Communication skills through written letters and documents are among the most important skills for your career management strategy. Your job-search letter will usually be the first sample employers have of your competency in written communication. Your letters should be functional, understandable, easy to read and pleasant in tone.
There are seven basic letters you will probably use during your job search, as well as your career management strategy. Each letter has specific functions and should be used accordingly. A brief description of each letter follows. Be sure to sign the original letters and to keep copies of all correspondence.
- Application Letter:
The purpose of this letter is to get your enclosed resume read in order to generate an interview. Use an application letter in response to specific job advertisements and vacancy announcements. Your strategy is to demonstrate that your qualifications fit the requirements of the position. Study the position description carefully and decide on one or more themes–education, experience, interests, responsibility, etc.–that show persuasively how well you fit the position. Link major job dimensions with your related past performance and experience.
- Prospecting Letter:
The purposes of this letter are to seek out possible vacancies in your occupation, to get your resume read and to generate interviews. Prospecting letters are used extensively for long-distance searches. Target specific individuals in specific organizations. Structure this letter similarly to the application letter, but instead of using position information, focus on broader occupational and/or organizational dimensions to describe how your qualifications match the work environment.
- Networking Letter:
This letter is designed to generate information interviews–not job interviews–which allow you to meet individuals who can give you specific information about your intended career. Your purposes in seeking information interviews may vary, but your reasons for wanting to meet with a contact person must be sincere. Information interviewing is not a magic shortcut to employment; this interview requires solid preparation, sincerity and much effort. The networking letter is the first step in the information interviewing process. Normally, a resume is not attached to a networking letter, but it may be presented during the interview itself to help the interviewer address your questions.
- Thank-You Letter:
This is one of the most important yet least used tools in a job search. Thank-you letters are used to establish goodwill, to express appreciation and/or to strengthen your candidacy. The basic rule of thumb is that everyone who helps you in any way gets a thank-you letter. When used to follow up employment interviews thank-you letters should be sent within 24 hours to everyone who interviewed you. Also, be sure to send thank-you letters to each contact who granted you information interviews and to those who provided references for you.
- Acceptance Letter:
Use this letter to accept a job offer, to confirm the terms of your employment (salary, starting date, medical examinations, etc.) and to positively reinforce the employer’s decision to hire you. An acceptance letter often follows a telephone conversation during which the details of the offer and the terms of employment are discussed.
- Withdrawal Letter:
Once you accept a position, you have an ethical obligation to inform all other employers of your decision and to withdraw your employment application from consideration. Your withdrawal letter should express appreciation for the employer’s consideration and courtesy. In your withdrawal letter stating your decision to go with another organization was based on having better person-job fit for this stage in your career may be appropriate.
- Rejection Letter:
Candidates may have to decline employment offers that fail to fit their career objectives and interests. Rejecting an employment offer should be done thoughtfully. Indicate that you have carefully considered the offer and have decided not to accept it. Also, be sure to thank the employer for the offer and for considering you as a candidate.