Cover Letters and Thank You Notes

by Donny Grover

Cover Letters and Thank You Notes

Anytime a resume is sent by mail it must be accompanied by a cover letter. The resume is an impersonal description of your qualifications, much like a product brochure. The cover letter is your opportunity to personalize your resume and target your skills to that specific employer.

The effective job seeker will not send the same resume for each new job opportunity, but will tailor it for each situation. Likewise, the same cover letter cannot be used in every situation. It also must be customized for each opportunity. There are a variety of cover letter formats, some of which are described below.

Invited Letter

This format is used whenever an employer has asked for a resume. This is often in response to a want-ad or publicized job listing. This style focuses on matching your qualifications to the advertised requirements of the position.

Uninvited or Cold Contact Letter

This letter is used to contact employers who have not advertised job openings. The focus is on matching your qualifications to the perceived needs of the employer based on labor market research. This strategy requires that a phone or personal contact with the employer either precede or follow the sending of the resume and cover letter.

Referral Letter

Use this format to contact employers to whom you have been referred through networking and informational interviews. The referral may be to a specific job opening (advertised or unadvertised) or to an employer who may not be hiring. In a referral letter the individual who provided the referral is mentioned in the letter.

The Executive Briefing Letter

This is a variation on the traditional cover letter. This letter gets right to the point and makes life easier for the recruiter. This letter is often the weapon of choice because:

  1. The initial resume screener might have little understanding of the job or its requirements.
  2. Your general resume invariably needs customizing for any specific job. Overly broad resumes are like “one-sizefits-all” clothes; one size usually fits none.
  3. Your resume is somewhat out of date and you have to send something out immediately to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime.

Resume screeners like people who make life a little easier for them. Using this letter format increases the odds of your resume getting through to the right people since there is usually no question whether or not you qualify for the job. If you are not sure what the job requirements are, do not forget the employment advertisements, position descriptions, phone conversations with the employer, and informational interviews.

Cover Letter Reminders

Whenever possible, address the cover letter to a specific person by name and title. This requires a minimum of research that will ultimately pay off in more interviews. The only time this may not be possible is when responding to a “blind ad” where there is no way to know the name of the company to research. In this case, send the letter to the title of the appropriate hiring manager, (e.g. “Production Manager,” “Maintenance Supervisor,” “Office Manager,” etc.) Never use the term, “To Whom it May Concern.”

Thank-You Letters and Notes

“Thank you” is a powerful statement that is heard too seldom. Every thank you is an opportunity to restate your qualifications and to leave a fresh impression in the mind of the reader. Send a thank-you letter or note to employers and employment contacts whenever they have extended themselves in any way on behalf of your job search. At the minimum, a written thank you should be sent after all interviews.

Thank-you letters and notes should be standard tools in your job search. The thank-you letter should follow a standard business letter format while the note may be a simple hand-written note or card. Which to send depends upon the situation and your personal style.

Thank-You Letter Reminders

When thanking a potential employer, restate your interest in the position and/or company, be brief, and always plan your follow-up. Tell the person when and how they can expect to hear from you in the future. If there are multiple people involved, such as with a panel interview, be sure to thank each person. Send one letter to each person or send a single letter to a key person for distribution. When sending more than one thank you, it is very effective to vary each one. Always send a written thank you to a person by name.

Cover Letter “Do’s”

  • DO sign the letter in blue ink. It implies the letter is original. The only other color ink to use is black. Never use any other color on the cover letter.
  • DO structure the letter to reflect your personality, but avoid being overbearing, humorous, or cute.
  • DO keep it brief, about three to five paragraphs.
  • DO use the same paper stock for both your cover letter and resume.

Sample Thank You Note


Dear Mr. Jones:

Thank you for the interview for the accountant position today. I appreciate the information you shared with me and enjoyed meeting Ms. Smith from the Accounting Department.

My interest in working for Lord’s Industries is stronger than ever, and based on your description of the position, I know I can do a good job for you.

I will contact you by Tuesday of next week to learn of your decision.

      Your name (add your signature above this line)
      Your address

Comments are closed.