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Learn how to write an email cover letter

Applying for a new job is both exciting and stressful. The reason it causes so much stress is that there is just too much at stake if you get it wrong. Another problem is that just as you get one job searching task sorted out such as creating your curriculum vitae, another task pops up that can simply just make it all feel too much. One of those tasks is usually the email cover letter and it can be very tempting to decide that writing something along the lines of “my cv is attached” will be enough. Unfortunately, it isn’t. A cover letter is an extremely important part of your job application. It has to be right.

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It is actually even more important for an email cover letter to be right than a traditional cover letter. When you send a traditional letter, it is solid and so the chances of it being misplaced are small. However, with an email cover letter, you have to ensure that you get the subject line right or your email cover letter may get deleted without being opened. This means that the subject line of your email cover letter always must state your name, the job you are applying for and the job reference number, if there is one. If you fail to do this, the reader may assume that you are a sales person trying to sell them something and that is why you could get deleted prematurely.

Okay, so you’ve filled in your subject line correctly and your cover letter has been opened. At this stage, you may still be tempted to write a few throw away lines suggesting that the recruiter reads your curriculum vitae. Sadly, at this point, your cover letter would probably get deleted. Recruitment is competitive to the extent that if you don’t write an outstanding cover letter that makes the reader think that you would fit in, you won’t stand a chance. It gets worse, if you imagine that the recruiter will sit and slowly read through every word that you have written, they don’t. They skim read at first glance to pick out if you are worthwhile or not. In essence, you have probably ten seconds to impress them. Can you now see why your cover letter has to highlight you as the very best candidate that you can be?

The most important part of your email cover letter is the main body. If you have always thought of letters as dreary objects, think again. Imagine that is it an advertisement selling your services. The trick then is to marry up the job criteria with your qualifications and experience. For instance, if you wish to apply for a visitor and sales assistant post at a museum, the job would require that you could:

  • Greet visitors enthusiastically.
  • Have deep background knowledge of the collections in the museum.
  • Be able to talk professionally about the various collections in the museum.
  • Promote the products on sale that are connected to the collections.
  • Close the sale with visitors.
  • Reach sales targets.

In the main body of your email cover letter, you would create bullet points to match up with the job criteria whilst at the same time highlighting the relevant qualifications or experience. For example:

  • During the three years that I have spent working freelance for the Busy Bee Promotional Company, I have enjoyed greeting guests at public relation events.
  • I particularly enjoyed studying Ancient History at A level where I gained an A*. I have a special interest in both the Roman and Greek eras.
  • For the past year I have been a volunteer at Raven House where I regularly give talks on the history of the Raven family that have lived in the house for the last five hundred years.
  • For the last three years, my freelance work has given me a varied experience in sales. I have twice won sales person of the week for my ability to close deals on both household items and cosmetics.
  • I have attended six training courses with various in house companies in the past five years that focus on different selling techniques.

Can you see how all the job criteria has been matched so that although the applicant’s cv hasn’t been looked at yet, the email cover letter manages to suggest that this person fits the role perfectly?

When we send an email it is extremely alluring to believe that we don’t have to stick to all the formatting that goes with the traditional letter. Unfortunately, when you are applying for a job, you do. If there is one object that puts a recruiter off and it’s a badly written letter. The point is that the reader will consider that if you can’t be bothered to write a decent letter, goodness knows what the standard of your work must be.

  • Put your name and address on the right hand side.
  • Leave a line and then put the date on the left hand side.
  • Leave another line and add the name of the person you are addressing and their business address.
  • Leave two spaces and write ‘Dear Mrs Winterbottom’. If you haven’t got the recruiter’s name, address them as ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.
  • Leave two lines and then fill in the main body of your letter. Advise the person that you are writing to which job you are applying for and then suggest that you will be suitable for it because: put in your bullet points that fit the job criteria.
  • Thank them for their time and attention and then close the letter with “Yours sincerely’ if you addressed them by name. However, if you wrote “Dear Sir or Madam’, you would close your letter with “Yours faithfully.’

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