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How to E-mail Your Cover Letter

At a recent career fair, I spoke with an HR professional who reads loads of resumes every day. He made this plea to me: "Please tell people that just because they're sending resumes by email doesn't mean they can get away with a poor cover letter, or no cover letter at all."

So don't cut corners. Here are five ways to make sure your email cover letters deliver a powerful impact when sent with your resume.

  1. Avoid character assassination

    Email is quirky. Bullets, underlines, bold or italic characters won't show up correctly when you paste them from a word processing document into an email message.

    Avoid this problem by first saving your cover letter in plain text format (ASCII). Then replace special characters with ASCII-friendly ones, like these: dashes (-), asterisks (*) and arrows (>).

  2. Caution! Wide load

    If your cover letter is too wide, it may produce strange line breaks on the reader's screen, which can hurt readability.

    Solution? Set the width of your cover letter to about 4-3/4", or less than 80 characters wide.

  3. Follow the right order

    When sending your cover letter and resume in an email message, your cover letter should come first and your resume second. For easier reading, include a line that clearly separates the two documents, like this:

    ==== END COVER LETTER ====

  4. Get personal

    If you know someone influential at your target company, say so! This can help establish a rapport between you and your reader.

    Here's an example cover letter beginning that can do this:

    "Dear Employer (insert name if known),

    "George Best suggested I contact you regarding your possible need for ..."

  5. Enthusiasm sells

    Don't go overboard and tell readers that you're a stockholder, for instance. But do try to convey your desire to work for the company. If you feel strongly that the position you're after is a perfect match to your skills and experience, say so!

Following these five tips will help ensure that your email cover letters get the attention they deserve.

-Kevin Donlin

Kevin Donlin owns and operates Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1996, he and his writers have provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients in 50 states and 6 continents. Kevin's articles have appeared in the National Business Employment Weekly, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twin Cities Employment Weekly and others. Reach him at the Guaranteed Resumes Web site -