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How to Attract Employers With Your Email Cover Letter

When was the last time that you printed out your resume and cover letter and put it in the mail?  If you are like most job seekers, it might have been a while ago.  The truth is that these days most job search activities take place online.  While an email cover letter is similar to a traditional one, there are some differences.  Here are some tips that will make your email cover letter more effective:

Be strategic with your subject line:  Try to picture the hiring manager’s inbox.  Imagine that long list of emails displaying the sender names and subject lines.  If the employer doesn’t know your name, the best way to grab their attention is through your subject line.  Be direct and specific about the position that you are seeking.  An example could be, “CHRP Professional Seeks HR Coordinator Position”.

Cut to the chase.  Cover letters always need to be brief but email cover letters have to be even shorter.  If possible, keep it to 150 words and never let it go longer than 200 words.  Use the first paragraph to introduce yourself and the purpose of the email (to apply for the HR Coordinator position).  Use the second paragraph to briefly introduce your skills as they relate to the role.  Use the third paragraph to outline next steps (your contact information and when you will follow up).  Keep your letter focused and make every sentence short and sweet.

Follow directions.  Often for online applications, employers will have a multitude of very specific requirements.  This could include reference numbers, salary expectations, requirements on resume or cover letter format, or anything else that specifies how they would like to receive your information.  If the employer has taken the time to communicate a requirement, it is important that you, as an applicant, respect it.  Otherwise, your resume may not even be considered.

Use keywords.  You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again; it is absolutely essential to use keywords strategically on your resume and cover letter.  When you are applying by email, it is even more important.  Since employers often use applicant tracking systems to screen online applications, the resumes and cover letters that effectively use keywords will always be more visible than the ones that don’t.

Show your personality.  When reviewing online applications, it can be hard to imagine the person behind the resume.  Your cover letter can help you to overcome that barrier.  Use first person pronouns in your cover letter.  Keep it professional, but when you are writing it, imagine that you are actually talking to the hiring manager.  A well-written cover letter can make you stand out from the crowd.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at