When it comes to making a job change, getting it right truly matters. You need to get the keywords right, the messaging right, the formatting right. You’ve got to find the right people to endear yourself to, and the right words for your cover letter and follow-up correspondence.
And, for the love of it all, you’ve got to nail the approach.
But, my oh my, there are so many considerations—so many things we all second guess ourselves on when applying for a job.
Should you make the cover letter the body of the email, or attach it separately? (Or both?) Do you address the person by first name, or go with Mr. / Ms. So-and-So? (And, does same rule apply for both?) How casual or formal do you need to be? Is there a right or wrong format for cover letters and emails? Does the cover letter need to be a page or less? How long should the intro email be?
Holy Hannah—it’s enough to make the coolest cucumbers among us start to feel like crazy people. And that’s even before you’ve made an introduction.
Deep breaths, everyone. Deep breaths. Let’s break this cover letter stuff down into manageable chunks. Here’s what you need to know:
Should the Cover Letter Be an Attachment or Just the Body of Email?
The short answer is: either. Not both, either.
If you ask 10 recruiters of hiring managers which they prefer, you’ll probably get five who say attachment and five who say email. But here’s the good news: Nearly all will report that it’s not going to make or break you either way. So, don’t let this topic unravel you.
I happen to be a proponent of “cover letter as body of the email,” and here’s why: It gives you the opportunity to make a strong, memorable first impression the millisecond that reviewer’s eyes open their inbox. You can draw someone in with an incredible opening line, and then showcase the ways in which you could contribute to the team.
If, instead, you decide to go with cover letter as attachment, you should be brief and point the reader to the attachments.
I’ve learned you are seeking a senior project manager with e-commerce experience and knowledge of Jira. That’s me. My attached resume and cover letter outline my qualifications for the role. Thank you very much for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon!
Keep it brief if you go this route. Those on the receiving end won’t appreciate having to plow through a super long email and all your attachments.
Lastly, don’t even think about replicating the cover letter in both the email and the attachment. That’s just ridiculous (and, makes you look totally indecisive).
Now that we got that figured out, let’s answer the other questions that are probably eating at you:
Do I Use a First Name Salutation—or a More Formal One?
This is best answered with, “It depends”—for both the cover letter and the accompanying email. (I know, just doing my part to make things simple here.)
In all seriousness, it’s best to evaluate the tone and style of the organization you’re attempting to join, and then guess which salutation would be most would the appropriate and appreciated. You can do this pretty easily by reviewing the company’s website and social media presence.
Remember, you’re going to be hired for that next role if (and only if) you’re a “yes” to these three questions
- Do we think she can do this job?
- Do we like her?
- Do we think she’ll fit in around here?
That said, if you can introduce yourself in a way that implies right out of the gates that you’re a triple yes, you’re in business.
Is a Conversational Style Allowed?
In general, I think that job seekers get a bit too revved up about “proper” and end up losing sight of the fact that there’s an actual person at the receiving end of this (assuming you’re emailing your application directly).
Guess what? People like engaging, conversational reading. They notice when an applicant seems genuine, personable, and interesting. They appreciate when plowing through their pile of candidates doesn’t feel like total drudgery.
That being the case, unless you’re applying for a role within an extremely conservative or structured industry or organization, heck yes, a conversational style is allowed. Certainly, this is not your time to bust out a bunch of slang or (gasp) use language that could offend, but it’s a-ok to make your cover letter or intro email read like you’re a real person.
Just be sure and make it clear—in both cases—why you want to work for that company and what, specifically, you can walk through their doors and deliver.
Luckily, we know people who are experts at it.
MEET OUR COVER LETTER WRITING COACHES
Is the One Page Rule for Cover Letters Still True? What About in an Email?
Hard and fast “rules” make me crazy in general, so I’m not going to announce the exact length that your cover letter or your intro email need to be. I will simply suggest that you get in there, quickly endear yourself to the recipient, and then spell out, specifically, how and why you make perfect sense for the role you’re pursuing. And then wrap it up.
If you can pull it off with a one-page cover letter, absolutely. If you need a page and a half? So long as you’re peeling out any and all unnecessary blabber, knock yourself out. (And this article tells you how to cut it down to make it as effective as possible.)
For the email, again, get to the point and don’t be redundant if you’re also attaching a cover letter.
You can get these things right, for real. Nail the big stuff, sweat the details that truly matter, and get right to the business of making your grand entrance, well, one that’s grand.
Email Cover Letter Format
Formatting Tips for Email Cover Letters
It's most common to send cover letters by email or as an attachment with your resume instead of snail mail. Much of the format of the cover letter remains precisely the same, regardless of how the letter is being delivered. In all cases, you need to include a salutation and a polite close, observe all the standard formalities, and proofread carefully. With an email, you'll also need to include a clear subject line as well.
How to Format an Email Cover Letter
The following email cover letter format shows how to put together a document containing the information necessary to get the hiring manager’s attention.
Use the email cover letter format as a guideline to create personalized email cover letters to send to employers.
Email Cover Letter Format
Subject Line: Job Title - Your Name
Be sure to list the job you are applying for in the subject line of your email message, so the employer is clear as to what job you are interested in. For example, your subject line might be "Marketing Coordinator - Bob Martins." This also helps to keep all your information handy for the hiring manager, and easily identified.
Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname or Dear Hiring Manager (only if you don't have a contact person). Follow the person's name with a comma or colon. Then, skip a line.
Body of Email Cover Letter:
The body of your cover letter lets the employer know what position you are applying for, why the employer should select you for an interview, and how you will follow-up.
The body consists of the first paragraph, middle paragraph, and conclusion. Here are some ideas for what is included in each of these sections.
The first paragraph of your letter should include information on why you are writing. Mention the position you are applying for and how you found the job posting.
If you were referred by a contact, mention the person in this part of your cover letter.
The next section of your cover letter should describe what you have to offer the employer. Don’t just copy the information on your resume, instead, make a connection between your abilities and the qualifications listed in the job posting. Mention specifically how your skills and experience match the job you are applying for.
Provide action examples where you can. Instead of saying, "I'm very organized" explain, "During my first six months at ABC Company, I instituted quick Monday morning check-in meetings and transformed the project management calendar. These two changes helped everyone to stay on top of deadlines — and cut our costs on last minute temp help due to scheduling errors."
If you have attached your resume, mention it in this paragraph. You can also mention how you plan to follow up. Then conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position.
Include a polite sign-off and then skip a space and write your name.
Include your name, full address, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn Profile URL, if you have one, so it is easy for hiring managers, recruiters, and contacts to get in touch.
City, State, Zip
Email Cover Letter Example
Subject: Marketing Manager - Mary Cody
Dear Ms. Lastname,
I am writing in regards to the position of marketing manager at XYZ Enterprises advertised on Monster.com. Susan Smith recommended that I write directly to you, as we worked together at ABC Inc. for several years, and she thought that this position would be a good fit for me.
With ABC, I was a direct report to Susan, and I was able to increase my department’s sales by 15% over the three years we worked together. This exceeded the industry standard by 10% during a nearly stagnant period of time. Given XYZ’s position in the market, and my experience with increasing market share, I feel that I can help to bring even more success to your company.
I have attached my resume and list of references for your consideration.
I will follow up next week to provide any additional information you may be interested in. Thank you very much for taking the time to review my resume.
123 Green Street
Anytown, USA 11111
Completing Your Application
When you're sending an email cover letter, it's important to follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your application, and to make sure that your documents are written as well as any other business correspondence. Sending a professional looking application package is the first step to getting an interview.
More About Cover Letters: How to Write a Cover Letter | Email Cover Letters | Sample Cover Letters