What are the objectives of a cover letter?
A good cover letter puts your résumé in context and persuades the prospective employer that you are a good match for the position in question. If your cover letter does its job, the prospective employer will begin to consider your candidacy and go on to review your résumé in detail.
Your cover letter also serves as a sample of your organizational and communication skills. For this reason, it's essential to spend time writing and organizing the content, and to proofread it carefully. The time and care that you devote to constructing and writing your cover letter and résumé will demonstrate to the prospective employer that you're capable of producing high quality work.
Finally, your cover letter expresses your interest in the particular position or particular organization. Cover letters should be individually tailored for each job prospect. Your letter should convey to each prospective employer that you have an understanding of the job, and that you've done some thinking about how you could fit in to the organization and contribute to its goals.
How should I approach the writing task?
Your cover letter is your opportunity to market those aspects of your skills, abilities, education, training, background, and experience which are most relevant to the position you're seeking. This means that you will need to begin by doing some thinking about your skills and background and how these relate to the position for which you're applying. (For more information about skills, visit the English Advising Career Page.) Your cover letter should reflect your individuality, but remember that you are "introducing yourself" for the first time to a stranger: it's best to err on the side of professionalism.
Read the job announcement carefully. What are the most important qualifications being sought? How can you best demonstrate that you have them? Try to put yourself in the prospective employer's position: What would you want to know about a candidate for this particular job? What information would be most important to you? Include only the most relevant attributes and experiences you possess which specifically match the job for which you're applying.
Research the company or organization: What does the employing organization do? What are its goals? What is its history? How does it fit in to its industry? What characterizes the organization's culture (e.g., is it casual, conservative, highly structured, diverse, traditional, modern, fast-paced, etc.)? Some information, such as the organization's mission, purpose, clients, partners, and a sense of its "style" can be found on its website (if it has one). There are also industry and employer directories available on the web, in the libraries, and at UW Career Center in 134 Mary Gates Hall. Local and national newspapers, industry-related publications and journals, and the Washington Occupational Information System are also good resources.
Address the letter to a specific individual. As with all writing, it's important to identify your audience. Taking the time to find out the hiring party's name and correct title is another way to demonstrate your interest in the position.
How should I format my cover letter?
Your cover letter should be three to four paragraphs in length and limited to one page. Like an essay, its content can usually be divided up into three parts:
The introduction states the position you're seeking, explains how you learned about the position, and indicates your interest. It often also contains a brief statement of your qualifications (education, experience, and skills).
The body highlights the most important qualities you can offer to this particular employer, related to the position that you're seeking. Because you will be attaching your résumé, this is not the place to go into great detail. What you are attempting to do is to get the employer's attention and interest him/her in your candidacy. This is also the place to present other relevant information about your characteristics or background that may not be evident from your résumé. You might provide the employer with some specific examples of how you've demonstrated particular key skills or how you fulfill the most important qualifications listed in the job announcement.
The conclusion should summarize your qualifications and your interest in the position. Be sure to close your letter with a request for action or an indication that you'll be following up. This might include a request for an interview, a statement of your intent to call the employer on a specific date, or the dates you'll be in town for an interview. Finally, always thank the employer for considering your application.
Sample Cover Letters
221 Peachtree Street
Seattle, WA 98105
April 22, 2013
Ms Stephanie Everly
12 Main Street
Amherst, MA 11001
Re: Editorial assistant position
Dear Ms Everly:
I am writing to express my keen interest in the editorial assistant position you advertised with the University of Washington's Career Center. I will be receiving my bachelor of arts degree in English in June 2012, and I am eager to join a small publishing house where I can use my skills in writing, editing, proofreading, research, and critical anaylsis. Based on my knowledge of Dickinson Press publications and objectives, I believe that my educational background and abilities would be an excellent match for the editorial position.
Through my academic work in English language, literature, and writing, I am prepared to make meaningful contributions to editorial discussions and to function as a member of your editorial team. In addition to my university training, I have held editorial positions with Bricolage, the University of Washington's undergraduate literary journal, and with Steubing Press, a small publishing house specializing in non fiction and regional publications in the Pacific Northwest. These intern positions have provided me with experience in editing, proofreading, fact checking, production scheduling, working with off-site vendors, sales, marketing, and customer service. My positions with a small publication and a small press have taught me to manage my time effectively, adapt readily to new responsibilities, work as a team member, and function well under pressure. The writing skills I developed through my background as an English major have been further refined in both of these positions, where I learned to write concise, persuasive prose for press releases, catalog statements, and website content. Both positions afforded me an in-depth understanding of the important and varied behind-the-scenes work involved in book publishing.
