The need for effective oral and written communication skills is becoming increasingly important in the work force. Therefore, it is critical that as a candidate you are able to write professional letters throughout your job search to effectively market yourself to potential employers.
Structure of Effective Letters
There is an acceptable structure for writing professional letters as noted in the guidelines below:
- Your return address and the current date needs to be placed at the beginning of the letter – either top left corner, tabbed or flushed right in the upper right-hand corner of the letter. Do not include your name or telephone number in this section.
- The employer’s address should be placed at the left margin before the salutation. The inside address includes the name, title, department, and complete address of the organization to whom you are writing.
- The salutation is the formal greeting of the letter. “Dear Mr.” or “Dear Ms.” preceding the individual’s last name is appropriate. The punctuation following the salutation can be a colon (:) or comma (,). Do not use “Mrs.” unless you have seen this title used by the individual in question. Do not use “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” as it will appear you have written a form letter. If you do not have the name of an individual, you may use “Dear Human Resources”.
- The body of the letter comes after the salutation. The body can be three to five paragraphs in length depending upon the content and intent of the letter.
- Paragraphs can be indented five spaces or block style can be used. The text within each paragraph is single-spaced with double-spacing between each paragraph.
- The closing follows the body of the letter. It is aligned with your return address and current date that opened the letter. A formal closing, such as “Sincerely,” is appropriate. Three to four blank lines are inserted and type your formal name as it appears on your resume.
- Above your typed name, sign your name in blue or black ink. Other colors of ink and pencils will not photocopy well.
- If information is to be enclosed, (i.e. a resume or transcript) then it is appropriate to place the word “Enclosure:” at the left margin followed by the name(s) of the document(s) enclosed.
Tips for Writing High Impact Letters
Letters should not exceed one page in length.
- Do not send “form letters”. To make a positive, professional impression, you should make the effort to personalize and tailor each letter to a specific employer.
- Be sure to use a high quality, 8 ½” by 11” bond paper. It is best to use the same paper on which your resume was printed.
- Your cover letters must be error-free. Be sure to proof-read each letter for typographical, spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. Have others read your letters for clarity and to check for errors.
- All letters should be typed and printed on a laser-jet printer. Hand-written letters or notes are unacceptable. Neatness counts and so does attention to detail.
- If you are concerned about damage to your documents, you may want to use a full size manila envelope for mailing. Remember that a professional appearance is important. Be sure to type the return and mailing address directly onto the envelope or onto a label.
- In some cases you may be sending your documents to employers by e-mail. Be certain that you keep this correspondence professional in manner and follow the same guidelines provided regarding letter content and structure.
The following descriptions represent the types of letters that you might find appropriate at various stages of your job search. A sample of each type of letter is enclosed for your review.