When it comes to making a job change, getting it right truly matters. You need to get the keywords right, the messaging right, the formatting right. You’ve got to find the right people to endear yourself to, and the right words for your cover letter and follow-up correspondence.
And, for the love of it all, you’ve got to nail the approach.
But, my oh my, there are so many considerations—so many things we all second guess ourselves on when applying for a job.
Should you make the cover letter the body of the email, or attach it separately? (Or both?) Do you address the person by first name, or go with Mr. / Ms. So-and-So? (And, does same rule apply for both?) How casual or formal do you need to be? Is there a right or wrong format for cover letters and emails? Does the cover letter need to be a page or less? How long should the intro email be?
Holy Hannah—it’s enough to make the coolest cucumbers among us start to feel like crazy people. And that’s even before you’ve made an introduction.
Deep breaths, everyone. Deep breaths. Let’s break this cover letter stuff down into manageable chunks. Here’s what you need to know:
Should the Cover Letter Be an Attachment or Just the Body of Email?
The short answer is: either. Not both, either.
If you ask 10 recruiters of hiring managers which they prefer, you’ll probably get five who say attachment and five who say email. But here’s the good news: Nearly all will report that it’s not going to make or break you either way. So, don’t let this topic unravel you.
I happen to be a proponent of “cover letter as body of the email,” and here’s why: It gives you the opportunity to make a strong, memorable first impression the millisecond that reviewer’s eyes open their inbox. You can draw someone in with an incredible opening line, and then showcase the ways in which you could contribute to the team.
If, instead, you decide to go with cover letter as attachment, you should be brief and point the reader to the attachments.
I’ve learned you are seeking a senior project manager with e-commerce experience and knowledge of Jira. That’s me. My attached resume and cover letter outline my qualifications for the role. Thank you very much for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon!
Keep it brief if you go this route. Those on the receiving end won’t appreciate having to plow through a super long email and all your attachments.
Lastly, don’t even think about replicating the cover letter in both the email and the attachment. That’s just ridiculous (and, makes you look totally indecisive).
Now that we got that figured out, let’s answer the other questions that are probably eating at you:
Do I Use a First Name Salutation—or a More Formal One?
This is best answered with, “It depends”—for both the cover letter and the accompanying email. (I know, just doing my part to make things simple here.)
In all seriousness, it’s best to evaluate the tone and style of the organization you’re attempting to join, and then guess which salutation would be most would the appropriate and appreciated. You can do this pretty easily by reviewing the company’s website and social media presence.
Remember, you’re going to be hired for that next role if (and only if) you’re a “yes” to these three questions
- Do we think she can do this job?
- Do we like her?
- Do we think she’ll fit in around here?
That said, if you can introduce yourself in a way that implies right out of the gates that you’re a triple yes, you’re in business.
Is a Conversational Style Allowed?
In general, I think that job seekers get a bit too revved up about “proper” and end up losing sight of the fact that there’s an actual person at the receiving end of this (assuming you’re emailing your application directly).
Guess what? People like engaging, conversational reading. They notice when an applicant seems genuine, personable, and interesting. They appreciate when plowing through their pile of candidates doesn’t feel like total drudgery.
That being the case, unless you’re applying for a role within an extremely conservative or structured industry or organization, heck yes, a conversational style is allowed. Certainly, this is not your time to bust out a bunch of slang or (gasp) use language that could offend, but it’s a-ok to make your cover letter or intro email read like you’re a real person.
Just be sure and make it clear—in both cases—why you want to work for that company and what, specifically, you can walk through their doors and deliver.
Luckily, we know people who are experts at it.
MEET OUR COVER LETTER WRITING COACHES
Is the One Page Rule for Cover Letters Still True? What About in an Email?
Hard and fast “rules” make me crazy in general, so I’m not going to announce the exact length that your cover letter or your intro email need to be. I will simply suggest that you get in there, quickly endear yourself to the recipient, and then spell out, specifically, how and why you make perfect sense for the role you’re pursuing. And then wrap it up.
If you can pull it off with a one-page cover letter, absolutely. If you need a page and a half? So long as you’re peeling out any and all unnecessary blabber, knock yourself out. (And this article tells you how to cut it down to make it as effective as possible.)
For the email, again, get to the point and don’t be redundant if you’re also attaching a cover letter.
You can get these things right, for real. Nail the big stuff, sweat the details that truly matter, and get right to the business of making your grand entrance, well, one that’s grand.
Tips and Samples for Sending Email Cover Letters
How to Send an Email Cover Letter and Resume
An email cover letter is a document sent with your resume to provide additional information on your expertise. It is written to provide information on why you are qualified for the job you are applying for and to explain the reasons for your interest in the company.
When you're sending an email cover letter, it's important to follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your cover letter and resume.
You need to make sure that your email cover letters are written as well as any other correspondence you send.
Even though it's quick and easy to send an email, it doesn't mean that you should write anything less than a detailed cover letter focused on why you are a good match for the job you are applying for.
Tips for Sending Email Cover Letters
1. Sending Email Cover Letters as Attachments
- If the job posting says to include your cover letter and resume as an attachment, attach Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF files to your email message. Here's a step-by-step guide to sending your resume and cover letter as an attachment.
- Save the files with your name, so they don't get mixed up with other applicant's materials i.e. alisondoyleresume.doc, alisondoylecover.doc.
2. Sending Email Cover Letters Without Attachments
- Some employers do not accept attachments. In these cases, paste your resume into your email message.
- Use a simple font and remove the fancy formatting. Don't use HTML. You don't know what email client the employer is using, so, simple is best because the employer may not see a formatted message the same way you do.
3. Don't Forget the Details for Your Email Cover Letter
- How to Address an Email Cover Letter: Here's how to address a cover letter sent in an email message including what to use when you have a contact person and how to address it if you don't.
- The Subject Line of Your Message: Make sure you list the position you are applying for in the Subject Line of your email address, so the employer is clear as to what job you are applying for. For example: Subject: Alison Doyle, Social Media Manager Position.
- Include Your Signature: Include a signature with your contact information, including name, address, email address, and telephone number so it's easy for the hiring manager to get in touch with you.
4. Double-Check Your Letter for Spelling and Grammar
Make sure you spellcheck and check your grammar and capitalization. They are just as important in an email cover letter as in paper cover letters.
5. Send a Test Message to Yourself
Send the message to yourself first to test that the formatting and attachments work. If everything looks good, resend to the employer.
Sample Email Cover Letter
Subject: Administrative Assistant/Receptionist – Roger Smith
Dear Ms. Cole,
I was excited to see your listing for the position of administrative assistant/receptionist at ABC Market Corp. I believe that my five years of experience in office administration and my passion for your products make me an ideal candidate for this role.
You specify that you’re looking for an administrative assistant with experience scheduling appointments, maintaining records, ordering supplies, and greeting customers.
I’m currently employed as an administrative assistance at XYZ company, where I have spent the past five years honing these skills.
I’m adept at using all the usual administrative and collaboration software packages, from Microsoft Office and SharePoint to Google Docs and Drive. I’m a fast learner, and flexible, while always maintaining the good cheer that you’d want from the first person visitors see when they interact with the company.
I have attached my resume, and will call within the next week to see if we might arrange a time to speak.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration.