Writing a cover letter for a technical writing job

Note: Although this post is intended for technical writing students who are about to begin the job search process, but the techniques here might be useful for other students as well.

A cover letter is an essential component of your job application that helps you discuss why you should be considered for the position and demonstrates your communication skills.

The keys to a good letter are selectivity and results.

  • Select two or three points of greatest interest to the potential employer and develop them into paragraphs.
  • Emphasize results.

Elements of a cover letter:

  • Introductory paragraph:
    • Identify your source of information: State about how you heard about the position.
    • Identify the position you are interested in.
    • State that you wish to apply for the position.
    • Choose a few phrases that forecast the body of the letter so that the rest of the letter flows smoothly.
  • Education paragraph:
    • Focus on the courses, projects, and extra-curricular activities that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
    • Discuss the skills and knowledge gained from advanced coursework in your major field.
    • If you haven’t already specified your major and your college or university in the introductory paragraph, be sure to include that here.
  • Employment paragraph:
    • Like the education paragraph, the employment paragraph should begin with a topic sentence and develop into a single idea.
    • Choose only the relevant employment experience.
  • Concluding paragraph:
    • A reference to your resume
    • A polite but confident request for an interview
    • Your phone number and email address

Examples of good cover letters:

http://www.ccp.rpi.edu/resources/careers-and-graduate-school/cover-letters/

Update: As Larry Kunz (technical writer extraordinaire) advised in the comment below, the first sample is of the appropriate length, but the second one is longer than optimal.

Good resource:

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/698/01/

If you have questions, suggestions, or blog post requests, drop me a line at hello@amrutaranade.com

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3 thoughts on “Writing a cover letter for a technical writing job

  1. Hi, Amruta. Thank you for this very valuable advice. As an experienced technical communicator who has evaluated many job applications, I can attest that the cover letter is a vital tool for introducing yourself to a prospective employer.

    The only suggestion I’d add is to keep the cover letter fairly brief. Treat the hiring manager’s time as valuable; be direct and to the point. You included a link to two examples of good cover letters (on the RPI website). Of those two letters, I’d say that the first one is about the right length (137 words). However, the second letter — the one addressed to Mr. Curtis — is longer than some managers might be willing to read (338 words).

    I hope your readers will find this helpful. I know they’ll find your article helpful — thanks again for writing it.

    1. Thank you for the insights, Larry! I will update the post with your advice.
      Also: I am starstruck to know that you read and took the time to comment on my blog post. Thanks for making my day 🙂

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