The Art of the Emailed Cover Letter


I am particularly pleased to present this article.  It is intended to not only guide you through the process of sending an email cover letter, but also to compel you to be original — to explore a new idea. I’ve got to tell all you job seekers — I kind of feel sorry for you. The Internet is chock full of cover letter samples and expert advice (so-called) but it’s all the same, and in many cases, it’s just plain wrong.  Well, maybe not wrong, at least not critically so, but certainly not helpful to today’s job-seekers.

There is no originality in most of the cover letter samples and expert advice I have found online, and that is too bad for those who turn to those samples and advice to guide them in creating a decent cover letter. But take heart! Later in this article I discuss how to come up with your own originality, how to stand out a little bit among the throngs of emails recruiters receive for a single job opening. But first, let’s look at the mechanics of formatting and sending the email cover letter.

It seems a minor topic to devote an entire post to — I mean, what’s so hard about about copying your cover letter and pasting it into an email?  Well, it’s not hard, but have you ever noticed that when you do that the formatting goes all whacky?  How your cover letter looks in MS word is not necessarily how it will look in the body of an email, and moreover, how it will look on the recipient’s end. Presenting your cover letter in the body of an email is a good idea only if it is done correctly and with attention to detail. That’s critical because, as the saying goes: “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.  So, give your email cover letter a fighting chance to get read. The competition for a single job is so wickedly fierce, job-seekers need to impress recruiters right at their first encounter, which is your email cover letter. So, it needs to be properly presented, and, it needs to be original.  Following is a little insight into just one of the many reasons why you must find little ways to stand out.

Sometimes cover letters are never even looked at.  Sad but true.  After all your hard work, it may get passed over because many recruiters can’t be bothered reading the same crap over and over.  “I am excited to apply for…”, “I would be an asset to…”, “I’ve been looking for an opportunity…”, etc.  And who could blame them?  — it’s mind-numbing. So don’t write crap that won’t get read. Remember, recruiters get hundreds of emails and the first thing they look for is a reason to “Trash” as many of them as possible.

Today’s article is a guide to formatting and sending your cover letter in an email.  If you need guidance on writing a fabulous cover letter, head over to the website to get my contact info and I’ll be happy to help you create a kick-ass resume. Okay, let’s get started.

First, Open Notepad

Notepad is an editor that is built into Windows.  If you’ve never used it before and don’t know where to find it, simply click on the Windows Start button and type: Notepad. Open Notepad and paste your cover letter into it.  Notice all of your document’s formatting will be removed and it will look something like this:


Notepad converts your document to plain text, removing all of the formatting you applied when you wrote the cover letter in whatever word processor you used.  The reason we do this is to “strip” the document clean because the formatting we apply in a rich text document does not adapt perfectly to all email clients.  Meaning your cover letter could end up looking ridiculous when it is opened by the recipient. One of the most common formatting problems that occurs when a document is copied and pasted straight from Word into the body of an email is the spacing.  The line spacing is too much and the paragraph spacing is way too much and no recruiter in the world is going to sit there scrolling down and down and down to try to read a cover letter.  They are going to “Trash” it.

The second you paste your document into Notepad the formatting is immediately removed; there is nothing you need to do but simply highlight and copy the plain text from Notepad into the body of the email you will be sending.

CAUTION: Do not type the recipient’s email address into the Recipient field of the email yet.  This is the very last thing you’ll do before sending the email.  The reason for this is to prevent inadvertently sending an uncompleted email.  Believe me, accidental clicks of the mouse or a clumsy keystroke combo happen all the time!

Then, Reformat Your Cover Letter

Since you stripped your cover letter of its formatting you will need to reformat it in the body of the email. What the hell? Why did we unformat it just to reformat it?  Well, you can’t send it looking the way it is — no one will read it. So use your email’s formatting options to make your cover letter presentable.  A note of caution though: don’t get fancy with the formatting options you have, keep it simple.  All you have to do is set up your paragraphs, and ideally, there should be no more than three.  Make sure the font is no less than a 10 point and no more than 12. The font color should be a dark grey, and the font itself should be a serif, something like Trebuchet MS or Verdana. Absolutely no backgrounds!  A clean, white background is what is expected and so much as a little flower emoji next to your name could get your email trashed.

Now, look at your cover letter.  Does it contain everything it should?

  • Opening Salutation: Dear Mr. Brown,
  • The Reference Line:  RE: Executive Assistant or Competition # J12345
  • The Cover Letter Body:  No more than three paragraphs appropriately spaced
  • Closing Salutation: Yours truly, Sincerely, or, Cordially, then your full name
  • Your Contact Info: Name, address, email, LinkedIn url, and phone number, in that order

Pay attention when you add content to your cover letter in the body of the email.  Make certain you use the same font, size, and color.

Have a look at the example at the top of this page.  This is what your emailed cover letter should look like. Note there is no date. It is not necessary to include the date in an email cover letter.