I hope you'll agree that the combination of my academic training and my internship work in publishing has provided me with excellent preparation for the demands of a literary editorial position with Dickinson Press. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss this opportunity in greater detail.
Mary L. Martin
221 Peachtree Street
Seattle, WA 98105
April 22, 2013
Echomedia Marketing Group
123 Avery Place
Seattle, WA 98111
Dear Ms Rodell:
John Bingham of Hemming Communications tells me that you are seeking a marketing assistant at the Echomedia Marketing Group, and he suggested that I send you my résumé. I am particularly interested in the public relations work that Echomedia has done in the non profit sector, and I hope you'll agree that my academic background in English along with my promotions internship with the Experience Music Project make me a good candidate for this position.
In June, I will be receiving my BA in English and Communications. My background includes relevant course work in mass media communications, concepts of new media, media structure, and cross-cultural communications. I have also developed strong writing, persuasive, and critical analysis skills through my major in English.
In the course of my internship in promotions, I gained practical skills in managing media campaigns, doing press work, and planning promotional events. One of my tasks with the EMP was to prepare promotional materials for upcoming museum events and to distribute these materials to the local media. Because there was often very little lead time, I learned to obtain information quickly and assimilate it into a persuasive set of ad materials in short order. At the end of the internship, I was commended by my supervisor, Marion King, for producing high quality work on a strict timeline. I am diligent, creative, and flexible, and I work well as a member of a marketing team.
I look forward to speaking with you about the suitability of my English and marketing background for this position with Echomedia. I will telephone you within a week in the hope that we can set up a meeting soon. Thank you for considering my application.
Mary L. Martin
Some applicants are required to successfully complete an English language proficiency assessment to determine their eligibility to meet Sheridan’s admission requirements. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the assessment as well as some sample assessment questions.
Click here for more information about the English Proficiency Assessment and/or sample assessment questions.
Frequently Asked Questions(anchors to sections on page)
What is the English Proficiency Assessment?
The English Proficiency Assessment is an assessment instrument used at Sheridan to evaluate the English language proficiency of applicants who have applied for admission to Sheridan programs.
The English Proficiency Assessment consists of the Institutional CanTEST for Reading and Listening, and a Sheridan-developed Writing Assessment.
The results of the English Proficiency Assessment administered at Sheridan are non-transferable and can be used exclusively for the purpose of admission to Sheridan programs. The results that you receive cannot be reported to any other institution.
Why do I need to take the English Proficiency Assessment?
Some applicants to Sheridan’s programs are required to complete the English Proficiency Assessment to determine if they meet the admission requirements. The Admissions Office will send a letter to the applicants who must take the English Proficiency Assessment.
Applicants who have valid TOEFL or IELTS results which meet the admission requirements may be exempt from taking the English Proficiency Assessment. Applicants who choose not to take the English Proficiency Assessment and whose first language is not English would meet the language requirement for most Sheridan postsecondary programs by completing the General Arts and Science –English Language Studies –English for Academic Purposes program.
What is the assessment fee?
A fee of $45 is charged for the English Proficiency Assessment (EPA). The fee may be paid at the Assessment Centre with debit only.
What do I need to bring?
- Government issued photo ID
- Letter from the Admissions Office
- Proof of fee payment from the Registration Office
- Pens, pencils, eraser
Where and when can I take the English Proficiency Assessment?
- You can register for the assessment by logging in here: https://sheridanc.mywconline.com/
- If this is your first time using Sheridan's online booking system, you will need to register here: https://sheridanc.mywconline.com/register.php
- Please allow 3 hours to take the English Proficiency Assessment.
- If you must take a Math or Science assessment in addition to the English Proficiency Assessment, the additional assessment may be booked for a different day, if you choose.
How will I know the results of my English Proficiency Assessment?The English Proficiency Assessment results are communicated to the Admissions Office and are viewable through AccessSheridan within 5 days. You will then receive communication from the Admissions Office regarding your status, usually within two weeks of your English Proficiency Assessment.
The results of the English Proficiency Assessment administered at Sheridan are non-transferable and are used exclusively for the purpose of admission to Sheridan programs.
