should consist of one to three longer paragraphs in which you expand upon your qualifications for the position. Pick out the most relevant qualifications listed in your CV and discuss them in detail, demonstrating how your background and experience qualify you for the job. Be as specific as possible, and refer the reader to your CV for additional details.

In the concluding paragraph of your letter, you should request an interview (or some other response, if appropriate). State where and when you can be reached, and express your willingness to come to an interview or supply further information. Close by thanking your reader for his or her time and consideration.

Format of the Cover Letter

The attached sample illustrate the conventional format of a cover letter. This sample should also give you a better idea of the content and function of a cover letter. The entire text of your letter should, of course, be letter-perfect.


Sample Cover Letter

123 Windy Hill
Anywhere
ER1 VT5

January 30, 2000

Mr. Charles T. Harris
Human Resources Manager
XYZ Corporation
123 Open Street
London
SE4 7RF

Dear Mr. Harris:

As an experienced researcher who is presently pursuing a master's degree in Research Psychology at Midlands Polytechnic Institute, I am writing to request information about possible employment opportunities with XYZ. I am interested in a position that will allow me to combine the talents I have developed in statistical. However, as you can see from the attached CV, I have extensive experience in many other related psychology fields, and I always enjoy new challenges.

I feel that it is important for me to maintain a practical, real-world perspective while developing my academic abilities. I am proud of the fact that I have financed my entire education through scholarships and summer jobs related to my field of study. This work experience has enhanced my appreciation for the education I am pursuing. I find that I learn as much from my summer jobs as I do from my academic studies. For example, during the summer of 1999, while working for ABC in Walsall, I gained a great deal of practical experience in the field of consumer interviews.

Having said all this, I realize that your first consideration in hiring an applicant must not be the potential educational experience XYZ can provide, but the skills and services I can offer. I hope the experience and education described in my CV suggest how I might be of service to XYZ.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you how I might best assist XYZ in fulfilling its present corporate needs. I will be available for employment from May 14 through August 31, 2000. Please let me know what summer employment opportunities are available at XYZ for someone with my education, experience, and interests. You can reach me at the above address or by phone at (0171) 271-0000.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,



Joan Doe