Application Letter as Argument

Assignment Overview

Résumé Content

Résumé Exercise

Résumé Format

Application Letter

Application Letter Exercise

By the time you write your application (or cover) letter, you have done all the necessary research on the company and job available, and you have tailored your résumé to the requirements of the job.

While the résumé is mostly used to display factual data that can't be changed, except in its presentation, the application letter allows you many choices. Think about how you can persuade your audience to interview you. You may be able to take work, school or extracurricular experiences that seem unrelated when merely listed on your résumé, and persuade your audience that this experience is, in fact, relevant to the job. Consider your letter a rehearsal for the interview you hope to obtain.

Some companies may not require or allow an application letter. (Note, however, that your course assignment requires that you write a letter.) If the job ad does allow a letter, send one to strengthen your argument. As with your résumé, use the STAR criteria as the warrants on which you rest your claim: "You should interview me for this position." The STAR criteria are fully explained on the "Résumé as Argument" page. Keep that information in mind and also use the following additions as a guide.

S: Sufficient
Your letter should not exceed one page; however, it should not be extremely short either. Elaborate on the information in your résumé. Be sure to support your claims. For instance, don't simply say: "I work well with others." Instead, describe a successful collaborative project from your education or work experience to back up your claim. In addition to providing support for your claims, be sure to include all information needed by your audience, such as a job position number and your phone number, in case the letter gets separated from the résumé.

T: Typical
The letter gives you the opportunity to persuade your audience that apparently non-typical experience is really typical. For instance, you might be applying for a sales job but have no sales experience. If, however, as a volunteer you collected contributions door-to-door for a charitable organization, you could discuss the sales techniques required by this activity. Explain how the duties of this volunteer activity are "typical" of sales positions. As with your résumé, be sure to use "key" words from the job ad.

A: Accurate
Get all facts right! Spell the names of the company and its employees correctly. Check zip codes, addresses, job titles. Your letter must be mechanically perfect or you risk being eliminated from the potential interviewees. Your diction, grammar, and sentence structure must all be "accurate," that is, appropriate for a business letter. Don't use sarcasm, undefined acronyms, or any wording that could be misunderstood by your audience.

R: Relevant
Tell your audience how your education and experience are relevant to this particular job. Place your emphasis on the specifics of what you can do for this company, not on how the job will benefit you. Never include any negative information and don't "qualify" or apologize (for example: "Although I don't have the experience you're looking for, I am a quick learner.") Instead, focus on providing details and examples that show how quickly you learn.

Further Considerations for the Letter

In addition to the STAR criteria, there is a further consideration in writing a good letter: your tone. Your tone will help establish a relationship between you and your readers.

Think of how your tone of voice in a face-to-face conversation reveals aspects of your character and personality. Readers will take away impressions (whether you want them to or not) about how you think, what you would be like to work with, and how you would treat and interact with them. You want to use a tone that will portray you as knowledgeable, responsible, and pleasant, not ignorant, unconcerned, or self-centered. Be assertive, but not arrogant or aggressive. Likewise, don't be timid or uncertain.

Move on to the Letter-evaluation Exercise