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Tips on what to cover in job search correspondence

Friday, April 26, 2013 - 8:13 am

While email has relieved much of the clerical monotony of retyping letters in the job search, it has also raised expectations for clear and constant communications. Here are common pieces of job search correspondence and the main points each should cover.

•Networking letters. Ask yourself: Why am I writing and what do I want this person to do? Common purposes for a networking communication are to stay in touch, to request information or to request a meeting.

•Cover letters. When responding to a job posting, your task is clear: Identify the key requirements for the job and present your ability to fulfill them. You might do this with bullets, narrative paragraphs, or a T chart listing each requirement on the left and your experience on the right.

When introducing yourself to managers who may not have openings, you are prospecting. Once you identify the type of position you are inquiring about, present five or six bullets to highlight your related strengths.

For both types of cover letters, standard rules of business correspondence apply. Greet the recipient formally (Dear Mr / Ms. _____), write a short introduction stating the purpose of the correspondence (I am writing in response to… or, I am writing to introduce myself and inquire about potential employment as…), write a middle paragraph or bullet list to present your argument and conclude with your call to action (I'd like to meet with you…).

•Post-interview thank-you notes. These are more of a courtesy. But since hiring decisions are partly based on emotion and etiquette plays to that element, there's a very strategic reason to conduct this ritual. Short and simple notes are best, and physical mail has more impact than email. Write one or two sentences expressing warmth and gratitude for the recent meeting – one card per interviewer.

•Follow-up letters after an interview. Where thank-you notes play to emotion, follow-up letters leverage the logical side of the hiring equation.

These are full business letters, usually emailed for efficiency and timeliness, and never hand-written. It's fine to cc all members of the panel

The content of the follow-up letter should be directed by the interview it references. Start with “Thank you for our meeting this week…” or something similar. The body of the letter then extends a particular point of the meeting or one that didn't come up at all.

To conclude, simply state your ongoing and increasing interest in the position and your excitement about participating in the next stage of the process.

•Sorry-Charlie response letters. To increase your odds of being remembered later, email the department manager a brief, formal letter:

“While I was disappointed not to receive an offer, I want to reiterate my deep interest in ___ company, and your department in particular. Your team is doing very interesting work and I'd like to continue our connection in hopes of being considered for a future opportunity. I'll stay in touch, and hope you will as well. Best wishes…”

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at alindgren@ or at 626 Armstrong Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.