Cover Letter or Cover Email


Can you settle a question for me? If applying for a job via email, is the email itself the cover letter or do I have to think up something else to say in a separate cover letter that I attach?

Email_Resume_300Dear, Covering Your Bases,

If you are applying for an open position you found through Craigslist, a company website or some other avenue that requests that you apply to an email address, your email IS your cover letter. There is no need to reinvent the wheel and create a separate cover letter attachment (just remember to attach your résumé!).

If you are applying through a job board such as, or, you may have the option to apply with your résumé only without a cover letter. DO NOT SKIP THE COVER LETTER! (Can you hear me shouting?) You may not feel you are good with words, but if you don’t include a cover letter, you’ll appear apathetic to the hiring professional.

Man Applying for a Job on the InternetNo matter whether you email or attach the cover letter, spend a bit of time tailoring it for the specific job. A generic “In response to your ad for yada yada yada” is more likely to produce a yawn than an interview. Customize each cover letter/email using the following advice:

  • Inject some personality and enthusiasm.
  • Address a person by name, if possible, rather than “Dear Hiring Manager” or the outdated “To Whom It May Concern.” It’s often a snap (or a couple of clicks) to find the name of the person hiring by searching LinkedIn or the company’s website.
  • Mention the specific employment opportunity for which you are applying. Companies may be hiring for several open positions.
  • Keep it short. Don’t include your life story, and don’t rehash irrelevant experience.
  • Outline how you match the qualifications using keywords from the job listing. Bullet points make it easy for busy hiring managers to skim.
  • Highlight the ways you can help the company. Review the Pain Points Letter.
  • Close with a proactive request for an interview.

The cover letter is to the résumé what the back cover synopsis is to the book – an enticement to delve in and read more.

Readers: What’s your best opening line for your cover letter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kim D
    Mar 10, 2016 @ 08:23:39

    Great advice! Unfortunately, the trend I am seeing as a Human Resources Manager is that the norm is to not include a cover letter or even a note in the email stating the position for which the applicant is applying. As a hiring manager, I find this extremely frustrating. It comes across as not being interested enough to take the time to type a note. Are proper job search techniques no longer taught in colleges?

    I definitely take more time reviewing the resume of a candidate that takes the initiative to research our company and type a cover letter. Even a form letter is better than no letter at all. Cover letters will definitely make one candidate stand out from the rest.


    • anitaclew
      Mar 10, 2016 @ 14:52:49

      Kim, thank you for your perspective as an HR professional. I agree that any cover letter, even from a template, is better than no introduction. I wish a career course would be a requirement for college and high school graduation.


  2. Todd Hicks
    Mar 09, 2016 @ 22:11:35

    If the person interviews you over the phone, simply ask for his/her name. After the in-person interview, ask for the business card.


  3. Nancy E
    Mar 08, 2016 @ 11:00:11

    Advanced LinkedIn search is a good idea, thanks.

    So, if you could not get a name would you still send the letter?
    In the past, I have started the letter with “Greetings!” or no salutation, just start right in with the letter.


  4. Nancy E
    Mar 08, 2016 @ 09:03:53

    “It’s often a snap (or a couple of clicks) to find the name of the person hiring by searching LinkedIn or the company’s website.”

    I wish it were that easy. I think personnel managers go out of their way to keep their names secret. If we are unsuccessful finding the name of a hiring manager, what is the best way to address the letter?


    • anitaclew
      Mar 08, 2016 @ 10:54:15

      I have pretty good luck finding HR personnel for specific companies on LinkedIn. Use the Advanced search, enter the name of the company, and in the “Title” field, enter HR, Human Resources, and other synonyms like as Personnel, Recruiter/Recruitment, Staffing, Talent, or Placement. This may not find creative titles such as Head of People Operations or Chief Happiness Officer!

      If you can’t find results online, call the company receptionist and simply ask for the hiring manager’s name and title.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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