Employment Application Letter:
Not all organisations use application forms, or use them for all posts which become vacant. Instead, applicants may be requested to write letters containing information about themselves, such as age, education, experience, etc. In general, such application letters will require to contain much the same information as would be supplied in an application form, but the information will have to be presented in a different way.
Letters may prove useful to employers in filling clerical or secretarial vacancies, as they can demonstrate – in advance of interviews and/or tests – the ability of applicants: (a) to construct a letter in good, grammatical language, (b) to lay out a letter effectively, and (c) to write (or type) neatly and clearly. Such letters are, in themselves, a form of ‘test’ and a candidate who produces a badly constructed or messy or hardly legible letter, will ‘fail’ the test, and will not be called for an interview.
In some cases applicants are instructed to submit letters ‘in their own handwriting or typed letters may be called for, or a choice may be given (in other cases applicants are simply told to ‘write’, without specifying whether handwritten letters or typed letters, or either, will be acceptable). Do read the instructions carefully – you will not get far if you submit a typed letter if you were required to produce a hand-written one, or vice versa.
Not all application letters are submitted in response to advertisements, and we shall look at such letters in the next blog. However, first we shall consider important points concerning all letters of application submitted:-
Application letters should always be written or typed on clean, standard-sized sheets of paper which should, preferably, be white in colour. Application letters should never be written or typed on discouloured, dirty or grubby pieces of paper, on odd sized or shaped sheets or on pages torn from notebooks or exercise books. Sheets with feint ruled lines may be acceptable, but tend to show lack of confidence in one’s handwriting ability; but ruled sheets should never be used for typed letters. Most stationers sell pads of writing sheets, and with the thinner sheets a heavily ruled, separate sheet is also supplied; this is slipped under the sheet on which the letter is being written, and as the heavy rulings show through the sheet, handwriting can be kept straight.
Your handwriting must be neat, with well-formed figures and – above all – be clear and easy to read. If the prospective employer, or his deputy, cannot read what you have written, or has difficulty in deciphering what you have written, your letter will be placed straight in the ‘reject’ pile. Certain clerical posts, secretarial posts and jobs in accounts or book-keeping sections/departments, etc. require good, clear handwriting, and that is what the person reading your letter will initially be looking for. Avoid ugly crossings-out and corrections. Write in black or dark blue ink or ballpoint/biro – not in red or green or some other unusual colour, and not in pencil.
If you type an application letter because you are required to do so (for example, for a clerical, typing or secretarial post), your typing must be accurate, neat and clean. The printer with which you are printing the letter must be clean and, if at all possible, well maintained – or use a new cartridge/toner – or at least clean the cartridge/toner before printing. Do not print in colour.
Obviously, if you are seeking a post in which you will have to type, you must demonstrate in your letter that you can do so – and well. Avoid erasures and the use of correcting fluid – reprint if necessary. All the foregoing points are important if you type an application letter through choice because you can type proficiently. However, if you are not really very good at typing, it is best to avoid typewritten letters (unless you have a friend or relative who is good at it and who is willing to type letters for you – although this may be dangerous as yo may give an employer the false impression that you can type). A badly typed/word-processed letter does not attract favourable attention.
Letters must always be laid out neatly and attractively, with a margin (1.5 cm minimum) on each side of the sheet. Avoid crowding the words or lines too closely together (1.5 line spacing is best), and avoid writing the letter at the top – or all at the bottom of the sheet (Top and bottom margins are best at 2cm). If necessary, use two (or more) sheets rather than trying to squeeze the end of the letter (and your signature and name) into the bottom of the sheet. It is best not to write/print on both sides of the same sheet – if necessary, use two or more sheets, but write only on one side of each.
Remember that you want your letter to attract favourable attention and to be read. If your letter is a mass of scrawling writing, jumbled together or untidy to the eye, it may only be glanced at instead of being read; the person concerned will probably have many letters to read, and will be reluctant to waste time on unappealing letters. Make sure that the ‘text’ of your letter is divided logically into paragraphs, with at least one space between each; it also often helps to ‘indent’ the first line of each paragraph (but I personally don’t like first line indent), and in some countries and/or organisations indenting is not common.
Wherever possible, the envelope used to contain the letter should be the same colour as the paper on which the letter is written. Also, it should be the correct size for the letter – and any attachments/enclosures; do not use a huge envelope for a short letter, or try to squeeze a long letter and a number of photocopies into a tiny envelope. (Try to avoid folding the sheets on which the letter is written more than is necessary, as the ‘fold marks’ can detract from the attractiveness of your letter).
Do make sure that the name of the organisation to whom you are applying for a job, and its full address, are clearly and fully written on the outside of the envelope, preferably in block (capital) letters. If the envelope does not bear the full and correct address, it may not reach its intended destination. If you are instructed to address your application to a specific person, by name and/or designation or title, make sure that you do so; otherwise your application might not reach the right person, especially in a large organisation. Also, if you are addressing the application to a person by name, remember to start with Mr., Mrs., or Ms., as appropriate (or the equivalent abbreviations used in your country); applications addressed to a man by name may have ‘Esq.’ (short for esquire) written after the name, i.e. William Jackson, Esq., instead of Mr. – but not both.
Another important point to remember is to affix the correct postage stamp(s) to the outside of the envelope. If you forget to affix stamps, or affix stamps of an insufficient value, your letter may not be delivered.
Note: The points made in the above section on envelopes apply equally to those envelopes in which completed application forms and attachments are sent to prospective employers.
Continued in the following post…