by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Just as certain secrets can help you write a dynamic cover letter, there are also key strategies for sending email cover letters. Here are those strategies.
Know the rules of a dynamic cover letter. Before you even think of sending an email cover letter, first make sure you understand all the rules and guidelines for writing a dynamic cover letter. Go to our Cover Letter Resources page for some helpful resources.
Don’t waste your subject line. Don’t ever leave the subject line of your email blank, but don’t waste it by just inserting the job number. Instead, use the subject line to entice the reader into your cover letter. For example, for a director of nursing position, say something such as: “experienced nurse for director of nursing position.”
Your opening paragraph is critical. More than ever, your first paragraph has to be dynamic; you need to both hook the reader and then sell him or her on your abilities in that first paragraph. See the sample letter (see link below) for a dynamic email opening paragraph.
Keep your cover letter short. Brevity is critical with an email cover letter. Focus on your key selling points. Most experts say that at most, your cover letter should be two to three paragraphs — and under 150 words. The idea is that your cover letter should not be any longer than one screen in length.
Take advantage of keywords. Use keywords pertinent to the job you are seeking, and focus on key industry buzzwords and critical skills sets. Noun phrases become more important than action verbs. Because your cover letter may be filed into a database, using critical keywords will enhance the likelihood that your cover letter and resume will be retrieved in a future search.
Stick with plain styling. When sending your email cover letter, use a plain white background — no need to have fuzzy bears or other strange or “cute” backgrounds attached to a piece of business email.
Always use standard cover letter protocol. Just because it’s an email, doesn’t mean you should abandon standard business letter writing guidelines. Thus, make sure to include a salutation (Dear Ms. Smith) and a standard closing (such as “sincerely”). Leave blank lines between paragraphs. And avoid the use of emoticons, abbreviations, wild colors, and other cool techniques and shortcuts used in everyday emails.
Don’t bother with attachments (unless requested to do so). Some companies actually block all emails with attachments; thus, your email would never even be received if you used an attachment.
Always follow the company guidelines. Many companies now have career centers on their corporate Websites. (For a list, see the Quintessential Directory of Company Career Centers.) It’s better to take the time and check than to send something the company doesn’t want. For example, Marriott allows you to create a career management account where you can store up to five different resumes and cover letters.
Never hit “send” without thoroughly spell checking and proofreading your email letter. Don’t just rely on your email software’s spellchecker. Take the time to really proofread it. A simple typo could be the downfall of a brilliant cover letter. Avoid all mistakes.
Be sure to test your message before sending it to the company. Even if you’re sure your letter is perfect, send it to a friend or another one of your email accounts first and check for the content and style one more time.
What does a dynamic email cover letter look like? Check out this sample email cover letter.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Go back to the Cover Letter Resources for Job-Seekers section of Quintessential Careers, where you will find a collection of the best cover letter tools and resources, including articles, tutorials, and more.
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