How to Write a Professional Cover Letter

Many jobs require you to email a cover letter with a resume attached.  Some jobs require the cover letter and resume in addition to an online application.  Other jobs require the cover letter and resume instead of an online application.  A good cover letter should answer the following questions:

  • How did you learn about this job?
  • Why are you applying for this job?
  • What are a few basic things that you have learned about this job from the job advertisement or from researching the company?
  • What skills, education, or experience do you have to qualify you for this job?
  • What is your basic contact information?

If you know the name of the hiring manager of the company that you are applying to, you can begin the email with “Dear” and that person’s first and last name.  Before the name, there should be one of the following titles, depending on what you know about the person:

  • Mr. – Use this title if the hiring manager is a male.
  • Miss – Use this title if the hiring manager is a single female.  Only use this title if she included the title in the job advertisement.
  • Mrs. – Use this title if the hiring manager is a married female.  Only use this title if she included the title in the job advertisement.
  • Ms. – Use this title if the hiring manager is a female, and you do not know whether or not she is married.
  • Dr. – Use this title if you learned that the hiring manager has a doctorate degree.  In the United States, a doctorate represents a title earned after completing a minimum of 20 years of education, including primary school, high school, college, and graduate school.
  • If you do not know whether the person is male, female, or has a doctorate, it is better to avoid using a title.

If you do not know who the hiring manager is, begin the email with “To Whom It May Concern:”

Read the cover letters below.  Answer the comprehension questions.  Then, write your own cover letter for an imaginary job opportunity.


To Whom It May Concern:

I saw your job advertisement on careerbuilder.com, and I am very interested in the computer programmer position opening at ESL Computer Company in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Your job advertisement mentioned that you are looking for an experienced computer programmer who is willing to travel to other countries to train other computer programmers around the world.  I have three years of experience as a computer programmer at Raleigh Programmers.  Before I began working at Raleigh Programmers, I took several courses in computer programming languages at Wake Technical Community College.  I am an ideal candidate for world travel because of my language skills.  In addition to English, I speak Somali and Arabic fluently.  I am also proficient in French.  My volunteer work as a literacy teacher in public schools has also allowed me to develop the teaching skills that would be necessary for this job.

As I am passionate about both travel and computer programming, I feel I would be perfect for this position.

My resume is attached to this email.  Thank you for your consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Zahra Ibrahim
zahraibrahim947298@gmail.com
(919) 555-1294


1.  Who is the hiring manager for this position?  What do we know about this person(s)?

2.  Why do you think Zahra is interested in this job?

3.  What skills, education, and experience does Zahra have to qualify her for this position?

4.  What is the name of the company that Zahra is applying to in this cover letter?

5.  How did Zahra learn about this position?


Dear Dr. Marguerite Angelou,

I saw your advertisement in the Triangle Newspaper for the French teacher position opening at Little Geniuses Trilingual Preschool in Durham, North Carolina.

In my country, Guinea, I was an elementary school teacher for over 8 years.  I earned a Master’s degree in Education at the Université Kofi Annan de Guinee.  After moving to the United States last year, I began taking classes in childcare at Wake Technical Community College.  I have also been volunteering at the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh for the past 6 months.

I would truly love to have the opportunity to teach my native language to young children in the United States.  I believe that I would have a lot to offer Little Geniuses Trilingual Preschool, due to my extensive teaching experience, high level of education, commitment to professional development, and native-level command of the French language.

My resume is attached for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you for your time.  Please let me know if there is any further information that I can provide.

Sincerely,

Mariam Konate
mariam.konatenc@gmail.com
(910) 555-2837


1.  Who is the hiring manager for this position?  What do we know about this person(s)?

2.  Why do you think Mariam is interested in this job?

3.  What skills, education, and experience does Mariam have to qualify her for this position?

4.  What is the name of the company that Mariam is applying to in this cover letter?

5.  How did Mariam learn about this position?


Writing Exercise:

Now it is time to write your own cover letter.  Imagine that you see an advertisement for your dream job online.  The advertisement asks you to send a cover letter and your resume in an email.  Type up a cover letter for this imaginary job.  Explain why you are applying for this job and why you are qualified for the position.  List any experience, training, or education that you have.

