When you send resumes by email, the email messages serve as the email cover letters. Here’s the best way to fine tune your cover letter for this online format.
Most people are used to writing informal, conversational emails that are quickly written and sent off without much thought. Don’t make this mistake with your email cover letters!
While it may be tempting to write, “I’d like to apply to the job I saw online. Here is my resume. Thanks,” a more thoughtful cover letter immediately sets you apart and increases the chances of your resume being reviewed at all.
If you want to find a job, here are some key points to keep in mind when sending email cover letters.
#1 The Subject Line May Be All They Read
Make your subject line matter – it likely will determine whether your email gets opened or not. Some of the most common mistakes I see are leaving the subject line completely blank or using it for information that does not motivate a reader to open it, such as “Joe Smith’s Resume.”
Instead, use the subject line to clarify the position and add a key differentiators that you offer and that the company is looking for. Use the job description for clues. If the job description requires a unique skill that you offer, pull it out in the subject line.
For instance: “Customer Service Manager – Bilingual” or “VP Manufacturing with Acquisitions & Divestitures Expertise” articulate both the title and the skill. The key to making it work is to make the perfect match between what the company is looking for (found in the job description, through your research or networking) and your unique skills.
Finally, try to keep your subject lines about 60 characters in length — this ensures it can be read on most systems including hand-held devices, without strange line breaks.
#2 Incorporate Keywords
When you send a resume by email, your information will likely be stored in a database until someone is ready to review all of the submissions. To ensure that you are easily found, be sure to customize your email cover letters (and resumes) with keywords that are specific to the position you are seeking.
Use the job description, if available, to choose the most critical keywords to include. Or, if a job description is not available, do research on similar positions that you are looking for and pull out the common keywords as a place to start.
#3 Follow the Basic Rules for Great Cover Letters
As with any cover letter format, be sure to address your email cover letters to someone specific if you can; include a salutation (Dear Mr. Pierce) and standard closing (Sincerely) at the end of the letter. Leave a space between paragraphs and include your email signature (Name, snail mail address, email address and phone number).
#4 Keep it Short and Simple
As a rule of thumb, do not make the reader scroll to read your email. Keep email cover letters between 150-200 words and make every sentence count. Sell your abilities and why you are the best candidate in the first paragraph. Use short sentences and active verbs. If you want to highlight 2-3 selling points, consider using bullets. Do not restate your resume. Wrap it up with a request for an interview or to meet.
Keep formatting simple, plain text is best since it stays clean across all systems. Do not use fancy colors, images, emoticons or other things that you might use in a more informal email.
#5 Follow Company Guidelines and Pay Attention to Detail
Many companies have specific guidelines for sending your resume and cover letter, particularly around attachments. If you are instructed to submit in a specific way, follow the instructions carefully! If you do attach your resume, be sure to paste it into the body of the letter (after your cover letter) as well.
Finally, it is sad but true that many candidates lose their credibility through stupid mistakes. Your spell checker will not catch grammar mistakes or the fact that you accidentally addressed the recipient by the wrong name. Double check your work, email it to yourself or a friend for an impartial review.
If you follow these guidelines and career advice, your email cover letters will play a key role in advancing your job search.
If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in our other career advice and tips on how to find a job. Click to the left on a subject that interests you, or check out the articles below:
- How to Find a Job – The Basics
- Build a Great Resume
- Writing a Cover Letter
- Preparing for a Job Interview
- Writing a Great Resume Objective
- Five Resume Mistakes to Avoid