Job Application Documents

Part 1 of Short Writing Portfolio


Most of us obtain jobs through a multi-stage process. First you research the types of jobs you are qualified for and the types of employers you would like to work for. Then you try to convince specific employers to consider you for a job.  Your first communication with your future employer is likely to be through a resume and cover letter.  These documents must persuade him or her to continue the conversation.


Your resume and cover letter must be adapted to reflect your specific skills for a specific position.  Find a detailed job advertisement for which you are at least mostly qualified (or will be upon graduation).  Target your resume and cover letter for that position, then tell me about your choices in the cover memo.

Documents required: Job ad, cover memo (to me), original resume, one targeted resume and cover letter which are adapted to a specific position/employer.

The cover memo will simply explain (list?) all the ways you targeted your resume and cover letter and why you did so.  it can be short and informal.  The cover memo and original resume will not be graded – unless they are missing.


The purpose of the resume is to describe your qualifications for a type of job.

Content. The goal is to argue that you are qualified for a particular type of job and that you would be a capable, responsible, and personable employee who communicates effectively.

Format. Your format may be traditional or innovative as long as it is appropriate and as long as the information is highly accessible and is organized in a way that highlights the most important items – from the employer’s perspective. Important:  Follow the formatting and content guidelines as mentioned in BCE Chapter 13.

Style. Your style should be fairly formal. You need not use complete sentences, but you should use a concise, active style and show consistency in expression from section to section.

Application Letters

The purpose of the application letter is to persuade that specific employer to grant you an interview. Just as you appreciate being treated as an individual rather than as a statistic, so does an employer.

Content and Organization.  The goal is to show the reader both that you know what that specific company needs and that you have what it takes. You may organize this section in various ways: Most business cover letters use AIDA (See BCE Chapter 14). Most application letters in engineering and science fields follow the Introduction/Education/Experience/Conclusion format.  The letter should close by inviting a response.  Important: BCE Chapter 14 provides excellent examples.

Style. Application letters are difficult to write because they aim at somewhat conflicting goals. On the one hand, you want to make a good first impression. So you want to sound polite and fairly formal. On the other hand, you want to stand out from the crowd – otherwise, why should the employer hire you rather than any of the other applicants? The best policy is probably to talk to your reader as directly and naturally as possible. Avoid hype.

Format. Use a conventional business letter format Be brief: if possible, stick to one page.

Evaluation Criteria

Employers impose strict standards of correctness on application materials: An error is the equivalent of a bad spot on your shirt. Accordingly, I will mark this assignment on a somewhat stricter scale than usual.

Print Friendly