A version of this post originally appeared on the Skillcrush Blog.
“I wrote 91 cover letters in 6 months, and I probably could have done more.”
When I heard a friend utter that sentence, I realized something: Over the course of your job search, you can spend a LOT of time outlining, drafting, editing, and proofing cover letters (in addition to making sure your personal portfolio is up to snuff).
While my friend was looking for a new job, it wasn’t unusual for her to take several hours to write each letter, asking friends and family to edit and proof multiple drafts…
…And she’s a writer! For someone less comfortable wielding words, crafting a cover letter for every job application can feel like competing on American Ninja Warrior, but without the supportive crowd.
And that got me thinking—Why do we put so much time and effort into these things? Do employers actually read cover letters nowadays?
In a recent Slate article, engineering recruiter Ambra Benjamin says…probably not.
Referring to recruiters she says, “Not only do we not usually read them, most of the time we don’t even open that attachment or give cover letters a cursory glance.”
She’s got a point. When we read through job applications here at Skillcrush, the standout cover emails are the ones that are short, to-the-point, and totally relevant.
And while, as Benjamin says, hiring managers at smaller companies are more likely to read cover letters, “Similar to ‘objectives’ on a résumé, cover letters are a bit of a throwback to another era in job-hunting.”
But the answer isn’t eliminating them altogether—Instead, you need to get acquainted with the future of cover letters. Enter, the cover email.
Unless you’re applying for a job writing formal correspondence, you probably don’t need to demonstrate your qualifications in a letter. Plus, most employers value a someone who can write effective emails. Since many hiring managers skip the attachments anyway, the body of your email should replace the cover letter.
And cover emails look a lot different than cover letters. To write a cover email that gets answered (and gets you an interview!), make sure to:
1. Make the reader’s life easier.
We’ll dig into this in a sec, but the most important thing to consider when writing a cover letter is how easy you can make it for the hiring manager or recruiter to find your information and decide if you’re an interesting candidate. That’s exactly why attachments, which interrupt the reader’s workflow with laborious downloads, are not ideal.
And that doesn’t mean giving your reader ALL the information—there’s an art to providing just the right amount of background and context
2. Keep it short.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure your reader won’t have to scroll (much) to read your whole email. Since there are so many devices out there these days—from smartphones to jumbo monitors—a good rule of thumb is to keep it down to around 5-6 sentences (Slate).
3. Be specific.
Cover letters used to serve as introductions to you and your accomplishments in the industry, often in a general way. But in an email that’s only a few sentences long, you don’t have the space to include your memoirs.
Instead, focus on the most important aspects of your experience and skill sets that qualify you for the job at hand. If you’re applying for a job writing PHP, your work on WordPress is relevant, but you can save your story about transitioning out of finance for the interview.
4. Include relevant links.
I know it seems nit-picky to mention links, but think about it—you already know that hiring managers and recruiters hate clicking on multiple attachments. They’re too busy for downloads!
Instead, go through your résumé, portfolio, and other relevant materials with a fine-tooth comb, searching for the projects that have the most direct connection to the job you’re applying for. Then, make sure to link specifically to those projects to make it easier for the reader.
5. Strike the right tone.
When many of us learned to write cover letters, we were taught that it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to formality. That’s why so many painful cover letters these days start with “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “To Whom It May Concern.” The best cover emails appropriately fit the tone of the company rather than defaulting to the language of the 19th century British aristocracy.
Okay, all of that makes sense, but how do I take this information and turn it into an epic cover email (without spending 5 hours on it)?
Over at Skillcrush, we created a FREE 39-page download complete with everything you need to know to get down to business and write a cover email that will get you hired.
Download the Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Email Cover Letter to find out:
• Why you should start writing cover emails
• EXACTLY what to include (and what NOT to include) in your cover email
• How to strike the perfect tone in cover emails
• How to use a cover email framework to speed up your job search
Plus, you’ll get a super-easy-to-use cover email template to start using TODAY to save time writing and spend time getting that much closer to your dream job.
Get the download here!