Talent Knows No Limits
Young woman typing
Present a positive impression and give the prospective employer a reason to take the next step–an interview.

Job Seeker's Toolkit



In this section:

Attention-Getting Resumes

Chronological and Functional Resumes

Cover Letters

Pre-Employment Testing

Interviewing Skills

Interview Accommodations


Cover Letters

A "Second Chance at a First Impression"

Any time a person sends a resume to a prospective employer, they should always include a cover letter. When doing so, keep in mind two important facts:

What makes a good cover letter?

1. No spelling or typing errors! NEVER! Many candidates are immediately screened out just for typos – with the ease and availability of "spell check", it reflects carelessness!

2. Address it to the person who can hire you.
Resumes sent to the personnel department may not make it to the right person, as it may be just one of hundreds, with a slim chance of being "noticed". Try to find out exactly who is making the hiring decision and address the letter to that person. Be sure the name is spelled correctly and the title is correct. It’s better to be more formal (use: "Mr.", "Miss", "Mrs.", "Dr.", instead of "Mary", or "Bob"…).

3. Write in your own words.
Make it sound like you, not something out of a book. Employers are usually looking for language that reflects knowledge, enthusiasm, and focus. Human Resource professionals often tell stories about receiving cover letters from several applicants with virtually identical phrasing – obviously these applicants all read the same book!

4. Show that you know something about the company.
Don’t go overboard, but do enough research to make it clear you didn’t pick this company out of the phone book. Your letter should show that you know why they are, what they do, and why you have chosen them.

5. Use terms and phrases that are meaningful to the employer.
Again, a little industry research will be helpful. If you are applying for an advertised position, use the requirements in the ad and put them in bold type.

Before Writing Your Cover Letter, Answer 3 Questions:

1. Why are you writing? (1st paragraph)

2. What do you want to say? (2nd paragraph)

3. What do you want the person reading the letter to do in response to having read it? (closing paragraph)

Job Applications

The "Job Passport"

Most employers use printed application forms designed to collect information about a job applicant’s background and qualifications for a position. The same rules that apply for writing a resume apply when filling out an application. The application is in effect another form of a person’s resume, or "marketing piece". Care should therefore be taken to ensure that the application presents a positive impression and gives the prospective employer a reason to take the next step by granting a face-to-face interview.

If possible it’s a good idea to obtain the application ahead of time by having the application mailed to the applicant, or by picking up the application form from the employer’s personnel department. The form can then be completed ahead of time, allowing extra time to ensure it’s filled out completely and accurately.

Following are some things to remember when completing a job application.

Guidelines for Completing Job Applications

Be meticulous
If you can get the application ahead of time, it’s best to type it. Otherwise, be very careful and write legibly. If the employer can’t read it, it will probably go in the trash.
Also, be sure you proofread it carefully. One error can screen you out of the running.

Beware of "traps"
Be aware of certain questions, for example:

Request an accommodation if needed.
If you need an accommodation to complete the application forms, request it as early in the process as possible, for example:

Bring proper identification
Most employers require identification at time application is completed. Always inquire ahead of time what form of identification is required.

Bring a pre-written fact sheet with you.
Have a list of information such as employer names and addresses, work history dates, and other information that may be hard to remember. If possible, bring another application that you’ve already completed as a reference. Always have someone else proofread your fact sheet or sample application.

Bring two pens with black ink.
NEVER show up to complete an application without a pen, and if possible use erasable ink so you can correct errors.

Read each question before writing.
Be sure you clearly understand what information is needed before writing.

Answer only questions that apply to you.
On the other hand, don’t answer questions that don’t apply to you.

Give 100% accurate information.
NEVER guess, or give false information. Be particularly careful to provide accurate dates of previous employment.

Provide references if requested.
Have a separate list of names, addresses and phone numbers of at least 2-3 business references, and 2 personal references. ALWAYS ask permission before listing someone as a reference!

Do not leave relevant spaces blank.
Employers usually discard incomplete applications.

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This information was developed in partnership with the EmployABILITY program of the City of Los Angeles Community Development Department, created in collaboration with the Los Angeles City Workforce Investment Board, to create career empowerment for persons with disabilities.

Employability Partnership       Workforce Investment Board       Work Source California Building Business and Careers