Cover emails: what you should know!

Posted October 13, 2011, by Sue Stevens

More and more, job applications are being sent to prospective employers by email. There are two ways of sending applications by email. First, you can write the cover letter in the body of the email and attach your resume. Second, you can write a short email and attach your resume and cover letter as two separate documents. Whichever you choose, there are some things you can do to stand out from the job-hunting hordes.

Address the email correctly

As with a cover letter, make sure you address the email to the right person. Sending your email directly to the person is best but if they want you to send your application to an info@ address only, do as the company asks. Also begin your email using conventional business language: ‘Dear Miss Jones’.

Subject field

Make the most of the subject field in your email. Leaving this field blank is simply wasting an opportunity to make a strong comment about you. And simply inserting the job title and number also wastes an opportunity. Think about the impact if you add a phrase that attracts the attention of the reader. For example, for a senior engineering position you could write ‘Experienced engineer for Senior Project Engineer position’.

Opening paragraph

It may be tempting just to write ‘Attached – please find my resume and cover letter for the advertised position’ which is fine and certainly won’t go against you. However, writing something a little more attention grabbing will set you up as a real contender. You should make the reader really want to read your cover letter and resume.

The opening paragraph could say something about your achievements and link them to the position. For example, if you were going for the position of Publishing Director, the following opening sentence is a powerful statement about your ability to do the job.

‘Having published 12 150-page full-colour trade magazines in the past year where I managed the complete production process and a staff of 20 professionals, I am an ideal candidate for the position of Publishing Director with your company.’  

What you can do for your prospective employer

Don’t be afraid to say what you can bring to the position and the benefits to the company. Adding value to the business is something the reader is very interested in hearing: ‘Publishing is a dynamic and exciting industry, and I am convinced I can help [ABC Publishing] grow its reputation and dominant position in the industry. I would love to meet you to discuss the position and look forward to hearing from you.’

Use keywords

Many resumes and cover letters are now stored in databases so using language relevant to that industry will help your application hit the right buttons and make sure it is easily retrievable.

A ‘thank you’ is good manners

Thank the person for their time and consideration.

A last word or two about email cover letters

When you attach your documents – resume, cover letter and any other documents requested by the company – make sure that you name the documents with your name: ‘lindsay_smith_resume.pdf’ or lindsay_smith_resume.doc’. Don’t forget that the recipient might have up to 100 or more applications. If some are named ‘resume.doc’, rather than re-naming these resumes, the person may be tempted to trash them immediately.

Sending files as pdfs will ensure the styles you have used will not corrupt. If you do send files in this format, let the reader know that you can send Word documents if this is preferred. This immediately sets up a dialogue between you and the reader – a good start to getting the job!

Sue Stevens

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