Career Development Center

West Chester University

225 Lawrence Center
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610.436.2501

Professional Communication Guide for Students

When connecting with employers it is important to converse in a professional manner.  This guide will provide some tips on the following professional modes of communication:

Cover Letter
Thank-You Note


Voicemail & Phone

Did You Know?: Employers view written correspondence as evidence of your communication skills – one of the most important abilities that recruiters seek in entry-level professionals.



A cover letter may also be referred to as a letter of interest or application letter.  It accompanies your resume.  All letters should be prepared individually and tailored to that particular company.


Goal: Introduce you to an employer, highlight key experiences and qualifications you possess, and convey enthusiasm for that particular position and employer.



  • Limit length to one page
  • Use standard business letter formatting with your return address (sender’s address), the date, and the employer’s name, title and address (recipient’s information)
  • Use block style (e.g., no paragraph indents and insert a blank space between paragraphs)
  • Use common font styles such as Times New Roman, Garamond, Cambria, Arial. Avoid intricate fonts or those with narrow or wide spacing (use same font as resume).
  • Greeting: If possible, address the letter to a specific person in the organization using “Dr., Ms., or Mr.”  If you do not have a name, “Dear Hiring Representative” might sound a bit more personalized than “To Whom it May Concern”, then follow by a colon “:”.
  • Signature: When concluding the letter, close with a straightforward, “Sincerely.”  For printed documents, include a handwritten signature.  If including the letter in the body of an email or sending via email.  Leave some spaces and then simply type in your name. 
  • Enclosure: You can also add a line referencing your other materials depending on what the job description requires for the application


How to Send

  • Emailing Your Document:
    • Option 1 (preferred): Write a brief email indicating what you are applying for and then attach the cover letter and resume as separate documents.  Consider saving as a .pdf to ensure formatting and translation from computers.
    • Option 2: Write the cover letter in the body of an email and attach a resume
  • Printing Your Document:
    • Print on resume paper that is white or ivory.


Did You Know?: Contrary to popular opinion, cover letters ARE read and ARE important.  If an employer does not require but gives you the option of submitting a cover letter, ALWAYS submit a cover letter.

Cover Letter Sample-PDF


After an interview for a position or any professional exchange, such as a meeting at a Career Fair, conversations at a campus event, or informational interview, it is crucial to follow-up with those individuals to demonstration your genuine interest and motivation.


Goal: Express appreciation, reiterate interest, and strengthen your position as an applicant by drawing connections to your skill set.  Here are some tips for developing this message:


Format/How to Send

  • General:
    • Set a goal of thanking anyone who has helped you during your career exploration and/or job search process
    • Make sure to send it 24-48 hours after your interaction with the recipient
    • Provide similar Greeting and Signature like you would in your cover letter
    • Send to everyone who interviewed you or ask the host to relay your appreciation to the entire group
  • Handwriting Your Note (note: many employers prefer a handwritten note due to the personalized nature of the interaction):
    • Use simple, professional stationary with your name and/or “thank you” printed on it
    • Write legibly and sign your name in black or blue ink
    • Add correct postage and properly address your envelope
  • Emailing Your Note:
    • Include in the body of the email
    • Write in a commonly utilized black font; avoid any distracting colors
    • Send your communication using a professional email address
    • Include suggested subject line, “’Name of Position’ – Follow-Up”


Mr./Ms./Dr. _______________:


Express your thanks for their time during the interview or meeting.  Reemphasize one of your strongest qualities and details from your conversation.  Draw connections between the position and your skills and experiences (job opening) or what you learned from speaking to them about their field/organization (informational interviewing).  Explain why their organization is a good fit for you.


Reiterate your interest in the position.  Provide additional contact information (phone and/or email).  Tell the recipient that you are looking forward to hearing from them.





Type your name


Did You Know?: This written communication is an important piece of the process that is all too often forgotten.   Saying “thanks” will help you stand out from the crowd and continue a positive rapport.



With the rise of electronic communication, many conversations are conducted through this medium (e.g., text, tweets, etc.).  Be conscious of your tone and format, which should still be formal and professional.