Now, Make it Easy for Them to Like You

This is where you need to get original.  After spending way too many hours searching online for expert advise and/or email cover letter samples that did not close with “Resume attached”, I realized I had an opportunity to share some of the original ideas I’ve come up with, and used, in email cover letters.

Originality: a new idea.  Instead of “Resume Attached”, how about something like:

It is not necessary to print this email as I have included a copy of my cover letter with my resume for your convenience.

Now I like that!  And so do busy recruiters, hiring managers, and employers who have the unenviable task of filtering through hundreds of emails. Letting them know they don’t need to *print your email saves their time and resources, and likely gets it filed in the Short List folder.  Make it easy for them to like you by showing them you are considerate of their time, resources, and the environment. (*Many companies print as little as possible in the interest of the environment, but there are still plenty who do print.  Also, often there is more than one person reviewing resumes so emails get forwarded two or three times from the original recipient.  It will be greatly appreciated by all to know they don’t need to print the email.)

Be considerate of their intelligence as well. Don’t tell them what they already know. They can see you’ve attached your resume, they expected you to attach your resume — don’t exacerbate them by announcing you attached your resume.

Definitely thank the recruiter for her time but never tell her you are going to call her! I saw that closing comment a lot when I was reviewing sample cover letters and reading other experts blogs, and I am flabbergasted that so many employment consultants and cover letter-writing experts (so-called) still think this is acceptable.  It absolutely is not.  This isn’t the 90s.  We don’t call up recruiters or employers unless they have explicitly invited us to do so in the job posting, and I know, unequivocally, that less than 5% of recruiters invite applicants to call them. Closing your email cover letter with that comment will almost definitely get your email sent to the Reject folder. So, instead of “I will call you….”, try something like:

“Thank you for your time today. You are most welcome to call me at your convenience and I look forward to that occasion.”

That comment screams respect! It tells her you will be available to talk with her whenever she has time to call you.  I am willing to promise that if you close your email cover letter with this comment, or something similar, the recruiter will instantly like you and short-list your email.

Okay.  On to the attachment.

Attach Your PDF Cover Letter/Resume Combo

I have always advised combining your cover letter and resume in a single document as is evidenced in the closing comment: … I have included a copy of my cover letter with my resume for your convenience. (If you haven’t read my earlier post Why You Must Send-out Your Resume as  PDF and How to Do It, please do!) Recruiters are accustomed to seeing two, or sometimes three, attachments and each one is titled; Resume, Cover Letter, and sometimes, References.  (Recruiters rarely, if ever, ask for references to be submitted along with the resume so DO NOT send references unsolicited). But do let them know your single attachment contains both your cover letter and your resume.

Be sure to title your attachment clearly.

Cover Letter and Resume for Executive Assistant Mary Smith

Depending on the recipient’s email client perhaps only the first few words of the attachment title will be visible to them.  That’s okay because you will type that exact title in the Subject line of your email, unless there is a competition number.  It’s always great when there is a competition number. You title your attachment with it and you put in the Subject line — done.  However, when there is no competition number, or any instruction given regarding what to put in the Subject line, ensure you identify the name of the position before your name because that’s what is important to the recruiter. Often times the recruiter receives emails for more than one job posting so you must be clear about which job you are applying for.

Once you have attached your resume go the BCC line of the email and type your own email address in it. This is critical.  You’ll want to keep track of who you have sent emails to. Make yourself a folder in your email account called Resumes Sent and transfer all of the email copies to that folder. That way you have all of the job-search emails you send out in a folder of their own for quick reference.

Is your email address kooky?  Like  Cute, but deadly to your job-hunt.  Create a new email account that displays your actual name, or as close to it as possible.  Try using your middle initial or a dot. If that doesn’t work add a number at the end of your name but not the year of your birth, or your age, or 911.  Keep it mature and professional.  I would go so far as adding your profession to the end of your name such as: marysmithexecassistant. If your email client lets you use dots, do this: mary.smith.execassistant.

Now you’re ready to put the recipient’s email address in the Recipient field. Do not type it. Copy and paste the recipient’s email address into the recipient field to ensure no mistakes are made.  Just because an email doesn’t bounce back to you doesn’t mean it went to its intended recipient. If you type instead of, and that company has a Tim and a Tom, well, Tom gets your email, or his junk folder gets it. Either way, Tim didn’t get it and you don’t get the job.

So, I think that about covers it.  To summarize:

  • use Notepad to deformat your cover letter
  • reformat it in the body of the email
  • be original; use a meaningful and impressive closing sentence
  • title your attachment clearly
  • use the same title in the Subject line
  • send a copy of the email to yourself using BCC
  • use an appropriate email address
  • copy and paste recipient’s email address

Alright all you job-seekers, there it is for today. Remember, since I am an expert resume-writer I can develop your resume and cover letter for you, so don’t stress! Believe me, there is no shame in getting a professional to write such an important document for you. And, as always, I want your feedback and comments so I can make this blog really useful and helpful to all job-seekers.

Thanks for your time today!


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