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 message for job inquiry
By Mark Swartz
Monster Senior Contributing Writer
Have you ever sent an email like this one in response to a job posting?
Subject: re: Job Application
Look at my resume and cover letter. It’ll tell you all about me. I really want this job.
What’s wrong with this message as it’s currently written?
The substance of the above email is basically OK. You are, after all, attaching your resume. Possibly a cover letter too. This should give the reader a much better idea of who you are.
But what’s lacking here is a degree of formality and detail. The message is written in casual language. And it makes the reader guess about which job you’re applying for. The language and content need to be professionalized to a greater extent.
What? Even Emails Have To Be Formal?
During your job search – and afterward as well, once you’re re-employed – sending proper emails is important for your career. Communication skills are valued at all levels of an organization. You need to convey information in ways that won’t be misunderstood, and that represent a positive image of you (and your employer) to others.
In the world of work, quite often “you are what you write.” This is nowhere more true than when submitting your resume and/or cover letter for consideration. Every impression counts. Your emailed message may be the very first thing a potential employer sees from you.
When “Casual” Causes Concerns
A hastily written, informal message like the one in the example atop this page, may cause employers to see you as amateurish or lazy. “If you don’t even take time to present yourself in your best light within your job application,” they might mutter to themselves, “and you force us to do extra work by having to guess about which job you’re even applying for,” they say with clenched teeth, “then what can we realistically expect once we bring you aboard?”
Luckily it doesn’t take much to submit a better version of your message
You’re applying for a specific job. To you it may the one that’s front and center in your mind at this time. But the employer may be posting a number of different positions at once. They’ll probably receive a large number of application emails, not just yours.
So make is easy for them to sort the incoming emails by letting them know which job you’re after. In the Subject Line itself, concisely state the purpose of your email. Mention the job’s title or a reference number that you saw in the advertised posting. You could write something like “Job Application Enclosed: Claims Adjuster, reference A47kj2w1.”
This also applies to the top part of the message you’ll type into the body of this email. You can begin with a header that simply repeats itself, as in “re: Job Application: Claims Adjuster, reference A47kj2w1.”
Use “Business Formal” Language
Regardless of what you type in the email’s body underneath your header, don’t drop your guard and suddenly start using casual language.
At a minimum, you might try instead to turn the phrasing from our email example into the following:
I am very interested in applying for the Claims Adjuster position you advertised on Monster.ca recently. My qualifications and experience match your specifications almost exactly.
Please take a moment to review my attached Application Documents:
- Up-To-Date Resume
- Customized Cover Letter
It would be a sincere pleasure to hear back from you soon to discuss this exciting opportunity.
[your first and last names, plus the phone number(s) you want to be contacted at, go here]
Is This Sufficient?
Formal language, identifying the job you’re applying for, and stating which documents you’ve attached: is there anything you should do in the body of your emailed job application?
Some job seekers like to include a customized, more elaborate cover letter within the body of the email itself. This saves the reader from having to open your separate attachments into a different program.
Still, it may make sense to attach a fully formatted, fancy version of the cover letter along with the resume. This way if the employer wants printouts of “good copies” to pass around, they can do so quickly with minimal effort.
You could also try to find out the name and title of the person you’ll be mailing your application to. This is not always necessary, though in higher level jobs it can help you stand out from the crowd. Which of course is something you want to do, when possible, so long as standing out presents you as more qualified or enthusiastic.