Reading a Cover Letter and Résumé
The cover letter and résumé work hand in hand. The cover letter connects to a specific person at a specific company about a specific job. The résumé then provides detailed information showing how your experience, education, and skill line up with the job. You can review the following samples to get a sense of how these two documents work.
Reading a Cover Letter
Read the following cover letter, written by a student to apply for the position of pool manager where he had been working as a lifeguard. Note how the cover letter highlights details in the résumé that follows, which gives specifics. Click on the side notes to view the different parts of each document.
Listen to "Dear Mr. Carlson"
Sample Cover Letter
Heading Robert Schneider
714 N. Crenshaw St.
Griffith, IN 46319
Date 30 February 2018
Inside Address Mr. Carlson, Liaison
Methodist Campground Board
1250 Wesley Road
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Salutation Dear Mr. Carlson:
Opening I'm writing to express my strong interest in the position of Pool Manager for the Campground Pool for this summer's season. To prepare for this role, I have taken the latest Lifeguard Instructor course through the American Red Cross, as you will see on the enclosed résumé. You will also see that I graduate in May from high school and so can work the usual season from Memorial Day to Labor Day this year. Please review the résumé for my other qualifications.
Middle Of course, my greatest store of experience comes from my previous two summers as a lifeguard at the Campground Pool. I understand pool policies and procedures for guarding, locker-rooms, front-desk, chemistry, cleaning, and maintenance. I've worked closely with previous staff and board members, including yourself. You know my work ethic, punctuality, and ability to work well with others to solve problems. I very much appreciate the opportunities and trust you have given me in the past and hope to take on more responsibility at the pool this summer.
The Campground Pool has been a big part of my childhood and an even bigger part of my early work history. I would love the opportunity to lead the staff in making this a great place for families into the future.
Closing If you have any questions or would like to set up an interview, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (219) 555-9242. I look forward to hearing from you!
Complimentary Closing Sincerely,
Signature Block Robert Schneider
Enclosure Note Enclosure: Résumé
Respond to the cover letter.
- How does the writer start off the cover letter? What else does the writer do in the first paragraph? Why is this approach effective?
(Answers will vary.) The writer expresses his desire to be pool manager, telling the reader the exact purpose of the letter. Then he mentions his chief qualifications and refers to the attached résumé. The approach is direct and businesslike, confident but polite.
- What does the writer do in the two middle paragraphs of the cover letter?
(Answers will vary.) He discusses his work experience, including the tasks he knows at the pool. He also connects with the reader, reminding him of their working relationship. Then he mentions his long history with the pool and his hope to preserve its mission for the future.
- What does the writer do in the closing of the cover letter? What kinds of sentences does he use (statement, request, question, exclamation)? Why are these kinds effective?
(Answers will vary.) He uses a request ("please contact me . . .") and an exclamation ("I look forward . . . !"). The request tells the reader exactly the action the writer hopes for. The exclamation shows the writer's emotional investment. Both help convince the reader.
Many cover "letters" are actually cover emails, sent with the résumé as an attachment. Whether a traditional letter or an email, the point of the cover document is to directly appeal to the reader about the specific job and point to the deeper details in the résumé.
Reading a Student Résumé
Read the following résumé, which provides the specific details of the student's qualifications for the job. Click on the side notes to view the different parts of each document.
Listen to "Robert Schneider's Résumé"
Opening Robert Schneider
714 N. Crenshaw St.
Griffith, IN 46319
Pool Manager, Des Plaines Methodist Campground Pool
Middle WORK EXPERIENCE
- Lifeguard—Campground Pool, Summers 2016 to present: Work closely with manager and liaison, guard Olympic-sized pool, enforce pool rules, perform rescues, administer first-aid, test and correct chemistry levels, monitor locker rooms, run admissions desk, clean pool and all areas, perform routine maintenance, guide inspector through facility
- Stocker/bagger—Rioldi's Market, Fall-Spring 2017 to present: Work closely with store manager, stock shelves, monitor inventory, clean store, answer customer queries, bag groceries, assist loading, retrieve carts
SKILLS AND QUALIFICATIONS
- Physically fit, focused, rule-oriented, friendly, hard-working, punctual, organized, committed
- Experienced with Campground Pool as patron and lifeguard
- High School Diploma, May 2018
- Lifeguard Instructor Certification, Spring 2018
- Lifeguard Certification, Spring 2016
AWARDS AND HONORS
- National Honor Society, Junior and Senior Year
- Letter for Varsity Swim Team
Closing References available upon request
Respond to the résumé.
- What sections appear in this résumé? Why do you think they appear in the order that they do?
(Answers will vary.) The sections are "Employment Objective," "Work Experience," "Skills and Qualifications," "Education," "Awards and Honors," and "References available upon request." The sections come in the order of importance for the reader. The last section suggests a follow-up action (request references).
- What pattern of organization does the writer use for each bulleted list? Does the writer use complete sentences? How does the writer keep elements parallel?
(Answers will vary.) Each bulleted list uses reverse-chronological organization, putting the most recent things first and moving backward in time. The information afterward appears in fragments. The writer keeps these fragments parallel by starting with the same part of speech, for example present-tense verbs ("Work . . . guard . . . enforce . . ."
- What is the difference between "Work Experience" and "Skills and Qualifications"?
(Answers will vary.) "Work Experience" focuses on jobs held and tasks completed. "Skills and Qualifications" focuses on character traits and abilities that would make the person good at the job.
- The writer chooses clean, simple type rather than elaborate fonts and many colors. Why are these choices helpful?
(Answers will vary.) The cover letter and résumé are very readable and businesslike. Elaborate fonts and colors would make reading more difficult and might not translate well to other computers or look good if printed or copied in black and white. Clean, straightforward design helps the reader focus on the content.
Help students realize that the key features in the model cover letter and résumé can inspire them as they create their own job-application documents. Students can modify these formats slightly to suit their own backgrounds and the needs of a particular job.