There are varying opinions out there about how a job applicant should submit their cover letter via email when applying for a technical position. You basically have three options:
- copy and paste the full cover letter into the body of the email;
- attach the cover letter to the email, and include a brief note in the body of the email; or
- include the cover letter both in the body of the email and as an attachment.
So which is the most effective method in most cases?
Copy and Paste the Full Cover Letter Into the Body of the Email
This has always been my preferred method of sending cover letters. Here are the top three reasons you should include your full cover letter in the body of the email:
- A cover letter pasted into the body of an email reduces the number of attachments the hiring manager is forced to open: It can be a pain to open multiple attachments and keep track of them. Pasting your cover letter into the body of the email will at least eliminate that one extra step for the busy hiring manager.
- You can get your point across faster with a cover letter included in the body of the email: The impact of your cover letter, your most important selling tool, will be immediate, especially if it's well-written and formatted in an eye-catching way.
- Including your cover letter in the body of the email will eliminate potential confusion between your cover letter and any introductory note you would otherwise have to include. If you attach both your cover letter and resume as Word documents and write a short introductory note, that note might be mistaken by the recruiter or hiring manager as your cover letter. You don't want that to happen – your cover letter is your big chance to promote yourself and summarize why you are perfect for the job, and you want to make sure it gets read.
A couple of additional things to consider before deciding how to email your cover letter:
- In all cases, do read the application instructions included with the job posting. If the posting explicitly says to save your cover letter in a certain format and attach it to the email, by all means, follow those instructions instead of the ones above. The guidelines I provided apply to cases where the cover letter format and method of delivery are not specified.
- If you still feel it's more professional to attach your cover letter, in case the recipient wants to print it out (which is a legitimate reason), you can do that in addition to pasting the full letter in your email, and include a short line in your email version that tells the recipient you have attached a copy as well. That way, recipients who don't want to open the attachment will still be able to view your cover letter, and those who would prefer to open the attachment can do just that.