8 tips for better email cover letters
If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter will deliver the first impression. These eight tips will help you craft a better email cover letter.
Follow these tips for emailing a cover letter that will get you noticed.
As the saying goes, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. If you're doing a job search or resume submission via email, the first impression any employer will have is from your cover letter.
When you're asked to email your job application to a company, you can either copy and paste your cover letter into the body of your email, or you can attach it as a file, along with your resume. If you send your cover letter as an attachment, you can send it as either a PDF file or Word document. Here's what else you should you consider when crafting an email cover letter.
How should a cover letter look?
Some tips for writing a cover letter are standard, whether you're e-mailing or snail mailing: Be professional, with correct spelling and grammar, and—very important—do use them. (Here are some cover letter samples if you'd like to get a visual idea.) Other tips pertain only to the electronic medium, and when disregarded, could ruin your chances before your foot is in the door.
Don't waste your subject line
What you write in the subject line can determine whether your letter gets read, according to Lydia Ramsey, business etiquette expert and author of Manners That Sell. "Don't ever leave the subject line of your email blank, and don't waste it by just inserting the job number," Ramsey says. "The subject line should be clear and specific to the job you're looking for." An example: "Bilingual CPA seeks account manager position."
Use standard cover letter protocol
Write your letter as the body of the email and include a salutation (use the receiver's actual name if you know it) and a standard closing. ("Sincerely" or "Warm regards" work well.) Leave blank lines between paragraphs, and use appropriate signature and closing lines.
Include all the information in your signature line you would have on your business card, including snail mail address, phone number and email address. "Remember, your email address doesn't always automatically show up on the receiver's email program," Ramsey says.
Keep it short and dynamic
Managers and recruiters are busy. They want to get the gist of your pitch in 150 words or fewer. The first paragraph is crucial, according to Ramsey. "Hook the reader in the first paragraph by selling him or her your abilities," she says. "Use short paragraphs and short sentences to give a very brief bio on who you are and what you can do for them, and wrap it up in the second paragraph."
Keep it simple
If you write a cover letter in a word-processing program, strip away all formatting and save the file as plain text. The ideal line length is 40 characters. Some email packages automatically do word wrap for you, so your cover letter doesn't arrive in fragments.
Don't get cute. Save emoticons, abbreviations, and wild colors and fonts for your nonprofessional emails. The same goes for humor. Chances are, the reader won't think it's funny, and may even find it irritating.
Don't respond to an ad for a copywriter when you're really a graphic designer, says Diana Qasabian, talent director at Syndicatebleu. "It may be the tight job market, but we've been receiving more and more letters responding to a specific job from candidates who are not at all qualified for it," she says.
"We look for specifics in email cover letters, which means skills and abilities," she adds. "Embellishment and fluff are not necessary. It's not necessary to write, 'I'm a hard worker.' That goes without saying."
Keywords are key
Because many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATSes) to find and screen candidates, skill-oriented keywords will boost your chance at being discovered, a recruiter at a large technology company says.
"ATS tools track keywords that identify skill sets," she says. "So even if you're not right for the job you're seeking, strong keywords improve the chance that your cover letter and resume will be retrieved in a future search or be selected for a more appropriate job."
Play by their rules
Take the time to learn the company guidelines for submitting resumes, and follow them. Many companies list these guidelines on their Web sites. Also, don't include attachments unless they are requested. Some companies block all emails with attachments to prevent viruses.
Check it again
Thoroughly spell-check and proofread your email letter. And remember, your email software's spell-checker won't catch grammar mistakes. Send it to a friend first and ask him to check it for content and style. If all your friends are tapped out, or even if they aren't, test your email cover letter by emailing it to yourself, and put yourself in the mindset of an employer when you read it.
Get recruiters' attention
Once your cover letter is polished and ready to go, make sure you get maximum use from it. After all, it'll do you no good just sitting on your computer. You need to get your cover letter in front of the people who are doing the hiring. Could you use some help getting their attention? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five resumes and cover letters—each tailored to the different kinds of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you.
And since email is often the first point of contact for job seekers and hiring managers, the subject line can make all the difference. It not only communicates who you are and what you want but also can be a marketing tool that shows off your qualifications and helps you stand out.
So how do you motivate a reader to click on your email and give you their time? Depending on the context, career and communication experts offer the following advice that job seekers should bear in mind when crafting their job-search subject lines.
Keep it short. A typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email's subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters, says Amanda Augustine, career expert at professional job-matching service TheLadders. With such limited space, eliminate any unnecessary words like "hello" and "thanks," and get right to the point in about six to eight words.
Example: Human Resources Assistant Application
Place the most important words at the beginning. A whopping 50% of emails are now read on mobile phones, says Dmitri Leonov, a VP at email management service SaneBox. Since you don't know how much of the subject line hiring managers would be able to see from their smartphones, it's important to put the most important information at the beginning of the subject line. Otherwise, compelling details could get cut off.
Example: Marketing Manager with 8 Years of Experience
Be clear and specific. Recruiters spend just six seconds reviewing a resume, says Augustine, so they likely spend even less time scanning a job seeker's email. The subject line should communicate exactly who you are and what you're looking for without a recruiter needing to open the email. Don't use a vague subject line like "resume for opening," and instead specify which opening you're applying for.
Example: John Smith Following Up on Sales Position
Use logical keywords for search and filtering. Hiring managers typically have filters and folders set up to manage their email and probably won't focus on your message when they first see it, says Leonov. That's why it's important to include keywords like "job application" or "job candidate" that will make the email searchable later.
Example: Job Application: John Smith for Social Media Manager
Include the position and your name. For a standard job application, Augustine says the most important information to include in the email subject line is the job title and your name, as well as the job's ID if it has one. Anything less will require the hiring manager to spend time opening the email and trying to decode it.
Example: Data Scientist, No. 123456 - John Smith Application
List your designations to show that you're qualified. The subject line should be a place to distinguish yourself and immediately catch a recruiter's eye. Augustine recommends including any acronyms you have that are pertinent to the job. For example, you might add MBA, CPA, or Ph.D. after your name, depending on its relevancy to the position.
Example: Marketing Director - John Smith, MBA
If someone referred you, be sure to use their name. If you've been referred by a mutual acquaintance, do not save that for the body of the email, says Augustine. Put it in the subject line to grab the hiring manager's attention right away. Moreover, she suggests beginning the subject line with the person's full name.
Example: Referred by Jane Brown for Technical Writer position
Don't use ALL CAPS. Using all caps may get someone's attention, but in the wrong way. It's the digital equivalent of yelling, and your job is to make the email as easy as possible for a recruiter to read rather than giving them anxiety, says Leonov. Instead, use dashes or colons to separate thoughts, and avoid caps and special characters like exclamation points.
Example: Job Inquiry: Award-Winning Creative Director now in New York