What English language skills does the English Proficiency Assessment measure?The English Proficiency Assessment measures three skills: Reading, Listening and Writing.
The Reading and Listening skills are assessed through the Institutional CanTEST. The Writing skills are tested through a Sheridan-developed Writing assessment.
Each Assessment section is described briefly below.
Institutional CanTEST ReadingThe Reading section consists of two parts: Reading Comprehension, and Skimming and Scanning.
Reading Comprehension requires that you read three passages of 400-700 words, and answer multiple-choice and short-answer questions about them. You will also complete a cloze section where you will choose the correct words to fill in the blanks in a passage. You will have 50 minutes to complete the Reading Comprehension part.
Skimming and Scanning requires that you read quickly to find specific information in texts such as newspapers, university calendars, web pages, and bibliographies. You will have 10 minutes to complete 15 questions. There may be two types of questions: short answer and multiple choice.
Institutional CanTEST ListeningIn the Listening section you will listen, first, to three short dialogues and, second, to three longer passages; the passages last from about one to five minutes. Each passage is followed by questions that are multiple choice or that require a short answer. In the first part of the Listening section, you will hear the short dialogues only once. For this section, the questions are recorded and are not printed in the test booklet; you will only see the answer choices. In the second part of the Listening test, you will hear each of the three passages twice.
The Listening section includes 40 questions and lasts 50 minutes.
Sheridan Writing AssessmentIn the Writing section, you will write a 300-350 word composition on a topic which will be given to you. The time limit for this section is 45 minutes.
Note: For information about the Official CanTEST, you can visit their website at www.cantest.uottawa.ca
What topics appear in the English Proficiency Assessment?All Institutional CanTEST Reading and Listening material is taken from real documents such as newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and radio broadcasts. Topic areas include: agriculture, medicine, engineering, history, and education. All the texts are intended for the general reader/listener. You do not have to be a specialist in any of these fields to answer the questions.
In the Writing Assessment, essay topics are general and do not require specific knowledge.
How can I prepare for the English Proficiency Assessment?
| a. ||Attend an English Proficiency Assessment information session. Sessions are held every week.|
Visit http://www.sheridancollege.ca/admissions/assessment-centre/info-sessions.aspx for further details on available information sessions.
| b. ||You can practice using the samples available in the English Proficiency Assessment Sample Test and Essay Questions|
| c.||You may also visit the Assessment Centre to take a practice English Proficiency Assessment: the CanTEST Reading or Listening test. For the practice Listening test, call the Assessment Centre first to book an appointment. You do not need an appointment for the practice Reading test.|
Practice CanTEST Reading and Listening test material is also available for purchase at the cost of $30. If you wish to purchase a CanTEST practice test booklet, please pay for it at the Registration Office and bring your receipt to the Assessment Centre to pick up your copy of the practice booklet.
Important Note: The CanTEST Practice Information and Practice Test booklet contains information and test samples of all Official CanTEST tests: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Only the following practice tests in the booklet will be helpful to you in preparing for the English Proficiency Assessment at Sheridan:
| d.||A course in academic English would also be good preparation for the English Proficiency Assessment.|
What do the English Proficiency Assessment scores look like?
The Reading and Listening scores, called Bands, tell you your level from 1 to 5. Please see below for Band descriptions.
In Writing, your composition is evaluated by a trained assessor according to Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) on the scale from 5 to 9. Please see below for Writing CLB descriptions.
Based on your English Proficiency Assessment scores, the assessor may recommend eligibility for admission to:
- 1 Year Certificate or 2-3 Year Diploma program
- Graduate Certificate or Bachelor Degree program
- English as a Second Language program
- English for Academic Purposes program
- Academic Upgrading program
What scores do I need to pass?For entrance to a 2-3 Year Diploma Program and/or to a 1 Year Certificate Program, the minimum language requirement is a score of Band 4.0 in the Listening and Reading sections, and a CLB 7 in the Writing section. For entrance to a Graduate Certificate Program and/or Bachelor Degree, the minimum language requirement is a score of Band 4.5 or better in the Listening and Reading sections, and a CLB 8 or better in the Writing section.
Based on rough guidelines, you must answer 60-65% of questions correctly to achieve Band 4, and 70-75% of questions to achieve Band 4.5.