Remember, it is very important to proofread your cover letter carefully.  This letter represents your writing skills in English, and your prospective employer will see it as evidence of your ability to communicate effectively at work.  Before submitting a cover letter, you should read it aloud at least 4 times.  You should also ask a friend, family member, or teacher to check it for mistakes.  When you are finished proofreading your written cover letter, click “Leave a Reply”, and type your cover letter into the comment box.

Protect Your Money from Scams!

You worked very hard to earn your money.  Do not allow someone to steal it from you using a scam!

What is a scam?

A scam is a lie that con artists use to convince a person to give them personal information or money.  A con artist is a person who tells lies to steal money.

Here are some common scams in North Carolina right now:

1.  A person calls you and tells you that he or she is from Duke Energy.  This person tells you that you have an “unpaid balance”.  He or she tells you that you did not pay for your energy bill this month.  Maybe you paid your bill.  Maybe you did not pay your bill.  This person does not know because this person does not work for Duke Energy.  This person is a con artist who is trying to learn your bank account number or credit card number.

     What can you do to protect yourself from this scam?

If you receive this call, do not give any information to the person who calls you.  Do not call the number that this person provides in a message to you.  Instead, call the Duke Energy number on your monthly energy bill to ask if you owe the company money.

2.  A person calls you and says that he or she is from the IRS.  The IRS, or the Internal Revenue Service, is the name of the government agency that collects our taxes.  Maybe the person tells you that you did not pay your taxes.  Maybe the person tells you that you did not pay your taxes correctly and that you owe a lot of money.  The person asks for personal information.  He or she asks you to pay the bill immediately over the phone.  If you say no, this person may threaten to have you arrested or deported.

     What can you do to protect yourself from this scam?

If you receive this call, do not give any information to this person.

The IRS will never call you and ask you to pay them over the phone immediately.  The IRS will never ask you to pay over the phone.  The IRS will never contact you by email to ask for personal information.

The IRS will always give you an opportunity to question what you owe.  The IRS will never tell you that they are sending to police to your home for not paying.

Here is a link with more information about scams relating to the IRS.

Other Common Scams

1.  A person calls you or sends you an email telling you that you won a lot of money in a contest.  You do not remember entering this contest. The con artist asks you to give him or her your account number so that he or she can deposit money in your account.

     What can you do to protect yourself from this scam?

Do not give this person any personal information!

Do not click on any links inside an email like this.  The link may contain a virus.  A virus is a program that can either damage your computer or steal information from your computer.

2.  You receive an email from your bank asking you to update your information by clicking on a link.  Maybe this is a scam.  Maybe this is not a scam.

     What can you do to protect yourself?

Do not click on the link in the email.  Go to the website that is on your bank statement to check and see if any changes are required.

Do not click on links in emails, unless you know that the email is from someone you know; someone who talked to you in person or over the phone about sending the link.

Sometimes, con artists are able to use a virus to steal the email addresses of friends and send messages from their email to you.  These con artists are called hackers.  They are trying to steal information from your computer or damage your computer by sending you a virus in the form of a link.

3.  There are also a lot of scams for people applying for jobs.  There is a common saying in English: “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  For example, if someone offers you a job that pays you $3,000 every week to stay home and do easy work that requires no training, experience, or education, you should be very suspicious.  Ask questions.  Research companies before applying for a job.  If possible, talk to someone who works there before you apply for the job.

Writing Assignment

Can you think of any other scams that are common in the United States or in your country?  Write about these scams.  What advice would you give someone in the United States or in your country to protect them from these scams?

Click “Leave a Reply” and type your answers in beneath this article.  Remember to type your first name and your email address.  If you do not have an email address, type esl@gmail.com.  You do not need to provide a website.

