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
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
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.
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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.