Q: When you are applying for a job where you have to send an email with your resume and cover letter, what do you say in the actual body of your email?
A: Technology has certainly changed the job application process. Very often candidates are required to complete an online application. Or an applicant must submit a resume and cover letter via email.
Sometimes a job posting or advertisement will direct you what to include in a subject line. It might be a job number or the title of the job. If no specific instructions are given, I suggest referring to both the job title and your full name (e.g., Credit Analyst – Jane Anne Smith). What is critically important is to follow the company’s instructions. If the company has requested that documents be sent in a certain format, send them that way. If the company has requested all resumes and cover letters be submitted by a deadline, email your information before the deadline.
There are two different approaches with submitting a resume and cover letter via email. With the first approach, you can cut and paste your actual cover letter into the body of the email. This can be helpful to the interviewer since they will have to click and open fewer attachments. However, some employers (especially more formal companies) will view this negatively. A company may not consider this a “real” cover letter. Sometimes when your cover letter is embedded in the body of an email, the formatting is not ideal and then the printed version is less than attractive. If you choose to cut and paste your cover letter in the body of the email, it should still be professionally written and free of errors. This approach is probably acceptable when applying for many positions, especially for smaller, entrepreneurial companies or when a company does not request a cover letter.
The other option is to attach both a cover letter and a resume as separate documents to your email. This requires a bit more work for the receiver but it fully complies with a company’s request to submit both a resume and a cover letter. If the receiver plans to print the documents, there will likely be fewer formatting problems and both documents will appear more polished in printed form. The “two attachment” approach is probably best for senior-level positions or when applying to larger, more formal companies or when a company specifically requests a cover letter. In the body of the email, you can explain what documents are attached and also highlight any special qualifications or differentiators about your background. It is also a good idea to reiterate your contact information.
One tip that is a simple yet often overlooked detail is the title of an emailed resume. Use your first and last name rather than “resume2011” or something similar. It makes you easier to find.
Lastly, make sure that your email address is appropriate and professional. Ditch the racy email addresses. These type of email addresses send a message and not a good one.
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- Be sure to include a meaningful subject line;
- Just like a written business letter, be sure to use address your audience with the proper formality.
- Begin your email with a salutation, or greeting:
- Dear Dr. Jones, or
- Ms. Smith:
- Use standard spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
- Do not use text language
- THERE'S NOTHING WORSE THAN AN EMAIL SCREAMING A MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS.
- Do not, under any circumstance, use emoticons:
- It is forbidden to use anything like J or L
- Write clear, short paragraphs and be direct and to the point.
- Employers see their email accounts as business. Don't write unnecessarily long emails or otherwise waste the employer's time
- Be friendly and cordial, but don't try to joke around
- witty remarks may be uncalled for and, more commonly, may not come off appropriately in email
- Include your cover letter and resume as instructed by the employer
- As separate attachments, or
- As pasted into the body of your email
Make sure you list the position you are applying for in the subject line of your email address, so the employer is clear as to what job you are applying for. This helps clarify what your message is about and may also help the employer prioritize reading your email.Be sure to include the job code if one was given in the job posting.
Here is an example:
Formal (Written to an unknown audience):
I am applying for the customer service associate position advertised in the Denver Post. I am an excellent candidate for the job because of my significant retail experience, my good language skills, and my sense of courtesy and respect. I have attached a cover letter and a resume as you requested in your job posting.
Hi!!!!!! J I like read that u was lookin for a associate or whatever. I think that i’m good for that job cuz i've done stuff like that b4, am good with words, and am good at not disrespectin people and stuff. Text me if u want 2 c my rez. Thx!!!! J
Emailing a cover letter
There are two main ways employers like to receive resumes and cover letters:
- pasted into the body of an email and
- as separate attachments
Sending separate attachments
Unless an employer specifically asks for you to include your cover letter and your resume in the body of your email, send them as separate email attachments.You should always write a real cover letter and attach it to the email. Your letter may be passed around from one manager to the next, and a printed or photocopied email used in that situation looks unprofessional; it looks as if you didn't bother to write a letter.
Send your cover letter and resume as separate PDFs or separate Word documents, because those two forms of electronic documents are the most common.
Pasting a cover letter and resume in the body of an email
Some employers do not accept email attachments. In these cases, paste your resume into your email message. Use a simple font and remove the fancy formatting. Don't use HTML. You don't know what email program the employer is using, so keep your message simple, because the employer may not see a formatted message the same way you do.
But how, then, should you use the email?
Your email should give enough information about you and about the goal of your communication so that you could be contacted – even without the attachments.
- Always use an informative signature when you apply for a job. Use a signature that is informative.Include your name, address, phone, and a professional looking email address.
I am a recent graduate of McLain Community High School applying for a customer service position with your store. I have attached the resume, cover letter and transcript that you requested to this email. If you have questions or need more information, you may reach me through the phone number or email below.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Send the message to yourself first to test that the formatting works. If everything looks good, resend to the employer.
Double Check Your Letter
Make sure you spell check and check your grammar and capitalization. They are just as important in an email cover letter as in paper cover letters.
What sorts of information shouldn't be sent via email?
Most people do not realize that email is not as private as it may seem. Without additional setup, email is not encrypted; meaning that your email is "open" and could possibly be read by an unintended person as it is sent to your reader. With that in mind, never send the following information over email:
- Usernames and passwords
- Credit card or other account information
Additionally, avoid sensitive information, complaints, or gossip that could be potentially damaging to someone's career and/or reputation, including your own. Beyond email's general lack of security and confidentiality, your recipient can always accidentally hit the Forward button, leave her email account open on a computer, or print and forget that she's printed a copy of your email.