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.

Understanding Your Pay Stub

Look at the example pay stub below.  Answer the comprehension questions on a sheet of paper.  Then, read the article explaining vocabulary related to paychecks.  When you are finished, answer the reading comprehension questions below on a sheet of paper.  Check all of your answers to make sure that they are correct.  Then, type your answers into the website:

1.  Click Leave a Reply

2.  Type your first name in the first box.

3.  Type your email address or “esl@gmail.com” in the second box.

4.  Type nothing in the third box.

5.  Type your questions in the fourth box.

Employee Pay Stub

Employer Name: Raleigh ESL Hotel
Employer Address: 2958 Gorman St./Raleigh, NC 27607
Employer Phone Number: (919) 555-1234

Employee Name: Ibrahim Mohammed Ali
Employee Address: 2947 Wade Ave./Raleigh, NC 27606
Employee Phone Number: (919) 555-5678

Employee No.: 3957293
Employee Social Security Number: XXX-XX-1234
Pay Period: 9/4/2014-9/18/2014
Pay Date: 10/3/14

       Current Earnings                                                                          Taxes Withheld

Type Hours Wage Total Type Current Year to Date
Regular 80 $10.00 $800.00 FICA-Medicare $18.30 $63.50
Overtime 20 $15.00 $300.00 FICA-Social Security $77.59 $486.27
Federal Tax $176.24 $1,090.62
State Tax $52.19 $292.43

Total Gross Income: $1,100.00
Y.T.D. Gross Income: $7,850.00

Total Taxes Withheld for this Pay Period: $324.32
Y.T.D. Taxes Withheld: $1932.82

Total Net Income: $775.68
Y.T.D. Total Net Income: $5917.18

Pay Stub Comprehension Questions

1.  How many hours did Ibrahim work?

2.  How much money did Ibrahim receive before taxes?

3.  How much money did Ibrahim receive after taxes?  How much money will he take home?

4.  How many weeks did Ibrahim work to earn this money?

5.  Why does Ibrahim earn more money for some of the hours he works?  Does he do two different jobs?

6.  What are the four different types of tax that Ibrahim has to pay?  Why do you think he needs to pay four different types of tax?

7.  Is this paycheck correct?  Check the math to make sure that Ibrahim received the correct amount of money for his work.

8.  What is the minimum amount that Raleigh ESL Hotel can legally pay Ibrahim for his work in the state of North Carolina?  Does Ibrahim earn more than or less than this amount?  If you do not know the minimum wage in North Carolina, read the information below.

Understanding Your Pay Stub

This pay stub has a lot of difficult vocabulary.  These are words that we need to understand finance in the United States.  Let’s look at some of these difficult vocabulary words and phrases:

  • Current Earnings – A person’s current earnings are the amount of money a person is receiving from a paycheck.
    • When you receive a paycheck, it is usually giving you money that you earned one week ago, two weeks ago, or even a month ago.  This gives your manager time to complete paperwork and send your taxes in for you.
      • This is very difficult for new employees, who often have to wait an extra week, two weeks, or even a month to receive the money that they already earned.
      • However, when you leave your job, you will probably receive one more paycheck after you leave to cover your last week of work.  If you quit your job, remember to ask your manager when you will receive your last paycheck.  Some jobs require you to collect a paycheck in person, while other jobs mail your paycheck or deposit it directly into your bank account.
  • Wage – A wage is the amount of money that you receive for one hour of work.
    • The minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 per hour before taxes.  This means that it is illegal for an employer to pay less than $7.25 per hour before taxes.
      • There is one common exception to this law: If a person is working in a job where he or she is earning tips that are expected to result in more than $7.25 per hour total, the employer is not required to pay this amount in addition to tips.
        • For this reason, servers in restaurants may earn as little as $2.13 per hour.  However, most people give a 15% to 20% tip to the server, when they pay for a meal.  For example, if a person orders a $20 meal, he or she would normally give a $3 or $4 tip to the server in addition to the $20 that he or she pays for the meal.  This causes many servers to earn significantly more than $7.25 per hour for their work.  They receive most of their money in cash.
    • Employees who work more than 40 hours in one week are required to receive overtime pay.
  • Overtime – An employee who works more than 40 hours receives overtime pay.  This is an increased wage for all hours worked after 40 hours.
    • Overtime pay is usually 1.5 (or one and one half) times the regular pay rate of an employee.
      • If an employee earns $7.25 per hour, overtime pay would be $10.88 per hour.
      • If an employee earns $8.00 per hour, overtime pay would be $12.00 per hour.
      • If an employee earns $10.00 per hour, the overtime pay would be $15.00 per hour.
      • If an employee earns $20.00 per hour, how much would the overtime pay be?
  • Gross Income – Gross income is the amount of money a person receives before taxes.  Most people never see this money in person because most companies pay your taxes to the government before they give you your paycheck.
    • Sometimes companies send in too much money for taxes.  This is why some people receive part or all of their money back from the government when they file taxes in April.
  • Year-to-Date – Year-to-Date is a term used to describe the amount of money that is earned or spent on taxes beginning this January and ending with this paycheck.  On some pay stubs, the words “Year-to-Date” are written as “Y.T.D.”
  • Taxes Withheld – The taxes withheld are the amount of money the company takes from your paycheck to give to the government.
  • FICA-Medicare – Medicare taxes are money that we pay to the government, so that we can have Medicare when we are older.  Medicare is a form of government health insurance offered to people over the age of 62, who have paid taxes throughout their lives.
  • FICA-Social Security – Social Security taxes are money that we give to the government, so that when we retire (at age 62 or older) or if we become disabled, the government will give us money each month to live.  How much money the government gives a retired or disabled person each month depends on how much money this person paid in taxes throughout his or her life and how old the person is when he or she accepts the money.
  • Federal Tax – The Federal Tax is money that we give to the United States government each time we receive a paycheck.
  • State Tax – The State Tax is money that we give to the state of North Carolina each time that we receive a paycheck.
  • Net Income – Your net income is the amount of money that you receive after your company pays taxes for you.  If you are self-employed, this is the amount of money you receive after you pay taxes.  Even if your company pays taxes for you, you still need to file taxes every April to make sure that your company paid the correct amount!  Not paying taxes can cause problems later if you apply for a visa, government assistance, or for US citizenship.

Reading Comprehension Questions:

1.  What is the difference between gross income and net income?

2.  Why do we pay Social Security and Medicare taxes?

3.  When is it okay for an employer to pay less than $7.25 per hour in North Carolina?  Why?

4.  What does Y.T.D. mean?

5.  When does a person earn overtime pay?

6.  If a person who earns $12 per hour earns 2 hours of overtime, how much overtime pay will this person receive.

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!