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Internship and Job Search Correspondence

Correspondence is as important in the internship or job search as an effective resume. It includes cover letters, thank-you letters, letters seeking information, letters accepting offers and letters declining offers. The correspondence includes email as well as the more traditional hard copy. Each piece of correspondence should be carefully written and reviewed.

Each letter should be:

  • Addressed to a specific person by name and title. Use non-gender specific titles (e.g., "Dear Human Resources Representative") if you cannot obtain a name.
  • Tailored to the specific position and organization.
  • Checked for grammatical, typographical and spelling errors.
  • Printed in the same font style as your resume.
  • No more than one page in length.
  • Individually composed and signed.

Cover Letter

A cover letter always accompanies your resume, even if one is not requested. It is a very important part of the job and internship search process. The most effective letters are interesting, informative and concise.

There are two types of cover letters depending on purpose:

Letter of Application

When an employer lists a position opening and requests a letter, they are asking for a letter of application. This type of cover letter is sent to apply for a position that an employer is actively seeking to fill. When writing a letter of application it is important to use the advertisement to craft your letter to connect your experiences to the position's requirements.

Letter of Inquiry

This type of cover letter is sent to an employer to ask about the possibility of available positions. It is used to inquire about job or internship possibilities although none may be advertised and to request further discussion about future opportunities with the organization. When writing letters of inquiry it is important to include details about your qualifications to prompt the employer to decide that a discussion with you is worthwhile.

Your cover letter should be directed to a particular employer for a specific position, not a form letter. Form letters are usually easily recognized and have little chance of receiving favorable attention from an employer. Whenever possible, find out the name of the person in the organization to whom your letter should be addressed.

The cover letter should be brief, but not too brief, and to the point. Tell the employer the position for which you are applying and how you learned about it or, if writing a letter of inquiry, how you know about the organization. Explain why you want to work for the organization. Highlight your qualifications related to the position and use the wording from the advertisement or, if a letter of inquiry, what you know about the requirements of a position and how you fit. Describe your potential value to the employer. Elaborate on information in your resume, adding more detail and stressing information of particular interest to the employer. Encourage the reader to review your enclosed resume and ask for an interview if appropriate.

The cover letter is often three paragraphs long but may also be four paragraphs, if needed. Use standard business format and print on the same paper as your resume.

Thank-You Letter / Letter of Appreciation / Follow-Up Letter

A thank-you letter is expected after a job interview, informational interview, job shadow and networking event. It may be brief and should express your appreciation for the interview or contact, mention key points discussed during the interview, reiterate your continued interest in the position and your desire for favorable consideration. Displaying common business courtesy, this letter should be written within two days of the interview or contact.

Your letter to an employer with whom you have conducted an informational interview can serve as both a letter of appreciation and application.

A letter of appreciation should also be written after receiving an offer of employment. This letter should confirm your receipt of and appreciation for the offer, indicate your interest in the position and inform the employer of the date by which you expect to make your decision.

Letter Seeking Information

This letter may be written anytime. It could be written at the start of your job or internship search to gather information about an organization, especially if you have been unable to find information from other sources.

This letter may also be written after a job offer is received and you need more information in order to make your decision. Be certain to ask for specific information. Getting answers to your questions in writing may eliminate unpleasant surprises later, should you decide to accept an offer. In writing this letter, always reinforce your interest in the opportunity and express your appreciation for the offer of employment.

Letter Inquiring About Status

If you have not heard from an employer after a reasonable period of time, you may want to inquire about the status of your application. Recap the history of your application, indicating dates of your correspondence and your interview(s) and state why you need to know your status (perhaps because you have other opportunities). Be certain to express your continued interest in the position and express your appreciation for the employer's consideration.

Letter Accepting Position

In writing this letter, refer to the offer letter outlining the terms of employment, confirm your date for reporting to work and again express your appreciation and pleasure at joining the organization.

Letter Declining Offer

The key to this letter is to make certain you do not burn any bridges. Always be positive and gracious in rejecting an offer. In the future you may want to contact the employer about employment. Express your appreciation for the interest and confidence the employer showed in making an offer to you and respectfully decline.