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.
Email Cover Letter Sample and Tips
Writing a hard copy cover letter is becoming less of the norm these days. This is because, more than ever, people are sending job application materials through job websites or via email. This includes submitting resumes and cover letters online.
When asked to submit your job materials (such as your resume and any other related documents) as an email attachment, the email itself acts as your cover letter.
See below for an example of an email cover letter, and tips for how to write it and what to include your message. Here are some tips on how to write and send a quality email cover letter.
Use a Professional Email Address
First, before you start drafting your letter, make sure your email address is professional. Along with the subject line, your email address is the first thing the employer will see – it is your first impression.
If you are using an informal address that you created years ago like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, it may be a good idea to open a new account specifically for communication between you and hiring companies. Get a new professional address that includes your first and last name, if possible.
State Your Name and the Job in the Subject
In the subject line of the email, clearly state the position you are applying for and also include your name. This way, the hiring manager will know, at a glance, that you are writing to apply for a job.
With a clear subject line, the employer is more likely to read the email. Also be sure to proofread your subject line before sending the email – a typo in the subject line is not a good first impression, and might lead to your email being deleted!
Start With a Greeting
If possible, greet a particular person in your letter.
Figuring out the recipient may be as easy as reading the name on the email address in which you are sending your resume. If it isn’t that obvious, double check the job listing to see if a name is mentioned. You can also check the company website (see if there is a directory or list of staff members), or call the company and ask the administrative assistant for help. If none of this works, you can use a greeting like “Dear Hiring Manager.”
What to Include in the Email Message
An email cover letter includes pretty much the same content as a hard copy cover letter, with a few optional additions. Start your letter by expressing your interest in the job opening, and mention the job title by name. Follow this with some of your previous experience that will show the reader that you are qualified for the position.
Focus on specific examples when explaining that you have certain qualities or skills. Make sure all of the information you include is directly related to the job for which you are applying. Do not be afraid to brag a little bit about your accomplishments; this is the time to “sell” yourself to them.
A benefit to sending your cover letter by email is the ability to attach URLs within the body of your message.
For example, if you are applying for a technology driven position like a web designer, freelance writer, or software developer, you can insert links to work you have done in the past. Nothing shows what a good fit you will be for the job like real life examples of what you can do.
Close With a Thank You and Signature
Finally, close your email cover letter with a thank you and express your readiness to meet the hiring manager in person for an interview. You might also want to add that your resume is attached to the email (if this is the case).
Then, include a closing (such as “Best” or “Sincerely”) and your full name. Underneath your name, include an email signature. This is something you can set up on your email account. It appears at the bottom of every email you send, and includes important contact details, such as your email address and phone number.
It might also include your full address, employment information, or a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Attach Your Resume (Unless Told Otherwise)
Attach your resume to your email message in the format requested by the employer. If a specific format isn't required, send it as a PDF or Word document. Of course, do not do this if the employer specifically tells you to submit your resume in some other way (such as through a website or via mail).
Sample Email Cover Letter With Resume Attached
Subject Line of Email Message: Communications Director Position - Your Name
Dear Hiring Manager,
I read your job posting for a Communications Director with interest. I am confident that my ten years of experience in communications in both the private and public sector make me an ideal fit for the position.
In my position as Communications Director for XYZ Company, I wrote articles for the company website, managed guest author submissions, and wrote and sent a weekly email newsletter to subscribers. I received consistent praise from the director for my attention to detail and clear, straightforward writing style.
While Assistant Communications Director for Assemblyperson Susan Smith, I researched, drafted and amended legislation, wrote press releases, and was responsible for office communications and correspondence.
I also have extensive experience writing on a freelance basis on labor issues, which, I believe, would be an ideal match for this position. Articles are available for your review at:
Additional writing samples and my resume are attached. If I can provide you with any further information on my background and qualifications, please let me know.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.