The Conditional Tense Used in a Job Interview

Read the grammar lesson below.  Answer the questions, using the conditional tense.  Then, read the job interview dialog below the grammar lesson to see how the conditional tense is used in our everyday lives. 

The Conditional Tense: What would you do?

-We use the verb would to say what we think we may do in a hypothetical or imaginary situation (a situation that is not real at this time).

-To ask a question about a hypothetical situation, we use a past tense verb with the verb would.

        -If you were _______________, what would you do?

        -If you had _______________, what would you do?

        -If you worked ______________, what would you do?

.       -If you could _______________, what would you _________?

Examples of Questions:

1. If you were president, what would you do?

2. If you were rich, what would you do?

3. If you had children, what would you do?

4. If you worked on a farm, what would you do?

5.  If you could have any job, what would you be?

-To talk about a situation that is not real, we construct the sentence using a past tense verb and the verb would:

        -If I were _______________, I would ______________.

        -If I had ________________, I would ______________.

        -If I worked ________________, I would ______________.

Examples of Answers:

1. If I were president, I would try to increase the number of jobs.

2. If I were rich, I would open a homeless shelter with a school and a library.

3. If I had children, I would try to live in a small and safe city with good schools.

4. If I worked on a farm, I would harvest corn, strawberries, and tomatoes.

5.  If I could have any job, I would be a police officer.

Examples of Questions and Answers:

A: If a friend helped you to find a job, what would you do?
If a friend helped me to find a job, I would cook a special dinner for my friend.

B: If you had a headache, what would you do?
If I had a headache, I would take some aspirin.

C: If a customer was angry, what would you do?
If a customer was angry, I would remain calm and listen. Then, I would fix the problem. I would always be polite and professional.

D: If you could have any job, what job would you have? If I could have any job, I would be a nurse.

Conditional Tense: Practice Exercises

Now try answering the following questions, using the conditional tense.

1. If a friend helped you to find a job, what would you do?

2. If you had a headache, what would you do?

3. If a customer was angry, what would you do?

4. If you could have any job, what job would you have?

5. If you were rich, what would you do?

Job Interview Conversation Practice

Are you here for the job interview?

Yes. I am here for the job interview.

I see that you are ten minutes early. That is wonderful! It is nice to meet you.

It is nice to meet you too.

Let’s take a look at your job application. You have a very interesting job history. Tell me about it.

I have had many different jobs. I worked in a restaurant for three years, so I have a lot of customer service experience. In my country, I worked as a math teacher for five years, so I have a lot of teaching experience too.

What did you do before you were a math teacher?

Before I was a math teacher, I worked in a factory, where I used a sewing machine to make clothes. As a child, I also worked on my family’s farm for many years, so I have experience working in agriculture as well.

You have had a very interesting life. Now, I am going to ask you a couple of hypothetical questions. If a customer was unhappy, what would you do?

If a customer was unhappy, I would ask the customer about his or her experience. I would listen politely and find a solution to the problem as quickly as possible. I think it is very important to always be professional, efficient, and offer excellent customer service.

That’s a wonderful answer. If a coworker’s child was sick, what would you do?

If a coworker’s child was sick, I would offer to cover his or her shift.

Good. You sound like a team player. I think, given your experience and customer service skills, that you would be perfect for this job. When can you start?

I would like to start working immediately.

Excellent! Let me show you around and tell you more about the job.

Conversation Practice: Calling in Sick for Work

Answer the writing questions.  Then, read the conversation below with a friend.   

1.  What are some acceptable excuses for missing work?  When is it a good idea to call and tell your manager that you can not come to work?  For example, is it okay to miss work because you had a terrible car accident?

2.  What are some unacceptable excuses for missing work?  When is it a bad idea to call and tell your manager that you can not come to work?  For example, is it okay to miss work because you are feeling tired?

3.  When is it acceptable to miss school?  For example, is it okay to miss school when your child is in the hospital? 

4.  When is it unacceptable to miss school?  Is it okay to miss school when it is rainy outside?

Hello, this is ____________.  I need to speak to a manager.

