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Spark Employers' Interest

A cover letter is just what the name implies-a letter explaining why a company should devote time and money interviewing you. It differs from a resume in that it targets a specific company and position. A cover letter allows you to stress the abilities, skills, and experience that make you suitable for the position. A cover letter can also explain questionable areas of your application or resume, such as unsteady work history, law violations, health problems, etc. A cover letter is a sales pitch to an employer and is successful in many cases where an application and resume alone are not.


  • Find out all you can about the company and reflect this in your letter. Answer the question, "Why do you want to work for this company?"
  • Find out who is in charge of hiring, and address your letter to that person if possible.
  • Type the letter if possible, and use a good grade of paper.
  • Use simple, direct language. Check spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure.
  • Identify the position you are writing about in the first paragraph.
  • Mention how you heard about the job.
  • Know your skills, abilities, and experience; and state how you fit into the company. Don't expect the reader to read between the lines-explain what makes you different from other applicants.
  • Give an example of personal aptitudes, such as dependability, hard worker, etc. What in your work history proves your dependability? How was your attendance?
  • Remember that the employer wants to know what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • Keep the letter upbeat and positive. Don't ask for sympathy or complain about previous employers.
  • In closing, express a desire to provide additional information by letter or in person. Do not put employers on the spot by setting up an appointment.

Letters of application are often used to answer want ads or other job announcements. This is called a "rifle" approach, since you are aiming for a specific job. It is a good idea to attach the ad to the letter, so the employer will know quickly why you are writing. Refer to the ad in the letter-"I am writing in response to your advertisement in The Seattle Times last week for a machinist." Then you can briefly outline your training and work experience, especially as it relates to the job.

"Shotgun" letters are addressed to employers for whom you would like to work without knowing if there are any job openings. The sales pitch should be stronger in this letter with a request for information about any current or upcoming job openings. Mail your letter so it doesn't arrive on a Monday morning when the employer is swamped with other work.

Washington's libraries are designed to help people find information and try to have something for everyone, including materials on education and training opportunities, financial aid, occupations and careers, and job seeking and keeping skills.

If you are unfamiliar with the library, talk with the librarians who can help you find job and career information. Washington libraries share resources through the Washington Library Network, so don't despair if you don't find the title you would like. Your local library is able to locate and borrow materials from other Washington libraries through an inter-library loan. Usually, the bigger the library or library system, the more resources you will find directly available to you. Also, your library is always getting new books, so ask if the librarian can provide a good substitute.

Many libraries have pamphlets, newspapers, reference books, films, tapes, records, and magazines in addition to books. Community college and local school libraries often have excellent collections on occupations, education and career opportunities, and financial aid. Publications that may assist your job search include: The Occupational Outlook Handbook; The Dictionary of Occupational Titles; The Military Career Guide; The Guide for Occupational Exploration; The Classification of Jobs According to Worker Trait Factors; The Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance; and What Color Is Your Parachute?

To save time and money job hunting, telephone a company to ask about openings. If they are hiring, find out the days and hours the company is interviewing. However, do not expect to get a job over the telephone-you should always apply in person.


When using the telephone to ask for an interview:
Speak clearly and loud enough to be understood.
Identify yourself.
Ask to speak to the person in charge of hiring.
Get the name of the person you are talking to.
State the purpose of your call.
Use the name of a personal reference if you have one.
Ask for an appointment for an interview.




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