The job posting says "Send resume and cover letter." So, should you send your cover letter as an attachment or copy and paste it into the body of your email?
I asked two resume writers on my team, Beth Brown and Sharlene Silva, what they recommend. Here's the "best of the best" of their tips.
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Sending Your Cover Letter as an Email Attachment
Having a separate, attached cover letter suggests that the resume and cover letter are coming from a professional who should be taken seriously as a job candidate. There are, however, cases when it's best not to send an attached cover letter.
If the job posting asks for both a cover letter and resume, that's a strong hint that the employer or recruiter wants both documents sent as attachments. That way they can enter them into their Applicant Tracking System (ATS), scan them for keywords, and print them out for job interviews.
Sending your cover letter as an attachment is an opportunity to make a professional impression. Your resume and cover letter will likely be given (either electronically or as print-outs) to others involved in the interview/hiring process. By using the same letterhead and style/font for both attached documents, you can create a complete "job search package" and provide a consistent "brand identity" to your readers. That's an opportunity you would miss if you didn't attach your cover letter since a print-out of a cover email would look unprofessional and might lack formatting such as your letter head, font choice, bullet points, and other features that sometimes get lost in email transmissions.
Here are a few tips for your cover letter attachment:
- Follow the employer’s instructions regarding what file type to use (MS Word or PDF), which are usually found in the job posting. By following these instructions exactly, you'll ensure that your resume and letter can be opened, read, and processed successfully by the employer.
- Create similar file names for your resume and cover letter attachments. Start both of the file names with your name, written exactly alike for both. That way, when the two get placed alphabetically in a folder on the employer's hard drive, your resume and cover letter will be right next to each other because both of your documents start with the same two words: your first and last names.
- Write a short email message to introduce your attached resume and cover letter. For guidelines on writing a good cover email, see my article 6 Email Cover Letter Tips to Make a Good First Impression, which includes how to write a good email subject line.
- Run an email test. Send the documents to yourself and to someone else you know to make sure the formatting holds and you have sent the correct documents. It's helpful if the other person has a different email system than you have (for example, if you're on gmail and your friend has a yahoo account) since the two email systems may handle your document transfer differently.
When to Copy and Paste the Cover Letter into the Email
There are times when it makes sense to copy and paste your cover letter into the email message. For example, if:
- The job posting states “No attachments,” copy and paste your cover letter and resume into the body of the email.
- Your cover letter is not a long one (roughly 300 words or less), you might copy and paste it into the email message AND attach it to the email.
You can learn more about Beth, Sharlene, and the rest of my Job Search Team by clicking on "Personal Help" in the footer of this page.
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Tips and Samples for Sending Email Cover Letters
How to Send an Email Cover Letter and Resume
An email cover letter is a document sent with your resume to provide additional information on your expertise. It is written to provide information on why you are qualified for the job you are applying for and to explain the reasons for your interest in the company.
When you're sending an email cover letter, it's important to follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your cover letter and resume.
You need to make sure that your email cover letters are written as well as any other correspondence you send.
Even though it's quick and easy to send an email, it doesn't mean that you should write anything less than a detailed cover letter focused on why you are a good match for the job you are applying for.
Tips for Sending Email Cover Letters
1. Sending Email Cover Letters as Attachments
- If the job posting says to include your cover letter and resume as an attachment, attach Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF files to your email message. Here's a step-by-step guide to sending your resume and cover letter as an attachment.
- Save the files with your name, so they don't get mixed up with other applicant's materials i.e. alisondoyleresume.doc, alisondoylecover.doc.
2. Sending Email Cover Letters Without Attachments
- Some employers do not accept 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 client the employer is using, so, simple is best because the employer may not see a formatted message the same way you do.
3. Don't Forget the Details for Your Email Cover Letter
- How to Address an Email Cover Letter: Here's how to address a cover letter sent in an email message including what to use when you have a contact person and how to address it if you don't.
- The Subject Line of Your Message: 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. For example: Subject: Alison Doyle, Social Media Manager Position.
- Include Your Signature: Include a signature with your contact information, including name, address, email address, and telephone number so it's easy for the hiring manager to get in touch with you.
4. Double-Check Your Letter for Spelling and Grammar
Make sure you spellcheck and check your grammar and capitalization. They are just as important in an email cover letter as in paper cover letters.
5. Send a Test Message to Yourself
Send the message to yourself first to test that the formatting and attachments work. If everything looks good, resend to the employer.
Sample Email Cover Letter
Subject: Administrative Assistant/Receptionist – Roger Smith
Dear Ms. Cole,
I was excited to see your listing for the position of administrative assistant/receptionist at ABC Market Corp. I believe that my five years of experience in office administration and my passion for your products make me an ideal candidate for this role.
You specify that you’re looking for an administrative assistant with experience scheduling appointments, maintaining records, ordering supplies, and greeting customers.
I’m currently employed as an administrative assistance at XYZ company, where I have spent the past five years honing these skills.
I’m adept at using all the usual administrative and collaboration software packages, from Microsoft Office and SharePoint to Google Docs and Drive. I’m a fast learner, and flexible, while always maintaining the good cheer that you’d want from the first person visitors see when they interact with the company.
I have attached my resume, and will call within the next week to see if we might arrange a time to speak.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration.