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Writing job application letters and resumes

After completing your studies, when you decide to take up a job in a particular industry depending on your skills and qualifications, the first thing that you will be required to do is to write an application for a job. But getting a job that suits you would take more than sending out a few application letters. First of all, you need to find out what skills you have to offer and what your expectations are from your work. Then on the basis of this, you can identify the employers that may be in search of a person with skills that you possess and that also fit the job profile that you are looking for.

The letter of application is also called the letter of transmittal. It is written when you get to know of a specific job opening and you want to apply for it directly. It is always accompanied by a resume/CV. Thus, the letter of job application can be divided into two parts: a) Covering Letter and b) Resume/Curriculum Vitae (i.e. CV). The cover letter should introduce you and should give further details about certain qualifications and skills that may not be apparent from your resume. So ideally, a resume should always be sent along with a covering letter. Remember, you should mention only the qualifications, skills and experience that are relevant to the job that your are applying for.

DRAFTING AN APPLICATION LETTER

A letter of application is your very first communication with the prospective employer. He will form his first impression about you from your application letter. That is why it is very essential that your application letter should be neat, well-structured and should provide all the necessary information at a glance. What you basically set out to do in your application letter is to sell your skills and services. Thus, your application letter is a form of advertising. And the key feature of effective advertising is that it should be persuasive. An application letter therefore is also some kind of a sales letter. It should project your skills keeping in mind the employer’s and a particular job’s requirement. This kind of job analysis and self-appraisal will help you to identify which jobs suit you and where you should not apply. For example, if it is specifically mentioned in the advertisement for the post of schoolteachers that the school requires someone with minimum three years of teaching experience and you have just graduated, then there is no point in applying for this post as you will be found ineligible. Again, if a company requires a smart, young receptionist with good communication and people skills and you are someone who is of reserved and laidback nature, then you should not apply for it.

Before drafting an application letter, you must ask yourself these questions—

1. What sort of qualifications and experience are needed for this particular job?

2. Do I have the required skills and experience?

3. Am I suitable for this job? How?

Once you have answered these questions, the next step is to narrow down your focus on the qualities and skills that the employer is looking for and to highlight those in your application letter. This does not mean that you make exaggerated claims. You should be honest, sincere and modest. If you possess the required qualifications, skills and experience, then only you should apply for a particular job. And you should provide necessary documents for verification of your declarations.

Job application letter is an interesting blend of the features of a personal letter and a sales letter. Therefore, it should reflect your creativity and also your personal style. So as an applicant/writer, just be yourself and also a little businesslike in your approach. The main object of an application letter is to get you an interview. Therefore, it is essential that your letter should stimulate the employer’s interest in your skills and accomplishments and it should give him a clear idea about how you can satisfy the organisation’s needs. You should project your skills with confidence and this is possible only when you believe in yourself and your capabilities.

TYPES OF APPLICATION LETTERS

There are two types of application letters: a) solicited application letters and b) unsolicited application letters. Solicited application letters are those that are sent in response to job advertisements, whereas unsolicited application letters (also known as prospecting letters) are written at the applicant’s initiative. This is the fundamental theoretical difference between the two. In the first one, you write directly for the post advertised. In the latter one, you acquaint the prospective employer with the qualifications and skills that you possess and leave it to him to identify whether your profile is suitable for any of the positions in his organization and whether he should consider you for the same. But in practice, there is hardly any difference between the structure and the content of both these types of letters. Whether writing a solicited or an unsolicited application letter, the applicant has to mention his personal details, qualifications, skills and experience that are relevant to the job.

Besides, the letters of application can also be framed in two different ways:

All the information about the applicant’s qualifications, experience and personal details can be included in one comprehensive letter.

OR

The application letter can be divided into two parts. The first part is the covering letter which refers to the advertisement in response to which you are applying and in it you also highlight your most relevant and significant skills and qualifications for the advertised post. The second part is the resume which lists all the necessary personal and educational information in an easy-to-read format.

The layout b) is the widely preferred and the most effective format as it gives the applicant an opportunity to display his skills and personality in an attention-grabbing and succinct manner thus generating the employer’s interest in his resume and getting him to read it in the first place.

