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Most people write their resumes and accompanying cover letters using word processing software. Some, however, feel a handwritten cover letter adds the warmth and personal touch that are often lacking in the business world. In some instances, a handwritten application letter is requested because hiring managers feel it reveals more about you than a printed letter.
Create a Professional Appearance
If you decide to take the unusual step of submitting a handwritten cover letter, be sure it has a professional appearance. Use the same paper that you're using to print your resume. It should be standard 8 1/2-inch by 11-inch business paper. You can use either plain copy paper or a heavier paper with some linen or cotton content, typically sold as resume paper. White or off-white papers are best. Blue ink is usually used when someone wants to indicate a document is an original, rather than a photocopy, but black ink is also acceptable.
It's also acceptable to use personal stationery that is preprinted or embossed with your name or monogram, as long as it has a professional look. Again, white or off-white are safe choices. Ivory and pale gray are neutral and professional. Avoid other colors of paper and ink, as they detract from your letter's content.
Your penmanship must be neat and easy to read. Practice writing your cover letter by hand several times so you can get an idea of spacing on the page. It's helpful to put a sheet of lined paper underneath your writing paper to keep the lines straight and the margins even.
Purpose of a Cover Letter
Remember that the purpose of a cover letter is to draw attention to your resume. Use the cover letter to briefly introduce yourself, demonstrate your interest in the company or position and motivate the reader to schedule a job interview. Submitting a cover letter along with a resume greatly improves the chances that your resume will be read.
Cover Letter Content
Address the cover letter to a specific individual, if possible. A generic opening such as "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern" makes your cover letter look like a form letter, even if it's handwritten. If you cannot get the actual name of an individual from the website or by making a phone call to the organization, use a gender-neutral greeting such as "To the Director of Human Resources" or "To the Manager of the ABC Department."
The handwritten cover letter should use the same cover letter format as one that is created electronically. It should be a single page consisting of an introduction, a body and a closing. Within these three parts communicate why you're interested in working for the company, why they should be interested in you and, finally, how you plan to follow up this initial contact.
- Introductory Paragraph: Capture the employer's interest by identifying the position you're applying for and how you heard about the opening. Don't start out by saying "My name is..." since your identity is clearly stated in the stationery header, if there is one, or in the signature block. In a sentence or two, explain your interest in the position.
- Body: In one to three paragraphs, demonstrate that you understand what the position entails and how your qualifications relate to it. Do not merely repeat the language of your resume. Use the cover letter to tell how you'll contribute to the organization.
- Closing: State your plan for following up in your closing. Suggest what you would like the reader to do, such as "Please feel free to call or contact me by email at your earliest convenience." Better still is a statement of action on your part. For example, you might write, "I plan to phone the week of June 10 so we can talk about the position and my qualifications in more detail."
Use a closing word such as Sincerely or Respectfully, and write your name below it. Sign your name (first and last) legibly, avoiding extra flourishes and juvenile-looking embellishments, such as circles to dot the letter i.
You can find many examples and cover letter templates online. Choose a few that relate best to the position you're applying for. Get some ideas for composing your own letter, but remember that you should never copy directly from an internet source. Hiring managers use the internet, too, and can readily spot a plagiarized document.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.