"I do cover letters for jobs I really want," Dash says. "For ones I don't care about, I just spam them."
According to recruiting experts, Dash is doing the right thing by
writing extensive e-mail cover letters. Even though cover letters came
of age in the age of pen and paper (or typewriter and paper), they
still have a place in the 21st century, when want ads, resumes, and
interviews all fly over virtual networks.
"It's going over the Internet, but it's the same product," Madeline
Miller, the manager of Compu-Type Nationwide Resume Service in upstate
New York, said of e-mail cover letters. "The cover is very important
and it should be the same quality if you were to mail it."
Since e-mail messages generally tend to be conversational and
quickly written, many people aren't used to drafting carefully written
e-mail cover letters. But Miller said any applicant who creates a
fully-fleshed e-mailed cover letter has an advantage over an applicant
with a more slapdash cover letter.
"There is a tendency to jot off a few lines, and people might write,
"I'm applying for this job, here is my resume," Miller said. "But if
there is a cover letter, that could put somebody over the top."
But at the same time, make sure your e-mailed cover letter isn't a
chore to read. If brevity is a virtue with conventional cover letters,
it's a necessity for e-mailed cover letters.
Reesa Staten, the research director for OfficeTeam, a staffing service
firm, says e-mailed cover letters shouldn't run more than two or three
"You want to include the same type of information, albeit in a
shorter version," Staten said. "What you don't want to do is rehash
your resume. There's no need to restate what you've done in the past.
What you want to do is tell them where you learned about the listing,
why you're right for the job, and how they can reach you."
If you really want the job, follow up an e-mailed cover letter and
resume with a hard copy you mail. Make sure this hard copy includes a
cover letter, too, that restates who you are and why you're qualified.
Somewhere in the cover letter, be sure to write, "I recently e-mailed
you my resume and I'm following up with this hard copy."
Why should you do this? A hard copy gives your resume another chance
for exposure and makes it easier for a potential boss to pass around or
file your cover letter and resume. In cases where your e-mailed cover
letter and resume have been overlooked in someone's in-box or rendered
inaccessible by a computer glitch, a hard copy may be your only chance
If you're including a resume as an attachment, first make sure the
prospective employer accepts attachments. Then, in your cover letter,
mention the program you used to create your attachment. ("I've enclosed
a cover letter written in Microsoft Word 2000.") It's also a good idea
to include a cut and paste text version of your resume in addition, in
case the person reading the resume doesn't have the software to open
With any resume file you're attaching, open it first to make sure
it's updated, error free, and the version of your resume you want to
send. Sending a virus is tantamount to sealing your job-doom.
Save a copy of whatever you send by including your own e-mail
address in the "BCC" field or by making sure a copy goes to your "Sent
mail" folder. This allows you to resend the letter if a problem pops up.
Lastly, don't fill in the "to" field with the recipient's e-mail
address until you've finished writing and editing the cover letter and
resume. This prevents you from accidentally sending off the message
before it's ready.
Want more expert resume and cover letter advice? Read the Vault Guide to Resumes and Cover Letters .