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Tips for a Dynamic Email Cover Letter

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Just as certain secrets can help you write a dynamic cover letter, there are also key strategies for sending email cover letters. Here are those strategies.

Know the rules of a dynamic cover letter. Before you even think of sending an email cover letter, first make sure you understand all the rules and guidelines for writing a dynamic cover letter. Go to our Cover Letter Resources page for some helpful resources.

Donít waste your subject line. Donít ever leave the subject line of your email blank, but donít waste it by just inserting the job number. Instead, use the subject line to entice the reader into your cover letter. For example, for a director of nursing position, say something such as: "experienced nurse for director of nursing position."

Your opening paragraph is critical. More than ever, your first paragraph has to be dynamic; you need to both hook the reader and then sell him or her on your abilities in that first paragraph. See the sample letter (see link below) for a dynamic email opening paragraph.

Keep your cover letter short. Brevity is critical with an email cover letter. Focus on your key selling points. Most experts say that at most, your cover letter should be two to three paragraphs -- and under 150 words. The idea is that your cover letter should not be any longer than one screen in length.

Take advantage of keywords. Use keywords pertinent to the job you are seeking, and focus on key industry buzzwords and critical skills sets. Noun phrases become more important than action verbs. Because your cover letter may be filed into a database, using critical keywords will enhance the likelihood that your cover letter and resume will be retrieved in a future search.

Stick with plain styling (ASCII text). Write your cover letter in your favorite word processor, but strip away all formatting once youíve completed editing it by saving the file as "plain text." Because some email packages allow you to manipulate font style, color, and size, make sure your email is also being sent in plain text -- black font, normal size and typeface (10 point, Arial, Helvetica, Times Roman), on a white background.

Check your line length. Make sure your lines are no more than 60 characters in length. Some email packages automatically do word wrap for you (much like word processing software), but you should check. You donít want your cover letter to arrive fragmented on multiple lines.

Always use standard cover letter protocol. Just because itís an email, doesnít mean you should abandon standard business letter writing guidelines. Thus, make sure to include a salutation (Dear Ms. Smith) and a standard closing (such as "sincerely"). Leave blank lines between paragraphs. And avoid the use of emoticons, abbreviations, wild colors, and other cool techniques and shortcuts used in everyday emails.

Donít bother with attachments (unless requested to do so). Some companies actually block all emails with attachments; thus, your email would never even be received if you used an attachment.

Always follow the company guidelines. Many companies now have career centers on their corporate Websites. (For a list, see the Quintessential Directory of Company Career Centers.) Itís better to take the time and check than to send something the company doesnít want. For example, Marriott allows you to create a career management account where you can store up to five different resumes and cover letters.

Never hit "send" without thoroughly spell checking and proofreading your email letter. Donít just rely on your email softwareís spellchecker. Take the time to really proofread it. A simple typo could be the downfall of a brilliant cover letter. Avoid all mistakes.

Be sure to test your message before sending it to the company. Even if youíre sure your letter is perfect, send it to a friend or another one of your email accounts first and check for the content and style one more time.

What does a dynamic email cover letter look like? Check out this sample email cover letter.

See more sample dynamic email cover letters in the 3rd edition of Dynamic Cover Letters.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Dr. Randall Hansen is currently Webmaster of Quintessential Careers, as well as publisher of its electronic newsletter, QuintZine. He writes a biweekly career advice column under the name, The Career Doctor. He is also a tenured, associate professor of marketing in the School of Business Administration at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. He is a published career expert -- and has been for the last ten years. He is co-author, with Katharine Hansen, of Dynamic Cover Letters. And he has been an employer and consultant dealing with hiring and firing decisions for the past fifteen years. He can be reached at


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