When you graduated from school, a career councilor may have advised you to attach a cover letter to your resume. But when you are applying for a job online, you might want to rethink that.

Recruiters are always in a rush, skimming applications and resumes as fast as possible, looking for the needle in the haystack. They will only open resume attachments if they think that the job applicant is qualified. So you will have better luck if you give them a reason to open your resume attachment right up front. Don’t make the mistake of hiding your summary of qualifications in an attached cover letter.

If you attach a cover letter to your job application, some recruiters will skip it. That’s why you need to give recruiters a compelling reason to open your resume by putting your summary of qualifications right into the body of your email. This will give you a much better chance of getting them to look at your resume attachment and give you a call.

Do Traditional Cover Letters Work as Well as Email Introductions?

Cover letterNo. Email introductions are usually less formal than a traditional cover letter. Your reader is not going to be impressed by a long introductory sentence.  Recruiters prefer to read a short description of what you’ve got to offer before they dive into your resume. But they are not likely to open another attachment to do so. So give them a reason to open your resume by listing your key skills and most relevant experience right in the body of your application email.

Where’s the Meat?

When a recruiter sees a paragraph like this they skip right past it because it’s too general. It doesn’t give them any real understanding of whether you’re actually qualified for the job:

The position requirements and my skills are a perfect match. As you’ll see on my enclosed resume, I have the educational background, professional experience, and track record for which you are searching. In addition, I am motivated and enthusiastic, and would appreciate the opportunity to contribute to your firm’s success.

Be specific about your skills and experience for the particular job you’re applying for when you write your job application email.

Explain why you’re good match for this specific job

First, make sure to put the job title of the job in the subject line of your email.

Second, include 6 – 10 bullet points about skills and experience you have that are specifically related to the job requirements. For example, here are some points you could include in your application email:

  • I am currently working at ___________ doing ____________
  • I worked on ___________ in _________for ____ months at _____________
  • Number of years or months of hands-on experience in your area of expertise and with the required technologies
  • Experience and training that shows your knowledge of the latest technology in the industry or field
  • Evidence of your passion to learn and to increase your skills
  • Measurable accomplishments and improvements you’ve contributed to projects you’ve been involved with. For example, “I increased ___________ by ___________ which lead to (successful outcome).” Or “I met and exceeded (these objectives) for _____ months in a row.”
  • A link to your website, e-resume portfolio or online examples of your work
  • Awards or special recognition you’ve received for your work

In a Nutshell

You don’t need a formal cover letter when applying to technical jobs.  If you’re applying to an online job post by email or through an application form, remember to reference the job you’re applying the in the subject line. Then summarize your key qualifications for that specific role in the body of your application email, and attach your resume.

What Do You think?

Are formal cover letters a thing of the past, or are they still an essential part of your professional profile?

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