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Characteristics of an Effective Application Letter

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In a competitive job market, an effective application letter helps you stand out. When well written, it can push your application to the top of the stack, helping you score an interview. The letter does not repeat your resume, but complements it with a snapshot of your best skills and talents in a concise, one-page format. An effective letter includes the correct structure, a professional appearance, an employer focus, a brief summary of your credentials and a follow-up request.


The structure consists of a targeted greeting, an introductory paragraph, one or two short paragraphs covering your key qualifications and the closing paragraph. The greeting should address a specific person whenever possible. The introductory paragraph expresses your interest in a specific position and why. The next paragraph or two summarizes how your skills, experience and education match job requirements. The closing paragraph references an enclosed application or resume, restates your interest, requests some form of follow-up and thanks the employer for their time.

Professional Appearance

When writing your application letter, the appearance must be professional and tailored to the job you want. Avoid generic, unprofessional application letters. Just like a resume, you will need more than one letter when applying to multiple jobs. Do not cram your application letter with too much information. Leave that to the application or resume. Format it with the correct margin on all sides and with plenty of white space. Using bullets to highlight key points makes the letter easier to read. Busy employers will appreciate this time saving tactic.

Employer Focus

Focus your application letter on how you can contribute to the employer’s bottom line. Research the company products or services, mission statement, current initiatives and leadership practices to gain an understanding of how you can position yourself in a beneficial way. By understanding the company, you can honestly assert how you plan to contribute. You will be viewed as a serious contender when you tie your skills or experience to company missions, goals and initiatives.


Include the credentials that are most relevant and important to the position. Your credentials must provide a strong sense of your qualifications by explaining how your specific skills, expertise and work history align with job requirements. Also, highlight notable and related achievements, courses of study and training. The goal is to emphasize succinctly your suitability as an employee so that the employer is motivated to contact you for an interview.

Follow-up Request

Ask for what you want in the closing paragraph. Request an interview or meeting within a certain time frame to discuss your qualifications. Specify times you are available and say when you will follow-up. Also, express that you look forward to an in-person meeting. You want to appear confident and eager, but not desperate. Make it easy for the employer to reach you by repeating your contact information.


Deb Dupree has been an active writer throughout her career in the corporate world and in public service since 1982. She has written numerous corporate and educational documents including project reports, procedures and employee training programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee.

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