Email cover letter

Is your email cover letter compelling and attention grabbing enough so that the reader will actually open it?

The reader will make the decision to read, or not to read your email in 5 seconds or less.

The options your reader has are - ignore you, delete your email, or follow up with you because there is interest in what you've written.

People today are ruthless in their treatment of email. The sheer quantity of email that a person might receive in any given day leaves them no option - if they think what they are reading is rubbish, they'll delete the email.

So what are the things that will usually provoke a "delete"? The two most common are:

  • Your name is not familiar to the reader
  • The subject line either isn't familiar, or it doesn't seem relevant

Sometimes it's just bad luck. Think about easy is it for just a single email to be overlooked when you might have 50 or 100 email messages to deal with?

A well designed, well written email cover letter can be critical to your job search fact......your email cover letter can set you apart.

Need help with writing job application letters and emails?

Not everyone is a natural 'word smith"!

Does this mean that you shouldn't attempt sending an email cover letter? Of course not, but you might need some help in designing your letter.

If this sounds like you this really clever piece of software might save you a lot of time, and stress. It does all the hard work for you.

Don't be tempted to dash off an email cover letter which says something like "Hi. I'm really interested in this job. My resume is attached. Hope to hear from you soon."

Take the time to write, and format your email to ensure that you cover letter has the greatest possible chance of being read.....rather than being deleted.....or overlooked.

The best email cover letters use the following, basic techniques to ensure you get the response you want....employer interest.

Email cover letter structure

75% of email readers scan their email messages - they won't read what you have written word for word. close attention to the design and layout of your email. Write it in a way that will prevent the reader from scanning.

How? It's in the way your structure your message. The formula need to attract attention first, then generate interest in what you are saying.

The way you do this is:

  • Your subject line - make it catchy, AND relevant to the reader.

Then, in the body of your email, write say four paragraphs as follows:

  1. Your email opening sentence. It must be compelling. How? Make it relevant - show that you understand their need or problem. Describe, as you understand it, your reader's need or problem in your opening sentence.
  2. Next, write about how you can help them with this need or problem. People are always interested in solutions to their problems.
  3. Then, outline other benefits you have to offer that are related to their problem or need.
  4. Finally, propose some action.....for example, you'd like to meet, or will phone them.

Email cover letter tips

Do you notice a theme emerging here for writing a successful email cover letter?

The theme is relevance to the reader. Relevance to their needs, relevance to their problems.

This is all about answering the reader's question - WIFM - What's in it for me?

Keep your email message focused on the relevance to the reader of what you are offering or proposing. The question to continually ask yourself when writing your email is....."How will my skills, knowledge and experience make a difference to the reader?"

Presentation tips - formatting, emphasing key points

Pay close attention to the formatting of your email.

With so many small, portable computing devices (such as laptop, iPad or cell phone) being used, there is no guarantee that the reader of your email will receive your document as you've designed it.

Your email software might for example enable you to use bold text, bullet points and underlining.....not all email software does this.

There there's word wrap. Email and software packages that have the wordwrap feature format the sentences so that they go all the way across the screen.

if your email is received on a small screen computing device, and your reader is using webmail to access emails, your formatting is probably lost at the receiving end.

So.....if you want to emphasise things in your email, use capital letters - but don't overdo this. As you probably know, this is "shouting" in web etiquette. Instead of bullet points, use dashes.

Some experts also suggest that you keep each line in your email to 60 characters. This will stop breaks in sentences in your email when the receiver downloads it to a portable device.

Check that your formatting turns out like you wanted to. Send your email to yourself, or a friend, so that you can have the formatting checked.

Writing an email cover letter

Email writing style

Most of us have a pretty informal writing style for emails. It's common to use short, cryptic sentences, slang, jargon and so on. That's OK when communicating with colleagues and friends, but.....writing cover letters is different.

It is really important that you use the same letter writing protocols as you would for any hard copy business letter.

This cover letter link will explain what to do when writing any sort of cover letter. The writing style for an email cover letter should be similar - with a few modifications which you'll learn about below.

Writing an email cover letter - A catchy subject line

The subject line is the first thing the reader sees. You must make an impact straight away. Don't waste this space. Don't leave the subject line blank.

Write a subject line that catches attention. But more than also need to arouse the reader's interest.

So.....what should you write? depends a little on whether you are responding to a job ad, or writing a cold call prospecting letter.

Email cover letter tips

Keep your subject line to 50 characters, or less (including spaces).