None of the managers are available right now.  My name is ____________.  May I take a message?

Yes, thank you.  I am calling in sick for work today.

Oh no!  I am so sorry to hear that.  What’s wrong?

Well, I have a terrible cough, a fever, a headache, and some stomach problems.

I’m very sorry to hear that.  I will leave a message with the manager.  Can you repeat your name for me?

Yes.  My name is ____________.

Can you spell that for me?

Yes, my name is spelled _______________.

Okay.  Your name is spelled ______________.  Is that correct?

Yes, thank you.

What is your phone number?

My phone number is ______________.

Okay.  Your phone number is ______________.  Is that correct?

Yes.  Do you need any other information?

Yes, what time does your shift begin?

My shift begins in three hours.

Okay.  That’s everything I need.  I will ask the manager to call you back as soon as possible.  In the meantime, get some rest and drink lots of tea.  I hope we will see you tomorrow.

I hope so too.  I hate to call in sick.  I really need the money.

I understand, but it is better to stay home for one day, than to get sicker and have to miss a whole week of work later.  It is also important to protect other people from getting sick.

That’s very true.  Okay, I am going to drink some more tea and go to bed.  Thank you very much for taking that message for me.

You’re welcome.  Get well soon!

Thanks!  Bye!

Conversation Practice: Asking for a Job Application

Answer the questions about setting goals and looking for a job.  Then, read the conversation below. 

1.  What is your ideal job?  If you could have any job that you wanted, what job would you choose?  Why would you choose this job?

2.  What do you do when you need a job?  What can help you find a job?  What are good things to do during a job interview?  What should you not do during a job interview?

________________________________________________________

Hello and welcome to Raleigh Restaurant!  How may I help you?

Hello!  May I have a job application?

Absolutely.  First, tell me a little about yourself.  What is your name?

My name is ___________.  What is your name?

My name is ___________.  I am the owner of the restaurant.  What position would you like to apply for?

I would like to apply for the cook position.  I saw in the newspaper that you are hiring cooks.

That’s right!  Tell me, do you have experience as a cook?

I have been a professional cook for three years, but I have been cooking since I was twelve years old.  I have worked in three excellent restaurants.

Fantastic!  Are you looking for full time work or part time work?

I am looking for full time work.

Can you work on weekends?

Yes, I can work anytime on weekends and almost anytime on weekdays.

What times are you not available to work?

I cannot work in the mornings on weekdays because I have English class on Monday through Friday in the morning.  I am available any other time.

Okay.  When are you available to begin working?

I am available to begin working immediately.

Wonderful!  Here is a job application.  Can you come tomorrow at three o’clock in the afternoon for a job interview?

Absolutely!

Excellent!  Fill this out and I will see you tomorrow at 3:00 in the afternoon!  Have a wonderful day!

You, too!  Bye!

Job Skills: A Conversation Used by a Server in a Restaurant

Read the following conversation with a friend:

Welcome to Raleigh Restaurant.  Have a seat anywhere!

Thank you.  I think I will sit here.

Perfect.  What would you like to drink?

I would like to order some coffee.  I would also like some water.

Do you want sugar or milk in your coffee?

Yes, I want lots of sugar and a little milk in my coffee.

Okay.  I will be back with your coffee and water in one minute.

Thank you very much.

Here is your coffee with milk and sugar and your water.  Do you know what you would like
to order to eat?

What would you recommend?

Everything here is wonderful.  We serve excellent fish, beef, chicken, and pork dishes.

I don’t like fish or beef.  I cannot eat any pork.  I think I will order the chicken.

Fantastic choice!  I will return with your chicken shortly.

Wow!  This chicken is delicious!

Thank you!  I will tell the cook.  Would you like anything else?

No thank you!  I am satisfied.

Are you sure you don’t want any of our chocolate dishes?

Yes, I’m sure.  There was so much chicken!  I am full!  I will just take the check.

Okay.  I will be right back with your check.

Thank you!