Monday, March 31, 2008

Geography of a cover letter

Though it's late to be looking for work for the summer--but not the end of the world! Don't freak out--knowing how to write a good cover letter is a gift that keeps on giving. You will have to write thousands of letters--and emails--in your working career, regardless of whether you stay in libraries or not. You will need cover letters to apply for work, for grants, for positions with the professional association and to shop your work out to publications, just to name a few uses for cover letters.This week, let's talk about how to write cover letters.
  • A cover letter is a business letter writing audition since if you are hired you will write plenty of correspondence for the library. Clean simple business format, no Harry Potter fonts, are important.
  • Your contact information goes at the top. You can use the headers and footers feature to include your contact information, creating a letterhead that you can also use on your resume.
  • The address of the person that you are writing to.
  • The date you wrote the letter on.
  • A salutation: Dear Ms. Manners. If you are not sure about gender and there is no time to call, Dear Kim Manners is fine. You can also use Dear Hiring Manager if there is no name attached. Try to avoid To Whom It May Concern cause it sounds like you will be asking for a ransom.
  • Your first line is a reference to the position and any numbers attached to the position so they know which pile to put your stuff in. (You can send one letter for two postings, since they may be willing to photocopy and place in two separate piles, but you can make it easy for them and send two letters and two resumes. Trust me: if they have two jobs, other people may be handling the screening and interviewing, so someone is going to make two or more copies.) You can also tell them where you saw the posting, since this posting could have been sent to several services which all may have different rules about amount of text allowed or a cost involved depending on the size of the ad.
  • The content depends on you and the posting: how do you relate to the position you are applying for and what projects, from work or school, can you briefly reference that show your suitability in relation to the position.
  • Sign off with the best way to get in touch with you. One way. If it is email, go with email. Don't tell them: I am available every day after 4pm until 5:45 and then I am in yoga, you can reach my voice mail or email or Facebook me during yoga, unless you are really serious about the interview and I will interrupt my Kurmasana to speak to you. Have some faith in the universe: they will leave a message and you will respond.
  • Business letters are usually completed with Sincerely or, if you want to mix it up a bit With regards.
  • 4 hard returns. This is for your signature.
  • Your name, typed out without nicknames.
  • Encl. (2) meaning your additional pages.

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