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Common Types Of Application Letters

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Common Types of Application Letters

To begin planning your letter, decide which type of application letter you need. This decision is in part based on requirements that employers may have, and in part based on what your background and employment needs are. In many ways, types of application letters are like the types of resumes. The types of application letters can be defined according to amount and kind of information:

* Objective letters -- One type of letter says very little: it identifies the position being sought, indicates an interest in having an interview, and calls attention to the fact that the resume is attached. It also mentions any other special matters that are not included on the resume, such as dates and times when you are available to come in for an interview. This letter does no salesmanship and is very brief. (It may represent the true meaning of "cover" letter.)

* Highlight letters -- Another type of application letter, the type you do for most technical writing courses, tries to summarize the key information from the resume, the key information that will emphasize that you are a good candidate for the job. In other words, it selects the best information from the resume and summarizes it in the letter -- this type of letter is especially designed to make the connection with the specific job.

How do you know which to write? For most technical-writing courses, write the highlight letter. However, in "real-life" situations, it's anybody's guess. Try calling the prospective employer; study the job advertisement for clues.

Common Sections in Application Letters

As for the actual content and organization of the paragraphs within the application letter (specifically the highlight type of application letter), consider the following comon approaches.

Introductory paragraph. That first paragraph of the application letter is the most important; it sets everything up -- the tone, focus, as well as your most important qualification. A typical problem in the introductory paragraph involves diving directly into work and educational experience. Bad idea! A better idea is to do something like the following:

* State the purpose of the letter -- to inquire about an employment opportunity.

* Indicate the source of your information about the job -- newspaper advertisement, a personal contact, or other.

* State one eye-catching, attention-getting thing about yourself in relation to the job or to the employer that will cause the reader to want to continue.

And you try to do all things like these in the space of very short paragraph -- no more than 4 to 5 lines of the standard business letter. (And certainly, please don't think of these as the "right" or the "only" things to put in the introduction to an application letter.)

Main body paragraphs. In the main parts of the application letter, you present your work experience, education, training -- whatever makes that connection between you and the job you are seeking. Remember that this is the most important job you have to do in this letter -- to enable the reader see the match between your qualifications and the requirements for the job.

There are two common ways to present this information:

* Functional approach -- This one presents education in one section, and work experience in the other. If there were military experience, that might go in another section. Whichever of these section contains your "best stuff" should come first, after the introduction.

* Thematic approach -- This one divides experience and education into groups such as "management," "technical," "financial," and so on and then discusses your work and education related to them in separate paragraphs.

If you read the section on functional and thematic organization of resumes, just about everything said there applies here. Of course, the letter is not exhaustive or complete about your background -- it highlights just those aspects of your background that make the connection with the job you are seeking.

Figure 1-4. Common sections of application letters. You can organize the letter thematically or functionally the same way that you can the resume.

Another section worth considering for the main body of the application letter is one in which you discuss your goals, objectives -- the focus of your career -- what you are doing, or want to do professionally. A paragraph like this is particularly good for people just starting their careers, when there is not much to put in the letter. Of course, be careful about loading a paragraph like this with "sweet nothings." For example, "I am seeking a challenging, rewarding career with an dynamic upscale company where I will have ample room for professional and personal growth" -- come on! give us a break! Might as well say, "I want to be happy, well-paid, and well-fed."

Closing paragraph. In the last paragraph of the application letter, you can indicate how the prospective employer can get in touch with you and when are the best times for an interview. This is the place to urge that prospective employer to contact you to arrange an interview.

Background Details in the Application Letter

One of the best ways to make an application letter great is to work in details, examples, specifics about related aspects of your educational and employment background. Yes, if the resume is attached, readers can see all that details there. However, a letter that is overly general and vague might generate so little interest that the reader might not even care to turn to the resume.

In the application letter, you work in selective detail that makes your letter stand out, makes it memorable, and substantiates the claims you make about your skills and experience. Take a look at this example, which is rather lacking in specifics:

As for my experience working with persons with developmental disabilities, I have worked and volunteered at various rehabilitation hospitals and agencies in Austin and Houston [say which ones to inject more detail into this letter]. I have received training [where? certificates?] in supervising patients and assisting with physical and social therapy. Currently, I am volunteering at St. David's Hospital [doing what?] to continue my education in aiding persons with developmental disabilities.

Now take a look at the revision:

As for my experience working with persons with developmental disabilities, I have worked and volunteered at Cypress Creek



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