This should enable your reader to see your subject line on a hand held device, or small laptop.

It will also force you to be brief and to the point.

Email subject line - responding to a job ad

  • Include the job title, and any job reference number in your subject line.
  • Try to sell "you" in your subject line - describe a key skill or attribute that you will bring to the job.

Here's one example for a subject line:

  • RE: Marketing Assistant Position - Exceptional writing skills

Email subject line - cold call or prospecting email cover letter

Try some of these for capturing interest in your email cold call cover letter

  • Ask a question - one that is likely to be relevant to the reader's interests. For example, "Want to know how to double your sales?" or ......"How are your staff motivated?".....or......"Do you know why staff change jobs?"
  • Make a thought provoking statement, something that will get your reader to react by continuing to read your email. For example "Marketing success in a global recession?"
  • A dangling subject line can also get people to read on. For example "Marketing success begins with...." or "The best general managers do this to...."
  • Offer something that will impress. For example, "I'll design you an award winning website", or "I can help you to achieve market dominance.
  • Personalise - use the name of the organisation you are writing to in the subject line. For example if your reader is working for ABC Ltd - "ABC Ltd profits to double in 2011"
  • Localise - similarly, using the name of the city, or state where your reader is located is thought to improve the likelihood of the email being opened.

These approaches work more often than not. Most readers will at least scan the first sentence or two. So.....your first sentences have to be exceptionally well written too.

Again, follow the previous suggestions for the overall structure of an email cover letter.

Email cover letter tips

You would, of course, have carried out extensive research on your reader's organisation, and perhaps the broader industry in which they operate, prior to writing and sending your email.

From your research you can then pose a meaningful question, or make a thought provoking statement that has relevance to the reader.

Likewise - you would ideally have the email address of the decision maker - not an email drop box or a generic "contact us" email address.

Writing catchy email subject lines takes real skill.

Here's a tip to help you polish up your skills - start reading the headlines of stories in newspapers and magazines.

The writers of the articles are trying to do the same thing you are.....get people to read what they have written.

Email cover letter - The salutation

Use an appropriate cover letter salutation - "Hi" is not acceptable for this type of letter, nor is having no salutation at all.

If you don't know the name of the person to whom you are writing, do all that you can, including phoning the organisation, to find out the name of the relevant person.

Click on this cover letter tips link if you are unsure about the salutation you should use for any cover letter.

Email signature

Now that you have the reader's interest, it is essential that you make it easy for them to contact you.

Include your name, telephone, postal address and email address at the bottom of your email.

If you use a pre-formatted signature in your email, check what's there before you send an email. For example, it is increasingly common for people to have a positive quotation, or saying, at the bottom of their email.

Beware what these message communicate about you - they may create the wrong impression. My suggestion.....leave the quotations and positive sayings off email cover letters.

Email attachments

If you are attaching your resume, make sure the attachment filename actually includes your name. So....rather than call your document "resume.docx", make it "yourname resume.docx"

Sometimes a job ad your are responding to will instruct you to respond by email, and to attach your resume and a cover letter.

It makes sense for you to include both documents in the one attachment. If you do this, place the cover letter first in the document, then your resume. the document so that it can be clearly identified by the reader as being your job application. For example, you might name the document "yourname job application.docx".

Always carefully read, and follow any instructions from the employer for submitting a job application. Some organisations will be quite specific in their requirements.

Failure to follow job application instructions will usually bring an abrupt halt to your application.

First impressions - your email account name

A final thought.

With free email service providers such as gmail, hotmail, yahoo and so on, you will probably have come across some pretty creative email account names.

When you are in job search mode, don't risk damaging your image or brand by using a "tacky" email account name. Email account names like "hotstud69", or "wildchild" can certainly create doubt in the mind of the employer about your professionalism. conservative in your choice of email name. Make it easy for the reader to deal with you. Use your family name in the email account name so that your emails can be easily located.

Check your email cover letter before you send it

It goes without saying that your cover letter, and any attached documents have zero spelling or grammatical errors.These types of errors will usually have the effect of terminating your job search with the employer who spots your errors.

Print your documents when they are finalised. Leave them alone for several hours, or even over night, so that you can proof read them with a fresh eye.

As a part of your proof reading - try reading your documents aloud. How do your words sound to you when spoken out loud? Does it sound like you have written your cover letter and resume in a compelling style?

If this all sound too hard, or you're not a good writer why not try this approach? - the one click cover letter

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