Goal: Send an email for networking purposes, informational interviewing opportunities, or to reach out to an organization for potential full-time, part-time, or internship openings.  Here are some suggestions for email:



  • Send your communication using a professional email address
  • Provide similar Greeting and Signature like you would in your cover letter
  • Write in a commonly utilized black font; avoid any distracting colors
  • Should be brief and to the point, but do not use any slang or shorthand language that you would use in text messages; be conscious of sending emails from your cell phone – the various default signatures (e.g., sent from my iPhone).
  • Attach your resume to provide a detailed account of your credentials (optional)



To: (Professional’s email)

Subject: Internship Opportunity at ABC Company


Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. _______________:


Introduce yourself by including your name and current role – your major and year at West Chester University.  Mention the purpose of your communication and the position about which you are corresponding.  Provide specific information to display your interest in their organization.  Articulate reasons as to why you may be a good fit by referencing some prior or current experiences. 


If appropriate, reference any attachments.  Express any additional contact information.  Tell the reader you are looking forward to hearing from them.





Type your name


Did Know You?: You should keep any copies of any paper and electronic correspondence.  Create a folder in your email to save the correspondence or create a “job search notebook” in Microsoft Word/Excel.  Utilize a hard copy folder or binder to track your materials.



With high volumes of applications and as another contact point the phone is a frequently used tool to convey messages, conduct networking, and engage in interviews.


Goal: Leave contact information to elicit further communication or converse with professionals for openings and/or networking purposes.  Here are some considerations for phone communication:



  • Edit your cell phone voicemail for professionalism
    • Use your given name or the name that you commonly refer to yourself as (if you do not go by your full first name)
  • Conduct any conversations in a quiet space preferably at a desk with a copy of your resume and a ‘cheat sheet’ of what you definitely want to highlight in the conversation
  • Have a pen and paper handy for any short notes or follow up instructions
  • Turn off call-waiting and make sure your phone is charged
  • Turn off any potential noise-makers—TV, radio, alarm clocks; you should be the only one in the room
  • Speak slowly and clearly; smile—smiling will change the tone of your voice
  • Convey more enthusiasm and energy through your voice—even though the other individual cannot see your body language
  • It is okay to be quiet after your comment to send a non-verbal signal that you’ve completed your thought
  • Pay attention to your posture in the chair and how you dress; it can add to the overall effect of your phone presentation
  • Avoid chewing gum, getting a drink or use slang
  • For more tips, see our Interviewing page


Cell phone custom message: “Hello, you’ve reached the cell phone of Chester Student.  Please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as I can.  Thank you.”


Cell phone automated message: “You’ve reached the voicemail of (Chester Student*) Please leave a message after the tone.” 

*This recording is of your own voice saying your name.  Do not default to the automatic message which reads the digits of your cell phone number.


Did You Know?: The most likely first step of a hiring process is a phone screen from the employers to the applicant.  If a number you don’t recognize comes through on your cell phone, don’t answer it right away!  Wait to listen to the message, because you already created a professional voicemail to field these calls.  Avoid answering the phone in a loud space or in an unprepared manner.


Here are the ways you can get feedback on your cover letters and other correspondence (1-2 business day turnaround) in order to strengthen the presentation of your skills and accomplishments:


1. One-on-One Appointments and Drop-in Hours

If you want in-person assistance, you may utilize our regular drop-in hours during the academic year (Monday through Friday, 2:00 to 3:30 pm) or call the office to schedule a 30-minute appointment during our business hours Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 4:30pm during the academic year.


We strongly prefer that you bring a draft of a cover letter with you to in-person meetings so we can provide you with the most useful feedback. It doesn’t have to be good – that is why we are here to help you – but you will benefit more from the appointment if you have a rough draft already started.


2. Email Service

You may choose to email your cover letter or other job search correspondence to for feedback (again, you will receive an e-mail within two business days).


3. Drop-Off Service

You may bring a printed copy of your cover letter, thank-you note, or resume to the career center in 225 Lawrence and leave it with a staff member at the main welcome desk. You may pick up your documents with written feedback after two business days.


Did You Know?

A great next step is to find a job that interests you and draft your correspondence for the position, then make an appointment in the Career Center for feedback and assistance. If you are not really sure where to begin, then make an appointment anyway and come see us to help get you started!