Appendix A: Common Business Writing Genres

Cover Letters

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand why cover letters are still an important employment document.
  2. Learn to recognize key personal characteristics that will help to enhance employability.
  3. Prepare a cover letter.

A cover letter is a document that explains your reason for seeking employment with an organization and briefly describes how you would be an asset to the organization. The cover letter serves several points of value:

  1. Is an introduction to you, your skills and how you would help this organization with the problems they are presented with.
  2. This is a basic sales pitch as to why you are the right person for the job.
  3. Gives you an opportunity to more completely and thoughtfully make yourself stand out to potential employers.
  4. Draws in the reader to want to continue reading your resume and hopefully request an interview with you.
  5. Emphasizes your most important skills as well as reflects your personality and character

Cover letter objectives

Your objective is to take this opportunity to market yourself in such a way that the hiring person will not only want to continue reading your resume but will also want to request an interview with you. The cover letter professionally “dresses” the application in an impressive, confident way (Smith, L.S. 2016) This is also where you have an opportunity to highlight your personality and give the reader a glimpse of what kind of person you would be to work with. In addition, this highlights your skills to effectively communicate with others. This is not your actual resume, so do not just repeat your resume, highlight the most important skills that you have that will present you as the most qualified candidate for the job.

Characteristics of a Cover letter

The characteristics of a cover letter are to quickly introduce yourself to the reader and make them want to learn more about you. A good cover letter demonstrates enthusiasm for the position. (Smith, L.S 2016)  In order to do this, you need to positively present yourself. In order to accomplish this the foundation of your letter needs to be polished with use of excellent grammar and free of spelling errors. You need to effectively express that you have all the qualifications that are needed for the position that you are seeking and do so in a manner that highlights your qualifications.

Types of cover letters

While the ultimate goal of the cover letter is the same in each circumstance, essentially, there are two types of cover letters, one for solicited jobs and one for unsolicited jobs.

Solicited Jobs

  • Address to the person named within the organization
  • Specify where you heard of the position
  • Refer to the job applying for and the qualifications that make you the perfect candidate for the job

Unsolicited Jobs

  • Show a knowledge and interest in the organization that you are applying to
  • Indicate how you and your skills would benefit the company

Depending on which kind of job you are applying for, essentially you will use elements of both, but will focus on the specific needs of the one that represents you.


Prior to writing your cover letter, there are many items that you will want to gather:

  1. Use research methods from section 9.5 to learn about the company
  2. Figure out what the organization is looking for and how you can best fit those needs.
  3. Figure out what qualifications or achievements you have from past employers or special projects that would make you interesting for this job and how it could make their organization better.
  4. Find out the name of the hiring person by looking through job posting, organization website, social media or call the human resource department (verify spelling and pronunciation). If unable to locate the name “replace the salutation of your letter with a descriptive subject line such as Applications for Marketing Specialist Position”. (Guffey, M., & Loewy D. 2015)


While you want to be creative in the content of the cover letter, the overall format should be consistent with the resume. Following the basic rules will help you to have a clean, crisp cover letter that highlights how you are the right person for the job that you are seeking.

  • Black typeface. Don’t attempt to be so creative that it detracts from the substance of your cover letter.
  • Use a conservative font such as Serif
  • Write it on white paper so that the black typeface will stand out.
  • Utilize one inch margins
  • Make sure to put all contact information at the top

Writing the letter

Begin the letter by writing an introduction that will grab their attention. Include your special attributes that make you the person most qualified for the position that you are applying for. Explain why you would be a good candidate and what you can add to the organization, be creative.

Key points to remember:

  • Do not merely state what is already in your resume
  • Use active verbs and pull key requirement from the posting
  • Don’t use emoticons, cliches, abbreviations or acronyms
  • The opening paragraph should be short
  • Write a different letter for each position applying for and indicate what makes you the perfect candidate for the position applying for
  • Be honest about your qualifications
  • Highlight your most important qualifications (avoid using “I” and instead make more references to your skills and successes)
  • Your accomplishments should be the main body of the letter
  • Emphasize items you have that play into the organization’s main focus (these items should change with each job that you apply for)
  • Close the letter confidently, possibly requesting an interview
  • Proofread everything twice
    • Check spelling, grammar, typographical errors and read out loud for syntax
    • Have a colleague proofread and critique your cover letter
  • Go over the application instructions and confirm submission instructions and format
  • Make sure your cover letter does not exceed one page unless you feel it is necessary to more fully explain why you would be an asset to the organization

