All application and hiring processes differ, even if only slightly. Many ask for application materials to be sent via email but what do you do if they ask for those elements to be sent as an email? If you’re in this situation, let LiveCareer put your cover letter formatting fears to rest.
Below you’ll find our top tips for how to format an email cover letter.
Subject Line Matters More than Ever
When your application materials are being sent via email, it’s imperative that your email is clearly labeled in the subject line. Many employers will ask that you include the job title, job ID number, and your first and last name (or some combination of these items). Some employers, though, will give no directions at all.
If no instructions are given, at the very least, indicate in the subject the name of the position to which you’re applying. When in doubt, stick exactly to the job ad’s instructions, even if that means writing nothing beyond the position title.
Strike the Right Balance of Email and Cover Letter Formatting
It can be tricky to know whether to default toward normal email etiquette or traditional cover letter-writing practices when you are asked to format your cover letter in an email. The tricky truth is that you’ll need to strike the right combination of both styles.
Here’s a handful of faux pas you’ll want to avoid:
- Don’t flag your email as “urgent” just to get the attention of a hiring manager. Sure, this might make them click on your email sooner, but they could also get annoyed by this trick and drag it into the trash a second later.
- Don’t bother to include the employer’s physical address, but feel free to add your own at the bottom of the message if it’s something you typically include in your cover letters. Creating a section that resembles a signature line at the bottom of your email is one way to accomplish this.
- Don’t get creative. When in doubt, adhere to standard cover letter formatting rules. Don’t indent, highlight, bold, or italicize text, and don’t incorporate flashy colors or graphics. Follow the normal rules about how to write a cover letter, just in an email.
- Keep it brief. Remember, you’re not just competing with every other applicant, but also every other email in the recipient’s inbox. After you’ve grabbed their attention with your subject line, don’t bore them with a wall of text. Stick to small paragraphs and bullet points to enhance readability.
Be Careful with Attachments and File Formats
Some employer inboxes automatically sort anything suspicious into spam or trash folders, so only add attachments to your email cover letter if you’re specifically asked to do so. If you’re asked to add a second version of your letter as an attachement, pay close attention to which file format is requested, if mention is made at all. Stick to PDFs when not instructed otherwise, as it is the most commonly used format.
Send Yourself a Test Email Before Submitting
To best ensure your email will appear correctly formatted once it hits a recruiter’s inbox, send it to yourself first, preferably to a different address than from where it’s being sent. Sometimes differences in email service providers can account for unpredictable formatting errors, so it’s best to plan ahead with a second address on hand to perform this important check.
As with any other emails soliciting business or career opportunities, your first priority should be to keep things professional. Always send work-related correspondence from a professional-sounding email address, don’t use slang or rude language, and stick to the above tips, and you’ll boost your application’s odds of being read by a recruiter or hiring manager.
For help with putting together your cover letter before it meets your email, LiveCareer’s Cover Letter Builder assists at every stage, including with writing and formatting.