How you can create e-mail cover letters that WORK!

How you can create e-mail cover letters that WORK!

Email cover letters or e-notes resolve the problem of attaching two documents to an email why also allowing you to create an introduction to your value.

Hung Lee from Wise Man Say had an interesting post on November 29 that caught my eye, “When to write a cover letter (Hint: Never)” I started writing a comment and then realized that I would take up his space with my answer and my readers need to hear the answer too.

One of Hung’s points is this:

We are at total media saturation already. Find me one HR Manager, Recruiter or Hiring Manager that has the time to read two candidate documents in a single email, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t know how to prioritize and in all probability will soon be looking for a job himself. The chances of getting your email opened is already low; it follows that your chances of getting your CV read is likely to be even lower. What chance the extraneous cover letter?

Why using e-mail cover letters could make or break your job search

I think he and I disagree mostly on semantics. But I see a real difference between a cover letter and a resume. The resume, of course, must be value-driven and accomplishment-filled to sell your ability to do the job to the employer. But the basic construction of a resume is not personalized the way a cover letter can be.

You certainly can tailor a resume to showcase exactly how you can solve the company’s pain and improve their bottom-line. But the cover letter used correctly can achieve many things that your resume may not be able to achieve:

  • You networked your way into a position and need to make the connection, the cover letter will let you explain your network connection:

“Bob Jones of XYZ Corporation were chatting the other day and he explained the need you have to resolve your widget production problem…” This little introduction tells the reader that Bob Jones knows you and values your talents. Hard to say that in a resume.

  • You want to explain how you fit the position exactly:

“When you are launching a new software application, you need a Software Test Engineer on your team with extensive expertise in software testing, process management, and optimization. You want to be sure that your product withstands quality assurance testing throughout the process to result in 100% functional coverage of the application and related SMS platform.”

  • You want to explain how you fit their culture because of other interests you may have:

I am not only qualified, but I also am passionate about baking, which makes me a perfect candidate for this position, as my passion for what I do and my experience as a Facility Manager lend a perfect balance to how I would effectively take on this position.

Job search has changed – try e-mail cover letters

  • I advise my clients to paste the cover letter into the body of the e-mail.
  • And “Dear Sir or Madam” is never acceptable anywhere. The job seeker needs to network, research, use LinkedIn expertly, and find contact names. Worst case scenario is Dear Hiring Manager or Dear Human Resources Manager but only after you have done every type of homework to clarify the contact name.
  • Cover letters are also part of many applicant tracking systems (ATS). When you are invited to add a cover letter, having a text version ready to go will push your online application higher if it is tailored to the position and filled with keywords.

I hardly see the cover letter as archaic. Just to make sure I also have the UK perspective, I did a quick check with Christine Livingston from, who previously was a HR Director with a Fortune 500 corporate:

Whether by email or letter – email better these days – you have to see the opportunity to succinctly promote yourself and say why you think you meet the specifications.

You just have to rethink how to use cover letters to make them effective in this increasingly fast-paced and often social media-based job search.You can chime in now!

Land your next role! I can help you win new positions by using my interactive coaching style of resume writing to create your new resume and help you use multiple tools such as LinkedIn to propel you to success in your job search! Learn more here


Do you want to be on the cutting-edge of your career and job search? Read More Posts Like This One!

Photo credit


  1. Gee Backhouse on December 2, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Hi Julie,
    I feel compelled to tell the story of a cover letter I received in the days when I used to hire people. I was looking for someone to fill a technical position who could also express themselves clearly to clients. This one person’s cover letter included that he “could take me to the woods and SHOW me the trees” (as opposed to can’t see the wood for the trees!) and, for me, this was an appropriate and engaging comment. He turned out to be great in the interview and became a valued member of the team. He delivered what he promised and was also fun!
    Thanks, Gee.

    • Julie Walraven on December 2, 2010 at 7:44 am

      Exactly what I mean, Gee! It is so critical to create that connection so you are the one called for the interview. You can’t rely on being selected just because your keywords match. Everyone might not have taken to that comment from your candidate but it worked with you and that’s what counts.

  2. Ed Han on December 2, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Julie, I absolutely agree with you re: cover letters, their importance and that your disagreement is probably semantic.

    I don’t understand why someone would send an e-mail, a perfectly viable form of communication itself, but make a cover letter an attachment–I think Hung is absolutely right about that.

    And job seekers should absolutely know the job search best practice of networking their way into their target employer–that’s absolutely the reason to write a cover letter.

    Of course, ideally you have someone forward/walk a carefully-crafted cover letter & resume to the hiring manager, but that’s neither here nor there…

    • Julie Walraven on December 2, 2010 at 8:00 am

      Yes, that would be a supreme solution… finding a network connection to walk the resume in to the hiring manager and perhaps sing your praises at the same time. Love the tips in your post about LinkedIn Best Practices yesterday!

Resume Design and Job Seeking Tips

Here are Design Resumes' latest articles on job search, resume design, resume writing, and Linkedin optimization articles I've written.

FREE Resume and Job Search Tips by email

Get free tips and strategy direct to your inbox. just add your name and email below. I respect your privacy.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Julie Walraven, Design Resumes

Julie Walraven

Professional Resume Writer

Here are ways I can help you land your dream job.

You may be halfway across the country or the world. When you work with me, we share coffee, laughs, and concerns. This turns the scary job search into creative, consultative writing and learning sessions.