Back in the day, people used to craft cover letters with a typewriter (good times!), agonizing over both the content and format. If your typewriter didn’t have one of those corrective ribbons, you would open a bottle of whiteout, refrain from sniffing the fumes for too long, and fix those glaring typographical errors. Then word processors and computers came along, changing the entire experience of writing communicative missives.
But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook regarding proper composition of your emails, whether wordy, witty, or whiny. Especially when you’re emailing a resume or following up with a new networking friend, your cover letter should proclaim, “I am a well-written professional.” Not sure how to achieve this state of online nirvana? Here are some suggestions:
Don’t Be Cavalier with Your Subject Line – Work It: This is the first snippet of copy your intended recipient will read, so make it worth their while. Don’t be informal (Subject: Hi), don’t be mysterious (Subject: ), and don’t be sloppy (Subject: her’s my resume 4 ur reveiw). Provide a solid reference point regarding why you’re contacting the person, but don’t get too long-winded (i.e., don’t go past 50 characters)! Here’s a suitable one – “Subject: Follow-up from [your name], 4/24 CBA lunch.” For more help with job search email subject lines, check out this advice from Alison Doyle of About.com.
Introductions Are a Must, Even Online: Your introductory paragraph should be brief yet strong so your reader is compelled to continue reading. For resume cover letters, plainly state why you’re answering a specific job posting or reaching out to a hard-earned job search referral. For networking/business meeting follow-ups, gently remind your acquaintance what a pleasure it was speaking with them. And, if you care to, say something witty or clever about your recent (nonalcoholic or alcoholic-induced) conversation. Two or three tight sentences here should do it…
Sandwich the Important Stuff in the Middle (hold the mayo…): The middle paragraph is your opportunity to hit them with your dizzying intellect (Any other ‘Princess Bride’ fans lurking about?). So, if you’re a job seeker, select some tasty accomplishment tidbits and inch yourself closer to being a good fit as an interview candidate. If following up from a “warm” networking session or other business event, let your new friend know more about you and your business that wasn’t discussed in person. Just don’t overload this paragraph with your entire history, or there won’t be a reason for the recipient to speak with you again!
Close by Showing Interest in Others and Making a Call-to-Action: Yes, you initiated this email missive and so the focus is somewhat “you-centric,” but it’s always a good idea to put your Dale Carnegie skills to work at the end of any cover letter. State interest in a prospective employer by mentioning articles, blog posts, or white papers you’ve read highlighting their company or industry. Let your networking friend know you’d like to learn more about their professional needs or target market(s). Your final sentence should be a direct proposition (the business kind!) requesting either an interview or a one-on-one coffee/tea/beverage of your choice meeting. Don’t forget to include your contact information and/or a succinct email signature. And of course, use full sentences with proper punctuation – no LOLs, ROFLs, or CUL8Rs…
What are your suggestions regarding email cover letters? Are there certain nuances or touches you add to distinguish yourself from the madding crowd? I welcome and appreciate your comments, so don’t hesitate. As always, thank you for visiting the By All Writes Moonlight Blog!