Career Guide

The HTM Career Center Guide contains information on the following:

Cover Letters

A cover letter introduces you and your resume to an employer, and you should send a cover letter with every resume you submit. In your cover letter, state why you are writing, why you are the best person for the job, and when you plan to contact your prospective employer. 

Many people think that a cover letter is not as important as a resume. Actually, a cover letter is very important, because it gives you the opportunity to draw your readers' attention to specific qualifications, to connect the dots for the reader and to show how your previous experiences apply to the job for which you are applying for. A resume presents a lot of information about your past employment and education, while a cover letter features specific qualifications that you think will impress your readers the most. A cover letter is also important because it provides a sample of your written communications skills. Showing you can write well will demonstrate your intelligence and help to establish your credibility. Always write cover letters with care, because, like resumes, cover letters create an image of who you are as aprofessional. You can find more Information on cover letters at the Online Writing Lab (OWL).

Contents of a Cover Letter

Cover letters should be tailored to the needs of specific employers. For this reason, you should aim to include information in your cover letter that is related to the position for which you are applying. This information should persuade your readers you are the best person for the job.

Before writing your letter, it is important to know that employers desire different kinds of people for different positions. For instance, an employer seeking an accountant may desire someone with bookkeeping abilities and an accounting degree, while an employer seeking a human relations coordinator may desire someone who works with other people and has proven leadership skills. Applicants for these jobs should highlight in their cover letters qualifications related to these positions.

Further, different employers hiring for the same type of position may not desire the same kind of applicant. For instance, two companies may advertise a position in public relations. One company may desire someone with a public relations degree and strong communications skills, while the other company may desire someone with the ability to work with people from different cultures. A person applying for the first company should include information about his or her degree and communications skills, while a person applying for the second company should include proof that he or she can work with all kinds of people.

Finding Company Information for a Cover Letter

Learning about companies is valuable because knowing what a company values will help you prepare your cover letter. Job applicants often find that their personal attributes match what a company values; when this occurs, you should highlight these attributes in your cover letter.

For example, you may find that a company values creativity, making its hiring professionals more likely to hire creative job applicants. If you were applying to this company, it would be advisable to include in your cover letter proof of your creativity.

There are several things you can do to learn more about a company:

  • Read a corporate Web site
  • Call the company for more information
  • Talk to employees at the company
  • If you are in college, refer to your university's career center

Corporate Web Sites

It is important to read corporate Web sites because they can give you a strong idea of what a company values. Once you have found the site, read its contents carefully. Look for words that describe the company and its employees, such as progressive, energetic, caring, or conservative. Words repeated throughout the website reveal particularly important values.

If you do not know a corporation's Web address, you can use a search engine such as or to find the site. Type the name of the company into the search engine, and it should take you to the appropriate site.

Calling The Company

For corporations that do not have Web sites, it would be best to call the company to ask for more information. Explain that you plan to apply for a job there, and you want to know more about the company. Most contacts will be more than happy to provide you with information such as brochures and letters. In these documents, look for words that reveal what is important to a company, in the same way that you would for a corporate website.

It is also a good idea to talk with employees of a company to develop an understanding of what kinds of people the company employs. You may want to call someone you know at a company, or even someone you don't know. Ask your family, friends, colleagues, and teachers if they know someone at the company. If they do, you can use this connection to learn more about the company.

Career Centers

Use the HTM Career Center in Marriott Hall(Room 135) and the Center for Career Opportunities in Young Hall.

How to Define your Qualifications

In order to market your abilities in a cover letter, you must know not only what your prospective employer desires, but also what you have to offer prospective employers. One way to build awareness of your qualifications is by thinking carefully about your past. Ask yourself what skills you have used at school or work that can be used at your next place of employment.

For example, if you worked a lot with people for a previous job, you can show you have interpersonal skills that may help you at your next job. These skills are transferable; they are, therefore, transferable skills. A transferable skill is an ability you utilized in your past that can be used at your next place of employment.

When building awareness of your qualifications, keep in mind that there are several transferable skills that are common among most job advertisements. These qualifications include:

  • Leadership qualities
  • Ability to complete multiple tasks at the same time (employers often call this "multi-tasking")
  • Teamwork skills
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Initiative to complete projects without supervision (employers sometimes refer to this as the "ability to work independently")
  • Written communications skills
  • Oral communications skills
  • Computer skills

To learn what you have to offer employers, you may want to think of ways you can prove you have each of the above skills. Focus on specific instances from your academic and work history that demonstrate you have these abilities.

For example, if you want to know whether you have strong written communications skills, think about your experiences with writing. Have you done any writing at a previous workplace? If so, what kind of writing? Memos, business letters, manuals, reports? Have you taken writing classes at college? Have you won any writing awards?

Before deciding to highlight specific skills in your cover letter, it is essential for you to learn which skills are most relevant to the job for which you are applying. The reason for this is that you should include in your cover letter proof you have the most important qualifications for a position.

What are Your Strengths: A Checklist

Personal trait strengths can make a critical difference in jobs of various types. Download the Strengths Checklist to find the adaptive skill words that best describe your personal traits.


A resume is often the first impression a potential employer has of you, it is designed with one purpose in mind - to generate enough interest to get you an interview. Creating a resume that reflects your personality, career goals, qualifications, and effectively "sells" you to a prospective employer takes time and thought. Do not send it out unless you are completely satisfied with the message it conveys. Most resumes are discarded. Giving the prospective employer reasons to separate yours from the crowd by giving indications of how your background and skills are transferable to his/her work enviroment.  The information contained in the links and handouts below will help you to create a winning resume.


Resume Organization

  • tailoring content to the audience
  • developing content
  • organizing sections
  • designing the page

Samples and Tips

  • section information and examples
  • resume styles
  • reference sheets
  • quick tips

Scannable Resumes

  • samples
  • keywords



Before stepping into an interview, be sure to practice, practice, practice. Going to a job interview without preparing is like an actor performing on opening night without rehearsing. The handouts below provide information to help you throughout the entire interview process. You may seek help through our HTM Career Center or The Center for Career Opportunities (CCO).

Interview Preparation

Sample Letters

Other Helpful Tips


For more information, contact:

HTM Career Center
Maria Poynter, Coordinator
Marriott Hall, Room 135-A
(765) 494-4729 

Hospitality & Tourism Management, 900 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, PH:(765) 494-4643, Fax: (765) 494-0327

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