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?
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 CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com or Indeed.com, 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.
No 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- Address a person by name, if possible, rather than “Dear Hiring Manager” or the outdated “To Whom It May Concern.”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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