Basics for all correspondence:
There are similar elements to job search letters, but each letter should be individually tailored and targeted to the recipient. There is no such thing as an effective "form letter" in a job search. You know when you get a form letter; a prospective employer knows too. A letter that looks like it could have been randomly sent to any employer is a good candidate for the employer's "no" pile.
Make your purpose clear
Don't make an employer guess why you are writing or what you are writing about. In choosing your words, think about the purpose of your letter and details of your individual circumstances. For example, if you make a telephone call to an employer prior to sending a cover letter, it makes sense for your letter to refer to the telephone call. If you must respond to an employer's letter to you, read the letter carefully to draft an appropriate response.
Tell the employer what you'll do for the organization, not what the organization can do for you.
Saying, "I really want this job because it will give me great experience," is not a sell to an employer. Of course the job will give you (or someone else) great experience. It just makes you sound "all-about-me." Instead, tell the employer what you have to offer. Be specific and realistic; as in, "I have great organizational skills that I developed and demonstrated when I was event chair for my club." Don't use hyperbole; as in, "I will immediately contribute to higher profitability on my first day on the job."
Grammar, spelling and punctuation should be error-free; wording should be clear, concise and business-like; avoid gimmicky language and slang terms.
Don't rely on spell check alone
Spell check won't let you know that you've used manger instead of manager, perspective instead of prospective, left the "l" out of public, and so on. (All mistakes we've seen plenty of times.)
Be your formal, business-like self, but express yourself in a manner that is natural to you. Avoid too much borrowing of language from sample letters and friends' letters. Excessively flowery language or using complicated words won't make you sound smarter; it will make you sound silly. Use good examples as inspiration, but don't copy.
Retain copies of every letter you send and receive, including email; mark your calendar for any appropriate follow-up.
Mr. William Jackson
Acme Pharmaceutical Corporation
13764 Jefferson Parkway
Roanoke, VA 24019
Dear Mr. Jackson:
From your company's web site I learned about your need for a sales representative for the Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina areas. I am very interested in this position with Acme Pharmaceuticals, and believe that my education and employment background are appropriate for the position.
While working toward my masters degree, I was employed as a sales representative with a small dairy foods firm. I increased my sales volume and profit margin appreciably while at Farmers Foods, and I would like to repeat that success in the pharmaceutical industry. I have a strong academic background in biology and marketing, and think that I could apply my combination of knowledge and experience to the health industry. I will complete my master's degree in marketing in mid-May and will be available to begin employment in early June.
Enclosed is a copy of my resume, which more fully details my qualifications for the position. I look forward to talking with you regarding sales opportunities with Acme Pharmaceuticals. Within the next week I will contact you to confirm that you received my email and resume and to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you for your consideration.
Lynn A. Johnson
5542 Hunt Club Lane, #1
Blacksburg, VA 24060
Resume attached as MS Word document (assuming company web site instructed applicants to do this)