Since so many applications are done via web sites or email these days, the standard cover letter has evolved into a cover email. There are good ways of writing an introduction and ways that will get your application tossed into the recycle bin.
Follow the three W’s – who you are, what you do, why I should read your resume. I want to know your name and job title, what you do, and why you think you are a good fit. That’s it.
Brevity, please. I am a recruiter with a full in box and a busy phone. I want no more than an opening line, a paragraph, and a closing sentence or two. That said, I don’t want a one sentence cover letter either – “Because I’m right person for this role” isn’t going to cut it.
Nothing personal… ever. It’s a hard time for job seekers right now and you aren’t going to gain any favor by talking about your financial woes. If anything, it will make me, as a recruiter, uncomfortable and less likely to respond. And, unless you know me or are a referral from an existing candidate, please leave your spouses or relationships out of the cover.
Use humor very carefully. I love a good giggle, but my tolerance for humor in cover letters is minimal. Dry humor is good. Obvious jokes are bad.
Nothing makes me want to hit the delete key faster than attitude or bravado. Sure, you have 10 years of industry experience and have performed more than a few miracles, but let your resume and your accomplishments speak for themselves.
Proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and please make sure you are addressing the right company and the right role. I can’t tell you how often I get cover emails addressing the wrong person, company or referencing a position I don’t have open. It makes you look sloppy, disorganized, and like you are applying for everything. Not exactly qualities most recruiters are looking for in a candidate.
Please, no cliches. If I had a nickel for every time I read “strong attention to detail, good cross-team collaboration, excellent communication skills, fast learner…”. We assume everyone has those skills and if you don’t, you probably won’t be honest about it anyway.
A good sample email cover for someone with experience:
I have over 15 years of experience including ten on the (product) account at (company). I won several awards for some of the television and print ads and wrote the (product’s) hugely successful theme-line: (theme-line). I also designed and art directed (product’s) brochures for four years. Before that I worked at (company) on a wide variety of retail accounts as Creative Director, primarily focusing on television.
A good sample cover for a candidate with less experience:
My skill set includes complete proficiency in Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver and (X)HTML with a focus on web design. As my portfolio demonstrates, I have completed several freelance projects for a variety of small clients and am excited to expand my experience into the corporate realm. This would be an exceptional opportunity for me to continue to grow as a designer and, in return, I will bring a lot of enthusiasm, energy, and creativity to the team. Thank you for your consideration!