The guidelines here apply to both hard copy
correspondence and e-mail.
Main differences between e-mail and hard copy correspondence:
Format: your signature block (address, etc.) goes below your name in e-mail, while it goes at the top of the page on hard copy.
E-mail requires a subject line logical to the recipient. E-mail subject lines can make or break whether your e-mail is opened and read. Hard copy can have a subject line too, but it’s on the letter (after recipient’s address block and before
“Dear…,” and it’s seen after the letter is opened.
Signature : Of course you won’t have a handwritten
signature on e-mail, 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/holiday job, or a
permanent position; 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 Website, 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 .
In a letter of application — applying for an advertised opening — applicants often say something like “I look forward to hearing from you.” However, if you have further contact info (e.g. phone number) and if the employer hasn’t said “no phone calls,” it’s 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.
Page margins, font style and size
For hard copy, left and right page margins of one to 1.5inches generally look good. You can adjust your margins to balance how your document looks on the page.
Use a font style that is simple, clear and commonplace, such as Times New Roman , Arial or Calibri. Font Sizes from 10-12 points are generally in the ballpark of looking appropriate. Keep in mind that different font styles in the
same point size are not the same size! A 12-point Arial is larger than a 12-point Times New Roman.
If you are having trouble fitting a document on one page, sometimes a slight margin and/or font adjustment can be
Short story: use what you like, within reason; note what employers use;
generally sans serif fonts are used for on-monitor reading and serif fonts are used for lengthy print items (like books); serif fonts may be considered more formal.
someone to look at a document for five seconds; take away
the document; ask the person what font was on the
document; see if s/he even noticed the style. A too-small or
too-large font gets noticed, as does a weird style.
Should your resume and cover letter font style and size
match? It can be a nice touch to look polished. But it’s also
possible to have polished documents that are not in
matching fonts. A significant difference in style and size
might be noticed. Remember that you can have your
documents reviewed through advising , and that might be a
fine-tuning question you ask.
Sample cover letter format guidelines:
(Hard copy: sender address and contact info at top. Your
address and the date can be left-justified, or centered .)
Your Street Address
City, State Zip Code
Month, Day, Year
Mr./Ms./Dr. FirstName LastName
Name of Organization
Street or P. O. Box Address
City, State Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. LastName:
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. (Focus on
what you can do for the employer, not what the employer
can do for you.) 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
(Your handwritten signature [on hard copy])
Your name typed
(In case of e-mail, your full contact info appears below your
printed name [instead of at the top, as for hard copy], and of
course there is no handwritten signature)
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.)
2. Letter of inquiry: expressing interest in an organization, but
you are not certain if there are current openings.
Information-seeking letters and follow-up
To draft an effective cover letter, you need to indicate that
you know something about the employing organization.
Sometimes, even with research efforts, you don’t have
enough information to do this. In such a case it is
appropriate to write requesting information.
After you receive the desired information you can then draft a follow-up letter that: Thank the sender for the information; Markets why you would be a good job candidate for that organization based on the information; and Explains why you are sending your resume.
….which means it does what all cover letters should do , as
explained at the start above!
Letter of application, hard copy version
E-2 Apartment Heights Dr.
Blacksburg, VA 24060
February 22, 20XY
Dr. Michelle Rhodes
Principal, Wolftrap Elementary School
1205 Beulah Road
Vienna, VA 22182
Dear Dr. Rhodes:
I enjoyed our conversation on February 18th at the Family
and Child Development seminar on teaching elementary
children and appreciated your personal input about
balancing the needs of children and the community during
difficult economic times. This letter is to follow-up about
the Fourth Grade Teacher position as discussed at the
seminar. I will complete my M.Ed. in Curriculum and
Instruction at Virginia Tech in May 2011, and will be
available for employment as soon as needed for the
2011-12 school year.
My teacher preparation program at Virginia Tech has
included a full academic year of student teaching. Last
semester I taught second grade and this semester am
teaching fourth grade. These valuable experiences have
afforded me the opportunity to:
Develop lesson plans on a wide range of topics and varying
levels of academic ability,
Work with emotionally and physically challenged students in
a total inclusion program,
Observe and participate in effective classroom management
Assist with parent-teacher conferences, and
Complete in-service sessions on diversity, math and reading
skills, and community relations.
My experience includes work in a private day care facility,
Rainbow Riders Childcare Center, and in Virginia Tech’s
Child Development Laboratory. Both these facilities are
NAEYC-accredited and adhere to the highest standards. At
both locations, I led small and large group activities, helped
with lunches and snacks, and implemented appropriate
activities. Both experiences also provided me with
extensive exposure to the implementation of
developmentally appropriate activities and materials.
I enthusiastically look forward to putting my knowledge and
experience into practice in the public school system. Next
week I will be in Vienna, and I plan to call you then to
answer any questions that you may have. I can be reached
before then at (540) 555-7670. Thank you very much for
Letter of application, e-mail version
Subject line: (logical to recipient!) Application for sales representative for mid-Atlantic area
April 14, 20XY
Mr. William Jackson
Acme Pharmaceutical Corporation
13764 Jefferson Parkway
Roanoke, VA 24019
Dear Mr. Jackson:
From the Acme web site I learned about your need for a
sales representative for the Virginia, Maryland, and North
Carolina areas. I am very interested in this position with
Acme Pharmaceuticals, and believe that my education and
employment background are appropriate for the position.
You indicate that a requirement for the position is a track
record of success in meeting sales goals. I have done this.
After completion of my B.S. in biology, and prior to
beginning my master’s degree in marketing, I worked for
two years as a sales representative with a regional whole
foods company. My efforts yielded success in new
business development, and my sales volume consistently
met or exceeded company goals. I would like to repeat that
success in the pharmaceutical industry, using my academic
background in science and business. I will complete my
M.S. in marketing in mid-May and will be available to begin
employment in early June.
Attached is a copy of my resume, which more fully details
my qualifications for the position.
I look forward to talking with you regarding sales
opportunities with Acme Pharmaceuticals. Within the next
week I will contact you to confirm that you received my e-
mail and resume and to answer any questions you may
Thank you very kindly for your consideration.
Layne A. Johnson
5542 Hunt Club Lane, #1
Blacksburg, VA 24060
Resume attached as MS Word document (assuming company
web site instructed applicants to do this)
This material was culled from VirginiaTech