An email cover letter is your first opportunity to make an impression with a potential employer. Here are some tips on how to format and craft an email cover letter.
Use a Creative Subject Line
The application process may stipulate what you're required to put in the subject line. If there's no requirement, try to catch their attention right away. Here's an example: "Experienced IT Professional: Available to Start Immediately."
Find Out Who You're Talking To
Before you start your cover letter, make a phone call to the company that's offering the job. Ask to confirm the name of the supervisor who's hiring for the position. A "Dear Sir" or "To Whom It May Concern" opening can be a kiss of death on a cover letter. Find out the person's name so the salutation can read, "Dear Mr. Smith".
Introduce yourself and explain what job you're applying for. Let them know where you saw or heard about the job listing. If a contact with the company or someone who knows the hiring manager referred you to the job, let them know this in the opening paragraph.
Work Experience and Education
The next paragraph should include a brief synopsis of your work history. Highlight your most relevant work experience, as well as your current or most recent employment. If you've worked in a related industry or for a competitor's company, include that information. Also, let them know how many years of relevant experience you have, if any. Finally, conclude with a sentence about your education and training that has prepared you for the job. If you have any relevant work samples online, you could include links here. Keep this paragraph brief, because most of the relevant points will be on your resume.
Why You're the Right Candidate
The purpose of the entire email cover letter is to sell yourself as the best possible candidate for the job. Explain why you love the industry, what your future plans are, how the company could benefit from having you as an employee and why you think you can help the company succeed.
Let the prospective employer know when you're available to start. Let them know how to access your resume, whether it's as an attachment to the email or a link to an online resume. Your closing paragraph should encourage the employer to take an action. Hopefully they're excited at the prospect of meeting or hiring you at this point, so try to give them a little nudge. Let them know what hours you're available for an interview. Encourage them to call or email you, and let them know that you look forward to hearing from them soon. Ask them how soon they expect to fill the position, because this can elicit a response from them.
Wrap It Up
Close with "Sincerely," type out your first and last name, and then type your contact information below that. Include your phone number(s), email address and your web page (if applicable).
Once you've written an email cover letter, paste it in a word processor and double check it for spelling and grammar errors. Read it out loud to listen for any awkward phrases. If a week goes by after you've sent it out, it's appropriate to send a follow-up email to make sure they received your materials.
The format for an email cover letter is basically the same as a printed one, with a few minor changes. Remember that the main idea is to sell yourself to the prospective employer, and don't be afraid to deviate from "traditional" cover letter styles if you think you can make yourself stand out more.
Daphne Mallory, Esq. is the co-owner of Mallory Writing Services and has written more than 100 articles helping home based business owners and entrepreneurs start and market their business. You can learn more about her here.