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Find the Perfect Job: Winning at Applications and Cover Letters

Updated on April 20, 2013

The Application

Applications give employers a standard format in which to judge candidates. Sometimes they can gain insight on an application that they could not otherwise gain from a resume or interview. When you fill it out by pen versus typing it up, they can see how neat and organized you are. Employers often want resumes, applications, and interviews in order to get the best impression of a candidate. These key points should help you ace the application. Make sure you match the profile and posses the qualities

Picking up the Resume

  • When picking up the resume, pick up a brochure or pamphlet on the company. Research the company. This will help you with your cover letter and interview. Learn as much as you can about the company.
  • Be dressed professionally when you go to pick up the application. Don’t make off colored jokes towards the secretary or be rude to her. In fact, make an effort to stand out in her mind by your kindness.
  • Properly introduce yourself and explain why you are there. Ask for all directions on what you need to do to obtain the position. You could even ask if there are any extra tips the receptionist could give you. They might give you an inside tip, like that the manager has allergies and doesn’t like candidates to wear perfume.
  • Get 2 or more copies of the application. That way you can have one to try your best on, but if you really mess it up, you can use the other copy as the original. This way they will be none the wiser as to how many times you messed up on the application.

Fill in the Application at Home

  • When filling out an application, take the time to read the fine print. Follow all directions! That could be how they are weeding you out. “Sarah filled in this section and Brian left it blank.” With 100 resumes and applications, human resources can easily toss Brian’s in the trash, regardless of the quality of the rest of the application and his resume.
  • Fill in the Application YOUR BEST! Use a beautiful ball point pen and concentrate. Read all the directions to ensure you fill it out correctly. If you make a mistake, use correction tape (it’s hard to tell you even made a mistake with it).
  • Use key words or “buzzwords” from the job description or industry on the application. Try to show that you are a perfect fit on the application.
  • Tailor your answers and resume to the job description. If it says it’s looking for a hard-working, ethical, motivated individual, and the application asks you to rank your qualities, make sure that you put those qualities at the top.
  • Try to say negotiable or put a range in the pricing. Be sure to research the position to find out what is reasonable. Know the minimum you can accept and live. It’s better to take that amount and have a job than to be unemployed. You can more easily look for a better job when you have one than look for a job if you don’t have one. Also, know the maximum you wish to accept. For example, given your experience and education, you may only wish to take a certain amount, say ($60,000 maximum). Otherwise, the expectations of being paid that much may not be something you can meet.

Filling out Application at the Place of Employment

  • Be prepared with your resume, your master application, your driver’s license and possibly another proof of identification, copies of any licenses you hold, a list of your references, your complete job history, and a copy of your transcripts. If you bring in your job portfolio, you should be in good shape.
  • Don’t leave blank spaces, or write “see resume.” Instead, write in “not applicable” or “N/A.”
  • Be sure to proofread and reread what you wrote before you hand in the application to prevent misspellings or grammar mistakes.
  • If a question is too complex to explain in the small space provided on the application, it is acceptable to write, “Will explain.”
  • When asked sensitive and difficult questions on an application, in the interview, just put a positive spin on the situation by explaining it in the best way possible, showing how the experience helped you grow and learn from your mistakes, how you have changed since then, and what skills and qualities you can still bring to this position.
  • If you have not heard back from the company in a week or two, it is acceptable to contact them to ask what the status of the open position is. You could follow-up and politely ask if they have finished doing their interviews.

Fill out Application Online

  • Most companies will require you to fill out an online application on their website. Be sure to fill out each space accurately and completely. Keep a neat list of all user names and passwords for each company for when you need to return to their websites.
  • In the same manner as the written application, ensure you know exactly how the company wants you to apply for jobs or submit your resume on their website.
  • Make sure your application and resume match the job profile, company environment, and the keywords in your application mentioned in the job announcement.
  • Fill out all fields accurately.
  • Be sure to write down the website name, the position you applied for, the date of application, any username you had to create, and any password you had to create.
  • You may need to include your resume with your online application. Make sure they match up.

