While your resume is certainly important and should show employers your value proposition and fit for the role, there are several other forms of communication that are important in your job or internship search. These forms of professional communication help the employer form an impression of you and your potential fit for their organization. If letters or emails are unprofessional, contain spelling or grammatical errors, or are written without the reader as the focus, it will likely form a negative impression of you. To avoid this and help maximize your chances of success, we've outlined the instances when writing a letter or email to an employer or professional contact is recommended.

Cover letter for an employment opportunity

A cover letter is an opportunity for candidates to explain in more depth their reason for applying, why they would be a good fit for the position (focused on skills, achievements, and knowledge related to the role), and their interest in the company. It should not be a narrative version of the resume, but instead will supplement and add to your professional story. As with many aspects of a job or internship search, there are differing opinions when it comes to whether or not you should submit a cover letter, as this is not an objective process. Some recruiters or hiring managers want a cover letter while others say it isn’t necessary. Unless it explicitly states not to, it is highly recommended that you take the time to craft a cover letter for each position. If you apply via email, insert your cover letter as page one of your resume and indicate this in a brief email. Your email only needs to state that you are interested in a specific position, that you appreciate their time, and that you’ve attached your resume and cover letter.

Post-interview thank you

After every interview, you should get the contact information of each person you interviewed with and email a personalized thank you note to each person. It is no longer necessary to mail a letter unless this is your preference, emailing is fine. Before sending a thank you note, reflect on what stood out during each interview. What did you like about the projects, team, or role? What did the interview highlight as to why you are a good candidate? In your thank you note, it is recommended that you don’t simply send a generic message, but instead craft a genuine and unique message for each person based on your discussions with them. This will not only add more of a personal touch but will help the interviewer remember you and perhaps may even help clarify some things if necessary.

Sample thank you note

Following up on application status

Many students wonder if there is an appropriate length of time to follow up after an interview or conversation with an employer. It can be difficult to have patience in this process, but it is important to be patient. Persistence is also important as it shows your dedication and commitment. The trick is finding a proper balance between patience and persistence. The interview and hiring process takes time, so give employers the time they need to properly screen candidates. Once you've sent a thank you note, if you have not heard anything from the employer in about two weeks unless their timeline is later than this, then it is appropriate to follow up to check on your application status and reiterate your interest in the position. This may be done over the phone or via email, whichever is more comfortable for you.

How to follow up with an employer

Asking for an extension

Perhaps you have other interviews coming up, or maybe the employer has only given you 1-2 days to decide on an offer and you need more time to decide. In either instance, it is appropriate to ask for an extension. It is better to ask for more time to evaluate your offer and explore your other possible opportunities rather than accepting an offer prematurely. Keep in mind, if your offer is as a result of any university recruiting opportunities—info sessions, career fairs, resume books, Handshake, etc., there is a hiring and offer policy that students should be aware of.

Sample note asking for an extension

Declining and accepting offers

If you've been offered a job or internship with a company but decide it is not the best fit for you at this time, for whatever reason, you should send a proper professional note to thank the recruiter and hiring manager/team for their time and respectfully decline their offer.