Sample Format for Solicited Cover Letter (Resumebaking, 2017)

July 23, 2013

Ms. Della Walker
89 Farmers Road
Elk City, Idaho 58925

To:Mr. Mike Morrison
Human Resource Manager
Pierce Manufacturing
45 Melrose Road
Elk City, Idaho 58925

Dear Mr. Morrison,I am writing to apply for the position of Content Manager on your web development team at Pierce Manufacturing.I learned of the opening through an online career job board. I found the opportunity as described very appealing. Based on the expertise and requirements listed, I believe I have the qualifications needed to make a positive contribution to the ongoing success of your organization.

As a web communications manager, I worked as part of a team to develop the site structure and authored all of the content for the company’s website. I increased the company’s visibility with prospective customers by designing detailed product specification pages with built-in modules for size, color, and quantity options. I increased page views and improved the company’s search engine ranking to first page status by employing a variety of techniques, including key-word optimization, co-marketing strategies, and strategic online advertisement placements.

My experience in working on cross-developmental teams has allowed me to develop strong interpersonal skills. I possess the ability to work and communicate productively with creative coworkers and highly technical engineers. I am experienced in both the development and marketing aspects of web development. I am skilled in various programming languages, search engine optimization techniques, functional enhancement identification and implementation and in creating attention-getting web content. I am dedicated, motivated and I consistently strive to achieve a standard of excellence.

I believe I am a very good candidate for the position of Content Manager and I would greatly appreciate an in person interview. You may reach me by phone at 345-998-0909 or by email at I am enclosing a copy of my resume for your consideration, along with letters of recommendation from previous employers. Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to meet you soon.


Della Walker

Ms. Della Walker

Sundance Letter of Recommendation
PSR Letter of Recommendation

Sample Format for Unsolicited Cover Letter (Resumebaking, 2017)

August 28, 2013

Ms. Agnes Stevens
123 Kentucky Avenue
Papago, Arizona 28925

To: Mr. David Jones
Global Accommodation Services
Human Resources Manager
25 Hill Drive
Papago, Arizona 28925Dear Mr. Jones,I am writing to express my interest in acquiring a position at Global Accommodation Services. I am very familiar with the company’s excellent reputation for supplying high quality consultation services to the hotel and special event convention industries. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Mike Jefferies, the head of marketing at your company, and he suggested I contact you about possible job openings in your sales division. I am currently seeking a position where I can utilize my superior sales abilities for the benefit of a company who specializes in the international marketplace.
My sales experience encompasses 5 years in the entertainment and promotion industry as well as 7 years in the accommodation and special event industries. As a senior sales consultant for Brandiff Services, I managed multi-million dollar accounts with clients located in Europe, China, and the United States. At Leonard Enterprises, I averaged annual sales upward of 7 million. I am a published author and my book, Best Practices in Effective Sales Communication, is now used by universities across the United States as part of their business curriculum.

I possess excellent persuasive communication skills and I am able to communicate with people at all job levels. I am experienced in both national and international customer presentations and negotiations. I hold a master’s degree in Corporate Communications with a minor in Foreign Business Management and certifications for Intercultural Communication and Persuasive Communication. I am extremely detail oriented, highly motivated and my work ethic is second to none.

I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you in person and to discuss any job openings within your organization. I prefer to handle international contracts but am willing to work national accounts as well. Please call me at 215-890-3465 or contact me by email at to arrange an appointment time that is mutually agreeable. I am enclosing a copy of my resume for your consideration. I look forward to meeting you.


Agnes Stevens

Ms. Agnes Stevens

Enclosure: Resume

Key Takeaway

A well-written cover letter will open many doors and secure interviews and, ultimately, employment.


Borchardt, J. K. (2014). Writing a winning cover letter. Science, doi:10.1126/science.caredit.a1400199

Smith, L. S. (2016). Writing a perfect cover letter. Nursing, 46(3), 47-49. doi:10.1097/01.NURSE.0000480601.37640.7a


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