Applying for Job from Want Ads

  1. Make sure you are qualified for the position and you really want it before wasting your time.
  2. Personalize your cover letter. Send a short cover letter with every resume you send in to a company. In the cover letter, be sure to show that you meet the requirements listed in the ad. Show that you meet what they are looking for.
  3. If an ad calls for you to phone in, smile when you talk. Be pleasant, professional, and polite. Find out how they would like you to submit your resume to them.
  4. Make sure you follow the advertisement’s instructions. If it asks for a copy of your references, your resume, and an application to be emailed to them, then be sure you email those three things. Do not forget any of them.

Cover Letters

You should always include a cover letter when you apply for a position. It allows you to include items that you could not fit on your resume. It also gives you the opportunity to be specific about your accomplishments, and most of all, it gives you a chance to show the potential employer just how valuable you are. Let them know you fit perfectly in the position you are trying to fill, and show them how you would be a great team player in their company. Give examples and elaborate to prove these points if you can. Don’t take up too much room in a cover letter or they will not read it, but provide enough information to make them really want to look over your resume and bring you in for a personal interview.

On occasion, you may not get a chance to include a cover letter with your resume. For example, some websites advertise job postings without providing any details except the email address. In cases such as these, a direct request can be made in the body of the email. Here is an example:

“To Whom it may concern,

I am applying for the position of ____ that was posted on

Please find attached my resume. References and copies of my transcripts are available upon request.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Joe Smith”

Layout for a Full Cover Letter

Here is the layout for a full cover letter:

(Your information)


(4 blank rows)

(Company’s information)

Dear __________,

Paragraph 1 – Indicate the reason you are writing, the position you are applying for or the type of work you are looking for, and how you learned of the opening.

Paragraph 2 – Explain why you are interested in the position, the company, its products or serves. Indicate what you can do for the employer, how you can help them succeed. Explain how your academic background makes you a qualified candidate for the position. Point out the specific achievements or unique qualifications from your practical work experience. Do not repeat anything that is already on your resume.

Paragraph 3 – Explain that you have attached your resume and/or application and that it summarized your qualifications, education, and experience.

Final Paragraph – (keeping in mind if you have a lengthy paragraph to split it into two; likewise, if you have two small paragraphs, combine them). Explain that you would like a personal interview. Encourage a response from them. Ask if they would like additional information, a copy of your transcripts, or a copy of your references.


(Handwritten signature)

(Type your name)

Enclosure: (resume, samples of work, application, etc.)

Things to Research for Cover Letter

• What the company sells or does
• Their competitors
• Salary ranges (if you can find that out)
• How many people are employed
• The company’s history and future plans if you can find them out online
• Contact names and titles
• Their business volume, net worth, profit and loss, stability, and view their annual report.
• The company’s locations (their headquarters, branch offices, and retail outlets).

Industry and Job Websites

Example of a Cover Letter

(Note: This particular example is from a recent graduate with little experience, but excellent education)

Joe Smith

123 Main Street

Dallas, Texas 94655

(940) 555-1234

August 25, 2014

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

123 West Street

Dallas, Texas 94658

(800) 555-1234

Dear Enterprise Rent-A-Car,

I am interested in the position of entry-level marketing manager. I learned of the opening in the Dallas Tribune’s classifieds section.

With my recent four-year marketing degree, I am anxious to start a rewarding career. I have followed your company for years and admire the loyalty and dedication you demonstrate. The automobile information brochure you provide to your customers shows excellent personal attention.

With four years of sales and marketing courses, I have experience with management, marketing, sales, accounting, business, and communication and am very familiar with manual and computerized management systems. Written and oral skills developed for me in courses such as: Business Communication and Speech. Commitment, motivation, and perseverance are my strong points.

The enclosed resume summarizes my education, experience, and skills. You may contact the Placement Office at College State University to obtain my credentials.

I respect and admire your company and would enjoy working for you. I would really like to meet in a personal interview. You can reach me during the day at (940) 555-1234 or in the evening at (940) 555-3456. I will be in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on August 20th and would be happy to meet with you then. I am looking forward to discussing the position with you.


(4 blank rows)

Joe Smith



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