If I don’t pass, what are my options?Students who do not pass their English Proficiency Assessment may choose to enroll in the English as a Second Language program at Sheridan. You may also choose to take the English Proficiency Assessment again. English Proficiency Assessment re-takes are allowed after three months. The test fee applies.
Descriptions of Band Levels: CanTEST Listening and Reading5.0 Very Good User:
Very good command of the English language, even in demanding contexts; high degree of comprehension; only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriateness in communication, which very rarely impede communication. Level of proficiency is acceptable for full time academic study.
4.0 Competent User:
Generally effective command of the English language in fairly demanding contexts, with a satisfactory level of comprehension. Some inaccuracy and misunderstanding in less familiar contexts with more complex language. Weaknesses exist which sometimes impede communication, and could affect performance in an academic program. Additional language training would be helpful to improve accuracy, speed, and overall proficiency.
3.0 Limited User:
Fair command of the English language only in familiar language contexts or in interactions with a sympathetic speaker; limited comprehension; markedly reduced effectiveness in demanding and unfamiliar situations. Systematic inaccuracies and misunderstandings significantly impede communication and comprehension; additional language training is required before being considered for academic placement.
2.0 Very Basic User:
Some ability to function in highly contextualized, familiar situations, but no real command of the English language; frequent breakdowns in communication.
Extremely limited command of the English language.
Please note that half-bands (e.g. 4.5) are awarded where a candidate’s performance exceeds that described in one band but does not fully meet the next higher level
Descriptions of CLB Levels: Canadian Language Benchmarks – WritingCLB 5
Main ideas are difficult to distinguish from supporting details; support provided is not adequate; uses many awkward sounding expressions. There is no clear progression of ideas and the message is difficult to follow. Demonstrates control of simple and compound sentence structures and has frequent difficulty with complex sentence structures; uses simple vocabulary and may have major problems with spelling and punctuation.
Introduces ideas and supports them with some details. There is some awkwardness in expression; arguments may not be clear. Writing causes strain for the reader and the message comes through and can be followed, but often with difficulty. Demonstrates good control of simple and compound sentence structures and is developing ability to use complex sentence structures. Uses basic vocabulary; word choice may be inappropriate; may have problems with spelling and punctuation.
Expresses main ideas and supports them with appropriate details; generally presents a clear point of view with only occasional lapses. There is occasional strain for the reader, yet control of organizational patterns is evident (for example, uses introduction, development and conclusion); uses basic connectors to organize ideas. Demonstrates use of complex sentence structures, with occasional difficulty and demonstrates adequate vocabulary for topic; some errors in word choice and word formation; accurate spelling and punctuation; errors are minor and slightly intrusive.
Expresses main ideas clearly and provides appropriate detailed support; ideas and evidence are generally relevant (only minor isolated problems); conveys a sense of audience although there may be inappropriate use of style and formality. Provides introduction, development and conclusion; has good control of paragraph structure; uses appropriate logical connectors. Demonstrates control of greater ranger of complex sentence structures with occasional difficulty and demonstrates adequate range of vocabulary; some errors in word choice and word formation. Demonstrates accurate spelling and punctuation; makes few spelling errors.
Conveys main ideas and supports them with convincing detail; clearly states and argues a position; has developed a sense of audience, using appropriate style and formality throughout. Presents text as a coherent and developed whole; uses wide range of logical connectors to achieve coherence within and across paragraphs. Demonstrates control of a range of complex and diverse sentence structures; uses an expanded range of vocabulary accurately and flexibly; errors in word combinations still occur; grammatical and occasional spelling errors may still occur.
- Get a good night’s sleep before the assessment. Arrive at the Assessment Centre a few minutes before your appointment.
- Don’t let the thought of writing an assessment make you too nervous, although a little nervousness is natural and even helpful.
- At the Assessment Centre, when the Assessment Centre Specialist is explaining the instructions for the assessment, listen carefully and follow all instructions.
- Ask questions if anything is unclear; the Assessment Centre Specialist is there for that purpose.
- Most questions in the Institutional CanTEST are in a multiple choice format. You will be required to choose the best answer to a question from several choices. You may mark an answer even if you are not perfectly sure it is right. The Sheridan Writing Assessment is in essay format.
- If one question is too hard, leave it and go on to the next.
- If you come to a section in the assessment that you cannot do, don’t give up on the entire assessment. There may be parts further on which are easier for you. Keep working.
- Work steadily and complete as many questions as you can.