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.
Face facts: Some people will never read your cover letter. The rest of the people may trash your resume if it does not include a cover letter. Others will value the cover letter over all other application materials. Since you can't know for sure which type of employer or recruiter will receive and review your materials, assume the cover letter is a crucial piece of your application package.
Don't make these 13 cover letter mistakes and you will be ahead of the game:
1. Forgetting to include a cover letter.
For reasons noted, the cover letter is important, especially if the job description requests it. When you leave it off, you may look lazy (at best) or appear to be someone who cannot follow instructions (at worst).
2. Addressing your cover letter generically.
"Dear Sir" is totally out of the question, since it is sexist and "To whom it may concern" makes it clear that you didn't think it was important enough to try to identify the person in charge of the search. It may be difficult to identify the correct person to address your letter, but you should try. Make a valiant effort to identify a name to include. Contact the company to ask for the correct name and use your Internet research skills to see if you can confirm a specific person to send your letter. As a very last resort, "Dear Hiring Manager" may not keep you totally out of the running, especially if the company has gone to great lengths to shield the exact name from the applicant pool.
3. Adding your cover letter as an attachment and writing a brief note in the body of the email.
If you apply via email, include your cover letter's contents as the body of the email you send. That way, it is very easy for the hiring manager to decide whether to open your attached resume or press delete.
More:Are These Resume Buzzwords Killing Your Chances?4. Sending a boring or terse cover letter.
If you're going to include a letter, it might as well be good enough to give you a better chance to land the job. If you send a formulaic sounding letter with nothing more interesting than the fact that you are applying for job No. 123 and that you saw the ad in XYZ.com, you won't pass the cover letter test for those sticklers who demand a cover letter. Make sure you write a letter that is interesting enough to read.
5. Missing an opportunity to make a great connection or to tell an interesting story.
Not everyone has a great story or reason for applying for a position, but if you do, use the cover letter to tell it. Was it the company where you launched your career, and you are ready to come back? Say so. Did you always admire the organization's television ads growing up, and now you are applying to help create new ones? That's a great story, and the cover letter is the place to share it.
6. Being self-centered.
The cover letter should not be a note detailing what you want. If you appear self-centered, that delete key is always handy.
7. Including errors or typos in your letter.
This is the kiss of death for many job application materials. Even if the job does not require you to wax eloquent regularly or to or create written materials for the company, if you misspell words or send a letter with typos and grammatical errors, it's a mark against you in a competitive field. Edit your own note carefully and ask a trusted friend to review it. Read it out loud to be sure you haven't left off words or made a typo that spell-check doesn't pick up -- for example, if you've said, "I'd be a terrific manger" instead of "manager."
More:3 Cover Letter Myths You Shouldn't Believe8. Not targeting your letter.
Just as you should target your resume for every job so you're most likely to pass the company's computerized resume screening system, you should also target your cover letter to each position and organization. Include specifics about the company and describe why you are a good fit for their job. Use the job description and information you can find out about the job and organization online to choose the best details to include. If you send the same cover letter to every company, you are missing an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
9. Writing a novel.
No one needs a three-page cover letter, no matter how interesting or perfect the candidate may be for the job. Just as you don't want to be too terse, don't think you need to tell your life story. Write the equivalent of about one typed page at most.
10. Using the cover letter to repeat everything in the resume.
While you should make sure to include everything important in your resume (in case this hiring manager does not read cover letters), don't just summarize your resume in your cover letter. Take the opportunity to make direct connections between the job description and your skills. Consider creating three headlines based on information in the job description the employer wants and listing under each topic why you are a good fit. The more you can make a direct correlation between their needs and what you offer, the better your letter will be.
More:Using The Right Keywords On Your Resume Will Be Very Important In 201311. Exaggerating.
Don't say, "I'm perfect for the job" if you know you are not. Be honest in your cover letter and identify the best matches between your skills and their needs.
12. Being too humble.
The opposite of the braggart, who is "ideal" for every job, the overly humble job seeker may actually apologize for applying and explain the skills he or she does not have for the job. Hopefully, it's obvious why the "why I'm not qualified" strategy is less than optimal! You may be applying for jobs that are a reach, and when you do, focus on what makes you a good fit and don't dwell on the negatives.
13. Going overboard with the sell.
Unless you are actually applying for a sales job, think twice before including language such as, "I'll call you on Friday to schedule an interview." This may be a turnoff for some hiring managers. Is it appropriate to indicate that you hope they agree you're a good match and that you will follow up as of a certain date, but you could lose the interviewer's attention if you act as if you are in charge of the process.
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