Most employers now prefer to receive resumes by email. But do you still need to email cover letters? And if so, what is the standard format for electronic cover letter submissions?
In the early days of the Internet Age, there was a lot of debate about whether or not it was acceptable to email resumes to prospective employers. Eventually, the traditionalists succumbed to the juggernaut of technology and electronic resumes have now become the preferred application format for more than 80% of employers in the U.S.
Resumes are usually sent as an email attachment, unless the employer specifically states they would rather receive your resume in the body of the email. The most common file formats for email resumes are .doc or .pdf. However, file formats can also depend on the employer’s personal preferences.
Although occasionally an employer will specify that no cover letter is required, employers usually don’t address the subject of cover letters in job postings because they automatically assume that job applicants will know what to do. Unfortunately, many job applicants don’t know what to do, primarily because cover letters are problematic in the era of electronic hiring processes.
So what’s the deal – is it appropriate to email your cover letter with your resume? The bottom line is that it depends on the situation . . .
If the employer accepts email resumes, but doesn’t mention cover letters:
Since a cover letter serves a functional purpose (i.e. highlighting your hiring strengths and job qualifications), it’s best to submit a cover letter whenever possible. If the job posting allows or requests electronic resume submissions, the body of the email becomes your cover letter and the resume is sent as an attachment. Format the body of the email the same way you would format a standard cover letter, making sure that it is addressed to a real person (e.g. “Ms. Martha Stewart”) rather than a generic recipient (e.g. “To Whom It May Concern”).
If the employer prefers to accept your resume in the body of the email:
If the employer specifies that you send your resume in the body of the email, the process of submitting a cover letter becomes slightly more complicated. We recommend beginning your email with a slightly abbreviated version of your cover letter, followed by your resume.
If the employer requires you to send your resume as an attachment to an electronic application form:
Sometimes you will encounter employers who throw a monkey wrench in the process by requiring candidates to apply via a standard online form. In most cases, these forms allow you to send your resume as an attachment. If possible, also include your cover letter as an attachment, either in a separate file or within the file that contains your resume.