This is Part 2 of a three part series about the writing required by travel writers in addition to creating travel articles.
In this Part, we’ll focus on cover letters and thank you letters.
Many travel writers are freelancers, however, you may someday have the opportunity to apply for a staff travel writing position.
If and when this opportunity presents itself, you’ll want to improve your chances of getting hired by dazzling an Editor with an outstanding cover letter (to go along with the professionally created resume we discussed in last week’s post, It’s Not Just All Travel Articles – Part I), and by following up with a personal thank you letter.
Although some travel writers are talented at writing travel essays and reviews, many are unsure of how to write a great cover or thank you letter. While you could hire a professional copywriter, or someone who specializes in career coaching, to create these documents, it would behoove you to learn how to craft these for yourself.
Some companies will make the decision to pursue further communication with you based on your cover letter if it’s strong, and conversely, will decide immediately to NOT hire you if it’s weak.
Your first priority, of course, should be to follow whatever application guidelines are required by the potential employer, which will typically include sending writing clips and links to samples. If the guidelines don’t specifically state whether you should send, or not send, a cover letter and resume along with your clips and samples, you should send a cover letter as well.
The cover letter consists of a heading, a body, and a conclusion.
Format the heading correctly. Put the date, skip down four spaces, type the name of the company, recipient’s name and title, and enter the address of the company. Skip another line and type a Subject, referencing the position you’re applying for.
The body of a cover letter is typically three to four short paragraphs. Begin the first paragraph by telling a potential employer why you’re writing to them. Avoid opening with “I am applying for the Hawaiian travel writing position advertised on Travel-Writers-Exchange.com.” Instead, use your writing skills to create an attention getting first paragraph, one that will “hook” the reader.
The second paragraph of a cover letter is where you outline your qualifications for the position. Avoid stuffing a mini-version of your resume here – keep it brief and applicable to the opening. You can use a bullet-point list to make these items stand out.
Your third paragraph should explain how your qualifications will benefit the company. Make sure you express enthusiasm for the position. Show how you can contribute to the organization. It helps if you first research the organization and visit the company’s website. Let them know that you visited their website and point out what stood out to you. For example, “…your website is both informative and vibrant. I enjoyed reading about the Terracotta Warriors.” Make two or three bold statements and give specific examples of how you’ll be able to contribute.
Include a positive statement or question in the final paragraph that will make the employer want to hire you. The closing paragraph should be between 2-4 sentences. Let the employer know what your availability is and provide your contact information. Indicate to the employer that you’ve enclosed or attached your resume (if one is requested) along with clips and writing samples. Thank the employer for their time and consideration. Conclude your cover letter with “Regards, or Sincerely”.
Leave four blank lines and insert your electronic signature or sign your name in blue ink when you send your information through the mail.
Thank You Letter
If you receive any communication from the person handling the application process – even if it’s a form letter – always follow up with a personalized thank you letter. It doesn’t need to be lengthy – a single paragraph is fine – but it should never be overlooked.
If the communication is an indication that they want to pursue exploring the opportunity with you, reply with a letter thanking them for the communication and for considering you, and be sure that it includes whatever further requirements they’ve requested, or confirming your anticipation of an interview, tailoring the thank you letter to suit the situation.
If the communication has indicated that they are not interested in continued consideration of you for the position, reply with a letter thanking them for their consideration, and ask for feedback regarding their decision. Keep in mind that many employers are very busy and may not have time to give you feedback, but asking is acceptable and may help you in your next employment opportunity.
You could use a “generic” thank you letter format, but a personal touch will leave the reader with a much more favorable impression of you. Hand writing your letter versus sending it electronically is best. Many employers have said that they’ve hired people because they sent a personalized handwritten thank you note!
If your goal is to get a staff travel writing job, learning how to create a well written cover letter and thank you letter can make a huge difference in whether or not your application gets further consideration, or tossed in the trash.
Stay tuned! Next week we’ll be examining perhaps the most important non-travel-writing that a travel writer needs to master, the Query Letter.
What challenge do you face when you write a cover or thank you letter?