Category Archives: technical writing

Technical Writing Assignment #1: Job Application Package


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Assignment #1: Job Application Package

Most people obtain jobs through a multi-stage process. First, they research the types of jobs they are
qualified for and the types of employers they would like to work for. Then they try to convince specific
employers to consider them for a job. These days, most employers have too many applicants per job to
interview each one personally. These employers sort through job application packages (cover letters and
resumes) to decide which applicants to consider further. Consequently, a person’s first communication
with her future employer is likely to be in writing and must persuade the employer to continue the
conversation.

The Assignment

For this assignment, you will write job application materials for a job in your field that you are qualified
for or will be qualified for by the time you graduate. You may search for job listings in a professional or
trade journal, on the Internet, or in other print and digital resources at WVU’s Career Services Center
<http://www.wvu.edu/~careersc/&gt;. The jobs should be different enough that you will have to
emphasize different parts of your experience to qualify for the positions. You may also (with my
permission) write for a summer job, an internship, or for a scholarship or other award.

Note: You must hand in a copy of the job ad you use.

Specifically, here are the materials that you will produce for this assignment:

• A cover letter addressed to a prospective employer. The letter should highlight different aspects of
your experience relevant to the different jobs.
• A resume tailored to that specific position. In other words, the choices of content and layout
should emphasize appropriate experience for each job.
• A memo addressed to me that overviews the job, reviews what you know about the particular
employer, and describes the strategies and tactics you have used to adapt your cover letter and
resume to the situation. I expect you to make good use of the information in this memo as you
craft the arguments you present to the employer in your cover letter.

Resume
The purpose of the resume is to describe your qualifications for a job. Although this assignment only asks
you to apply for a single job, the best strategy is to tailor your resume for each position. In other words,
don’t expect to develop a “generic” resume that you can use for any job.

Content. Your resume should include contact information and relevant details of your educational
training, professional training, special accomplishments, and skills. A resume is not a life history.
The goal is to argue that you are qualified for a particular type of job and that you would be a
capable, responsible, and personable employee who communicates effectively.

Format. Your format may be traditional or innovative as long as it is appropriate and as long as the
information is highly accessible and is organized in a way that highlights the most important items
(from the employer’s perspective).

Style. Your style should be fairly formal. You need not use complete sentences, but you should use
a concise, active style and show consistency in expression from section to section. Cover Letter
Like the resume, the cover letter is most effective when tailored to a particular employer. The purpose of
the cover letter is to persuade that specific employer to grant you an interview. Just as you appreciate
being treated as an individual rather than as a statistic, so does an employer. Are you applying hit-or-miss
to every company in the country? Or have you invested some effort into finding a company that you are
well suited for?

Content and Organization. The opening of your letter should establish why you are writing to your
reader. Be explicit about the fact that you are looking for a particular kind of job and explain why
you would like to work at that particular company. Preview the body of the letter by stating your
major qualifications for the job. Then, develop each qualification with specific evidence. The goal
is to show the reader both that you know what that specific company needs and that you have
what it takes. You may organize this section in various ways: around your training and
experience, around what the job or the company requires, or some other way. The letter should
close by inviting a response.

Style. Cover letters are difficult to write because they aim at somewhat conflicting goals. On the
one hand, you want to make a good first impression. So you want to sound polite and fairly
formal. On the other hand, you want to stand out from the crowd—otherwise, why should the
employer hire you rather than any of the other applicants? The best policy is probably to talk to
your reader as directly and naturally as possible. Avoid hype.

Format. Use a conventional business letter format. Be brief: if possible, stick to one page.

Memo
Write a brief memo (approximately two or three single-spaced pages) addressed to me that will help me
read, understand, evaluate, and “coach” your resume and cover letter. The memo must contain your
interpretation of the job description and audience analysis, as well as a commentary highlighting how you
adapted your resume and cover letter. Since the memo will be of use to you in designing the rest of your
job application package, you should think about it early—even begin drafting it early. But look over it
carefully at the very end of the project to make sure that it tells me “how to read” your resume and cover
letter.

Interpretation of Job Description. Describe the specific or unique aspects of the jobs for which you are
applying. Explain in detail the types of work you would be doing as well as the types of skills and
knowledge you would be applying were you to work in this position. Do not simply quote from
the job ad that, for example, the position requires “the ability to do laboratory research”; instead,
discuss the types of equipment that you would need to use and the kinds of knowledge and
analytical skills that you would need in order to effectively perform this laboratory research. Also,
read “between the lines” of the job description and explain the types of personal and professional
characteristics that would mark the ideal candidate but are not necessarily listed in the job
description.

Audience Analysis. Investigate the particular company you are applying to. You may obtain
information on many companies from the library, on the Internet, or from Career Services. You
may also contact the personnel office of the company directly. Then write one or two paragraphs
explaining the company’s history, mission, values and ideals, organizational culture, working
environment—anything that seems important to you in better understanding the audience you
are writing to and the types of logos, ethos, and pathos appeals that the company would be
receptive to hearing. For example, a government agency often looks to hire someone committed
to serving the public, while a private company might want to hire a person who shares the same ethical principles and business values on which the company was founded. This is also the place
to describe anything you know about the particular person you are writing to. This information
also should influence how you organize and choose details for your resume.

Strategies for Textual and Visual Design. Describe how you adapted the resume and cover letter for the
job, company, and reader. Just as important, explain why you made these decisions. Ideally, your
reasons will be closely related to the information in the job description and audience analysis.

The Logistics

Standard for Correctness
Employers impose a strict standard of correctness on application materials: An error is the equivalent of a
bad spot on your shirt. Accordingly, I will mark this assignment on a somewhat stricter scale than usual.

What to hand in
• Relevant job ad
• Brainstorming or planning work written to prepare for drafting the main documents
• Rough drafts and final drafts of memo, cover letter, and resume

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