ESSENTIALS OF A GOOD COVERING LETTER

The covering letter has one purpose— to attract the attention and sustain the interest of your prospective employer in your resume and thus get him to call you for a job interview. Therefore, your covering letter is not just a simple note that forwards an enclosure i.e. your resume and other relevant documents. Rather, it is a selling-piece. It should have the qualities of an effective sales letter. Besides, in your job application letter, you must focus on—

The job requirements as specified by the employer— qualifications, skills, experience

The special qualities you possess that will make you stand out from the rest (for an announced job opening, you will have to compete with hundreds of other job seekers)

Your knowledge about the organization

Your communication skills, problem-solving ability, people skills, etc.

An effective covering letter should have the following features:

It should be informative and to the point.

The tone of the letter should be friendly but avoid being too casual or informal.

Keep the covering letter to a single page, three paragraphs is ideal.

Do not use the same covering letter while applying at different places.

The style and layout is very important. Avoid grammatical and spelling errors. Use good quality paper and printing. Take care not to crumple the edges or stain the paper. Your letter should not appear overloaded with information. Leave enough white space, so that it looks appealing to the eye.

The covering letter is a kind of persuasive, goodwill message. Show genuine interest in the organization and a keen interest in the position that you are seeking.

Omit personal information that is not relevant to the job.

Edit the letter carefully to make sure that there are no errors.

FORMAT AND CONTENTS OF AN APPLICATION LETTER

An application letter may be written in two formats: the complete block format (the latest and better preferred American format) or the semi-block format (the traditional British format). In the complete block format (also known as the full block format), every line is left-aligned i.e. it starts at the left margin. And nothing is indented. Whereas, in the semi-block format, the sender’s address, date and the complimentary close are indented. Even the paragraphs may be indented.

An application letter has the following parts:

The Sender’s Address and the Date In the semi-block format, these are written at the top right corner of the letter. Whereas, in the complete block format, the sender’s address and date are written at the top left corner of the letter. The date should be written in the American format (mm/dd/yy i.e. July 30, 2010) if you are writing in the complete block style and in the British format (dd/mm/yy i.e. 30 July, 2010) if you are using the semi-block layout. Leave one space between the address and the date. Also, the applicant’s address and date should be written in open punctuation (i.e. no punctuation).

Example:

Closed Punctuation Open Punctuation

Divya Shah(,) Divya Shah

305, Clover Garden Society(,) 305, Clover Garden Society

Alkapuri(,) Alkapuri

Vadodara(.) Vadodara

July 30, 2010(.) July 30, 2010

(Or) (Or)

30 July, 2010(.) 30 July, 2010

The Inside Address The inside address or the receiver’s/employer’s address should also be written in open punctuation. It should be one or two spaces below the date. It should always be left-aligned. If it is a solicited application, the inside address will begin with the designation and not the name of the person to whom it is to be addressed.

Example:

(To) (To)

The Manager The Personnel Manager

Aditya Birla Group OR Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd

New Delhi Baroda

If the name of the person to whom the application is to be addressed or the identification of the advertiser is not disclosed in the job advertisement and if only the post box or a newspaper box number to which the application is to be sent is given, then the inside address will be written as:

(To) (To)

The Advertiser The Advertiser

Post Box No. 2509 OR Box No. 2203

Vadodara- 390004 The Times of India

Ahmedabad- 380001

If it is an unsolicited application, then the letter should be addressed to the concerned person/officer. Example— The Employment Officer/ The Accounts Officer/ The Manager/ The Dean/ The Principal etc.

Subject and Reference Leave one or two spaces after the inside address and state in one line the purpose of the application letter (i.e. the Subject). Leave one more space and write the Reference i.e. if someone has referred you for the post, then you may mention his/her name and designation. Writing the reference is optional.

The Salutation ‘Dear Sir’ is the most common salutation used in application letters. But you may try some of the following ways to open a letter depending on the context in which you are communicating. However, you should be careful in selecting an appropriate salutation.

Context Salutation

1. Addressing ‘someone’ in a company Dear Sir/Madam

2. Addressing a man whose name Dear Sir

you do not know

3. Addressing a woman whose name Dear Madam

you do not know

4. Informal way of addressing a man Dear Mr. Parekh

5. Informal way of addressing a woman Dear Ms. Dixit

Remember, it is inappropriate and impolite to use the first name of a person in the salutation. For instance, ‘Dear Ms. Deepa’. Also, first names are never preceded by a title (Mr. Siddharth or Ms. Nirmita).

