Introductory paragraph. This first paragraph of the application letter is the most important; it sets everything up — the tone, focus, as well as your most important qualification. A typical problem in the introductory paragraph involves diving directly into work and educational experience. Bad idea! A better idea is to do something like the following:
- State the purpose of the letter — to inquire about an employment opportunity.
- Indicate the source of your information about the job — newspaper advertisement, a personal contact, or another.
- State one eye-catching, attention-getting thing about yourself in relation to the job or to the employer that will cause the reader to want to continue.
And you try to do all things like these in the space of very short paragraph — no more than 4 to 5 lines of the standard business letter.
Main body paragraphs. State why you are interested in the position, the company, its products or services, and, above all, indicate what you can do for the employer. In the main parts of the application letter, you present your work experience, education, training – whatever makes that connection between you and the job you are seeking. Remember that this is the most important job you have to do in this letter — to enable the reader see the match between your qualifications and the requirements for the job.
There are two common ways to present this information:
- Functional approach — This one presents education in one section, and work experience in the other. If there was military experience, that might go in another section. Whichever of these sections contains your "best stuff" should come first, after the introduction.
- Thematic approach — This one divides experience and education into groups such as "management," "technical," "financial," and so on and then discusses your work and education related to them in separate paragraphs.
Of course, the letter is not exhaustive or complete about your background — it highlights just those aspects of your background that make the connection with the job you are seeking.
Another section worth considering for the main body of the application letter is one in which you discuss your goals, objectives — the focus of your career — what you are doing, or want to do professionally. A paragraph like this is particularly good for people just starting their careers, when there is not much to put in the letter. Of course, be careful about loading a paragraph like this with "sweet nothings." For example, "I am seeking a challenging, rewarding career with a dynamic upscale company where I will have ample room for professional and personal growth" — come on! Give us a break! You might as well say, "I want to be happy, well-paid, and well-fed."
Closing paragraph. In the last paragraph of the application letter, you can indicate how the prospective employer can get in touch with you and when the best times for an interview are. This is the place to urge that prospective employer to contact you to arrange an interview.
Background Details in the Application Letter.
One of the best ways to make an application letter great is to work in details, examples, specifics about related aspects of your educational and employment background. Yes, if the resume is attached, readers can see all that details there. However, a letter that is overly general and vague might generate so little interest that the reader might not even care to turn to the resume.
In the application letter, you work in selective detail that makes your letter stand out, makes it memorable, and substantiates the claims you make about your skills and experience. Take a look at this example, which is rather lacking in specifics:
As for my experience working with persons with developmental disabilities, I have worked and volunteered at various rehabilitation hospitals and agencies in Austin and Houston [say which ones to inject more detail into this letter]. I have received training [where? certificates?] in supervising patients and assisting with physical and social therapy. Currently, I am volunteering at St. David's Hospital [doing what?] to continue my education in aiding people with developmental disabilities.
Now take a look at the revision:
As for my experience working with people with developmental disabilities, I have worked and volunteered at Cypress Creek Hospital in Houston and Capital Area Easter Seals/ Rehabilitation Centre and Health South Rehabilitation Hospital in Austin. I have received CPR, First Aid, and Crisis Intervention certificates from Cypress Creek Hospital. Currently, I am volunteering at St. David's Hospital assisting with physical therapy to people with developmental disabilities in the aquatics department.