Writing a strong cover letter has always been a concern for job seekers. With the digitization of networking and employment applications, not to mention the invasion of email, the stakes are now higher than ever – and most people are confused as to where the cover letter fits in to the recipe.
Now, not only does your cover letter need to scream “You’d be making a mistake not to hire me!” to a prospective employer, you need to be able to communicate that message in an even shorter format than ever. Cover letter were always supposed to be succinct, containing not more than three short paragraphs summarizing your key strengths, assets to your hopeful employer and your career aspirations. With the rise of email cover letters, however, has come a whole new challenge: capturing the attention of an overworked marketing recruiter who would love nothing more than to close his or her email and call it a night.
To attach or not to attach
One of the most common questions associated with email cover letters is: “Do I attach my word doc to an email, or write my cover letter directly in the email”? The answer is simple: Always make the email your cover letter.
By attaching a document, you’re adding one more step to the process and increasing the chances that the receiver won’t even download it. Ensure your cover letter gets seen by putting it directly into the email. This way, they’ll have no choice but to give it at least a quick read.
It’s all in the tone
One of the great advantages of being able to send email cover letters is the opportunity it brings to show recruiters who you are. Traditional cover letters are formal – and so boring. Always maintain a professional tone in your emails, but feel free to be personable, wish the recruiter a great afternoon, or even open your message with an interesting hook.
When describing your experience, write with confidence and assertiveness, while maintaining respect and admiration for the company you’re applying for.
Speak to the reader’s needs
However proud you are of your professional accomplishments, remember that the cover letter needs to be all about the employer. Give some background on your work experience, but tie that experience with how it will directly benefit the company you are applying for. Two paragraphs is more than enough to cover any necessary ground – anything longer won’t get the attention it deserves.
Make sure to address first the position you are applying for, why you are interested and how your skill set is aligned specifically with the needs of this position. All too often, candidates fall into the trap of talking only about their background, failing to tie this to how they can actually benefit the company.
Here’s a brief example:
Dear John Smith,
I saw your post on LinkedIn for a Social Media Manager and am highly interested in this position. As a young startup, I can understand the need for a mentally strong and creative social media curator who can help build your brand and create a narrative your customers can fall in love with.
My three years of experience at a bustling start-up, where I not only doubled our social media engagement levels by year two, but tripled our blog viewership by the time I left for a new opportunity, gave me solid experience and profound insight as to what it takes to create brand buzz from the ground up. I’d love to have a conversation with you to tell you more about how my experience could bring value to your team.
Don’t forget to research the company on LinkedIn to find the recruiter’s name. And most importantly: Be yourself.