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How to Write an E-Mail Cover Letter

More and more employers are asking job applicants to reply by e-mail. Here's how to make the best first impression

Dear Liz,

If you send your cover letter and r?sum? to an employer via e-mail, is it best to write an e-mail message and attach your cover letter and r?sum? documents to it? Or should you skip the cover-letter attachment, and make the e-mail message itself your cover letter?



Dear Dawn,

Skip the cover-letter attachment, and turn your e-mail message into a cover letter. A great cover letter shares a bit of your background but mostly talks about the company's need (for a marketing research manager, an actuary, or whatever) and describes why your experience is perfectly suited to the opportunity. One paragraph is the perfect length. Here's an example:

Dear Amy Smith (use to find the HR manager's real name),

I saw your posting on Craigslist for a marketing research manager, and wanted to reply right away. With your recent acquisition of XYZ Corporation, I imagine that understanding the needs of your new customers, integrating product lines across the two companies, and refining your product and service offerings are major priorities.

My seven years of marketing research experience at QRP Industries has given me a terrific background in survey, focus group, and a wide range of other research approaches and a great feel for client needs and concerns. I'd love to chat with you about the opportunity at your convenience; my r?sum? is attached.

Sincerely yours,

(Your Name)

Make sure that your r?sum? is a clean Word document that won't be garbled as an e-mail attachment, and use your professional e-mail account (not to send your message. If you do your research (via the company's own Web site, Google, and LinkedIn) and still can't find the HR manager or hiring manager's name, write to Hiring Executive, and send your message to the company's general r?sum?-intake e-mail address. If you have to send your message into the void, send a hard copy to the company's HR chief (that person is certain to be identified on the company's Web site) and the functional chief of whatever area you're interested in—in this case, marketing— as well.



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Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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