The Body of the Letter It is often divided into three parts:

The Opening/Introductory Paragraph It gives details about why you are writing the application letter and which position or type of work you are seeking. It also makes clear whether it is a solicited application or an unsolicited one. The opening paragraph should catch the reader’s attention and create interest in your resume. In a solicited letter, you may use a simple opening as you have been invited to apply and your focus therefore is not so much on capturing the reader’s attention. You may open your letter in one of the following ways:

Summary opening- Mention your most relevant qualifications and/or experience and explain how it can benefit the organization. Example: “With my three years’ experience as the Assistant Advertising Manager at Mudra Communication Pvt. Ltd., I feel confident that I can ably perform the duties of an Advertising Manager, the post announced by you in The Hindustan Times dated…”

Name opening- Mention the name of the person (if he is known to the reader) who has suggested that you apply for the job. Example: “Professor Kulkarni informed me of a job opening for the post of Assistant Professor in your institution. My qualifications and experience suit the eligibility criteria and I would be glad if you find my profile suitable for the post and consider me for the same. I would indeed be very fortunate if I get an opportunity to be associated with your reputed college.”

Source opening- Make a reference to the newspaper in which the job advertisement was published. Briefly explain how you possess the necessary skills, qualifications and experience that suit the requirements of the target position. Example: “With reference to your advertisement in The Times of India dated 25 July, 2010, I hereby apply for the post of Sales Executive.” Or “I wish to apply for the post of Marketing Manager advertised by you in The Hindu of 27 February, 2010. Or “I request you to consider favourably my qualifications for the position of Legal Adviser in your firm advertised in The Indian Express dated...”

Question opening- Begin with an attention-seeking question that targets the organisation’s problem, need or goal and describe how you can help in fulfilling it.

News opening- Mention some organizational achievement, goal, etc. which was made public and express your desire to work for the organization because of it and for it.

Personalized opening- Mention your relevant interests or previous experiences or your present position or profile and start discussing why you are eager to work with the organization.

The Middle Paragraph It gives specific examples of why you are perfect for the job. With an effective introductory paragraph, half the work is done as you will have already succeeded in exciting the employer’s interest. The next step is to show how you are the one that he is looking for. For this, you should explain in detail the important points that you mentioned in the opening paragraph. Give evidence in support of your claims of ability. Avoid exaggerating. Take care not to repeat the points already mentioned in the opening paragraph or the resume. Include relevant details that could not be accommodated in the resume.

The middle paragraph/s of the application letter should focus mainly on convincing the reader that you are the best choice for the post advertised. You can do this not by listing the academic degrees that you have earned but by highlighting how your education has equipped you for the work that you seek. Show how you are updated not only about your area of specialization but are also aware of the latest in the other allied areas. If you have handled different job profiles while working part-time, explain what you have learnt from it and how it has made you capable at adapting to different work environments. Also, mention the various job-related activities, interests and qualities that you possess. Sum up by referring the reader to the enclosed resume for further details.

The Closing/Concluding Paragraph In the last paragraph, make a subtle suggestion to your prospective employer to ‘act’ i.e. to grant you an interview. Do not demand it. Do not use sloppy words to gain the reader’s sympathy. Avoid closing lines like—

“Given an opportunity to serve in your esteemed company, I assure you the best of my services…”

“Please be kind enough to give me an opportunity to serve in your reputed institution…”

Be simple and direct in asking for an interview. Here’s how you can do it effectively—

“I hope to hear from you soon.”

“I will be glad/grateful if my application for the said post is considered favourably.”

“I hope that my qualifications would merit your consideration.”

“Looking forward to a favourable response.”

“May I look forward to an interview with you at your convenience?

Close the letter by stating your phone number and specify the best time to reach you. You may also include your email address on which you may be contacted.

The Complimentary Close and the Signature Line The complimentary close is placed two spaces below the last line of the body of the letter. Some of the most commonly used complimentary closes include Thank you, Yours faithfully, Sincerely, Best regards, Respectfully, Best wishes, Yours truly, Warm regards, Sincerely yours, With many thanks, etc. The complimentary close begins with a capital letter and ends with a comma.

Leave four spaces between the complimentary close and the Signature Line (i.e. the writer’s name) for a signature. The writer’s title or designation should be typed directly below the name. The signature should ideally be in blue or black ink.

Example:

Yours sincerely,

(Sign here)

Ramakanta Das

Managing Director

Saint Gobain Industries

Hyderabad

Enclosures List the number and nature of the documents that you are sending along with the letter of application. If the list is too long, attach a separate sheet. Leave two or three spaces after the signature line and write- ‘Encl. See list attached.’

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