ENGL 379: introduction to professional writing
short assignment #1: cover letter and resume

parts of cover letters:

The sole purpose of a cover letter is to obtain for its author an interview.  It is addressed to a potential employer or a hiring manager (the person’s name, not merely her title, is necessary here), although in a rhetorical sense it is actually written to the person or persons who composed the position advertisement, as they are likely to be the ones reading the letter.  In the cover letter, you must make a case, with supporting evidence, that you can fulfill all or most of the job requirements described in the position advertisement.  It is essential that you mention those requirements specifically.  In order to make your “fit” clear to a group of readers who may be reading upwards of sixty to eighty letters in a matter of hours and who do not have the time to read closely, cite those requirements using the same language and in the same order that they appear in the advertisement.

Formal letters employ traditional standards of line and paragraph spacing.  In MS Word’s most recent iterations (2008-11), go to “Tools” > “Letter Wizard” to get templates that use these standards. A letter should contain the following four parts.

1) identification of purpose of the letter (e.g, “Please consider this letter is part of my formal application to the position of technical writer I.”), the author (e.g., “I am a senior English major at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, expecting to graduate in May 20xx”), and how she learned of the position (e.g., “I learned of the position in an online posting on Boston.com dated September 15, 20xx.”)

2) summary of qualifications with supporting evidence.  If possible, these qualifications should appear in the same order that they appear in the position advertisement.  Also if possible, this section should refer to the resume, as in, “As you can see from my resume …” 

3) statement of reasons author should be considered apart from presumed competition, and

4) tactful request for an interview.

You will find sample cover letters in Chapter Ten: Job-Finding Materials of the Online Textbook.

parts of resumes:

A resume is a formatted list of qualifications. Although the resume's format may vary, it should include the information below.

1) name, address (school and home, if applicable), telephone(s), email address and date

2) overview (optional)

3) job objective (optional)

4) education

5) software knowledge

(All categories below this line are optional, but you will be able to use at least a few.)

6) professional work experience

7) other work experience

8) awards

9) skills

10) natural and artificial languages

11) membership in professional societies

12) publications

13) patents

14) licenses and security clearance

15) military service

16) interests

17) personal data

In recent years, references are omitted from most resumes. Employers assume you have them (in fact, employers assume you have three). An employer will ask you to supply names, titles and contact information of those references only if they (the employer, that is) is considering your application further.

Examples of resumes of persons with backgrounds like your own may be found in the online portfolios of last year's program graduates. They are located in the homepage of ENGL 391C: Advanced Software. Other samples may be found in Chapter Ten: Job-Finding Materials of the Online Textbook.


As mentioned above, formatting of a cover letter is like that of any formal letter.
In MS Word’s most recent iterations (2008-11), go to “Tools” > “Letter Wizard” to get templates that use these standard. Or,
you may find specifics here:


In the case of an actual job application, have your resume and cover letter prepared as professionally as possible. Both documents should be laser printed on quality bond paper.

NOTE: Do not staple the cover letter to the resume. An employer considering your application may wish to make copies of either or both documents; a staple presents a small but irritating problem for the photocopier.

NB: When you near graduation and begin your job search in earnest, please use the many links on the career resources page.

If you have no intention of seeking work immediately after graduation, but rather expect to apply to graduate programs, you will replace the cover letter with a statement of purpose. A statement of purpose is an applicant's personal justification, in response to two or three broad questions, for wanting to enter a graduate program. The length of the statement is determined by the admissions committee. The more you know about the university, the future of the program, and your place in it, the better you can tailor the statement to the admissions committee. As well, you will need to know the formal presentation guidelines for the statement.

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