How to Write Job Search Letters and Thank-You Notes
The latest advice from two authors who are experts
If you’re hoping to get a jump start on your 2017 job search, be sure to check out the new book, Modernize Your Job Search Letters, by bestselling career authors Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark. It’s a must-read guide to writing both human-friendly and computer-friendly job search correspondence sure so you’ll get noticed and, more importantly, hired.
The book covers traditional cover letters as well e-notes — brief email messages you send along with your resumé when responding to job openings. It also has advice on other types of job-search correspondence like recruiter letters, thank-you notes and cold-call letters. Plus, Modernize Your Job Search Letters features samples to help format, write and design your own powerful letters.
Here’s why this book matters: Even in a virtual world, a strong job search letter can be a game changer. Trust me: as a career coach, I know. Unlike a one-size-fits-all resumé, a customized letter lets you address the reader’s specific needs and tailor your most relevant information for each situation. It provides a golden opportunity to highlight in a few powerful paragraphs why you’re the right person for the job.
Yes, it’s true that uploading a cover letter when applying for a job through a computerized Applicant Tracking System is difficult at best. But there are still plenty of situations when even a brief customized e-note can make a real difference in your job search, such as when you’re responding to a job posting, sending a “cold” letter to an employer or writing a post-interview thank you.
So how can you power-up your job-search correspondence for the year ahead? Here are the authors’ tips for two of the most frequently needed types: job posting e-notes and post-interview thank-you notes.
Job Posting E-Notes
Almost every time you apply for a job, you’ll want to include some version of a cover letter. (The only exception is when the posting tells you specifically not to send one). And in today’s wired world, an e-note is typically the best way to go.
What’s an e-note? When you respond to a job posting via e-mail, your e-note is the email message. There’s no need for a separate email message saying your cover letter is attached.
But just because an e-note is less formal than a traditional cover letter, that doesn’t mean you can whip one off without careful thought. Here are a few e-note formatting rules from the authors to ensure your correspondence shines:
Subject Line:The subject line is valuable real estate, so don’t waste it. Use attention-getting phrases like, “Referred by Susan Thomas” or “Sales Executive — Indeed.com posting — 5 years exceeding sales quotas” instead of generic phrases like “Sales Job.”
Salutation: If you have a name of a person to whom you’re writing, use a standard greeting like “Dear Ms. Kohut,” or “Hi Peter,” (for someone you know well). To modernize the feel of your message, the authors recommend using a comma following the salutation in place of the formal colon typically used in a cover letter. If the job posting does not say to whom you should submit your information, skip the “To Whom It May Concern” (considered dated) and just omit the greeting.
Body of the e-note: Use short paragraphs and/or three or four short bullet points to make the note succinct but easy to read. Always highlight your skills, experiences and qualities that relate to the posted requirements and that give you a competitive edge (consult the posting for relevant keywords).
Close: Conclude your note with a call-to-action such as: “If you agree that I am a strong fit for this sales role, let’s schedule a time to meet. I’ll follow up with a phone call next Tuesday.”
Create a professional signature block to use on all your correspondence. Include your name, e-mail address and primary telephone number (consider adding “call or text” if you are open to receiving text messages). It’s also helpful to include links to your LinkedIn profile and/or professional website and social media accounts.
Remember, the easier you make it for an employer to connect with you, the greater the likelihood of a response.
Finally, while physical addresses are no longer needed, you might want to list your city and state, since those can sometimes be used as keyword filters.
Post-Interview Thank-You Notes
Here are the authors’ recommendations on how to handle three common post-interview thank-you note related questions:
How should I send a thank-you letter?
E-mail is the way to go 99 percent of the time. Send your note immediately following the interview, no later than the day after.
Who do I send it to?
E-mail a thank-you note to each person who interviewed you (and if you met with a recruiter or HR rep, thank him or her as well).
What type of information should I include?
Use the thank-you note to reiterate key points you made during the interview and remind the interviewer why you’re the perfect person for the job.
After thanking the interviewer for his or her time in the first paragraph, use the body of the note (generally two paragraphs or one paragraph with three or four bullets) to highlight a few important points. Some information you may want to include:
- The most impressive achievements of your career that related directly to what was discussed in the interview
- Problems you have solved that are similar to the ones the company is currently facing
- Relevant points of interest you neglected to highlight during the interview
Conclude the note with a line about next steps. For example, “I will follow up next week with HR regarding the hiring process. Many thanks again for your time today.”
Remember, even though it’s a quick read, a carefully customized e-note can be an incredibly powerful part of your job search toolkit. Take the time to make yours great.