How to Write a Professional, Effective Email Cover Letter

You’ve been given the assignment to write an email cover letter to further your career. Congratulations! Although this may be your first official correspondence as a professional, it’s not something to be intimidated by. Simply follow these helpful tips and you’ll be able to send a polished, compelling message to your prospective employer.

Personalized

If you’re writing to someone who is not your immediate supervisor, it’s a good idea to start off with a salutation such as, “Dear Jim,” or “Dear John.” This not only makes you seem more professional, it also gives the reader a better sense of who you are and what you’re writing about. If you follow up with more than one letter, vary your salutations, especially if you’re sending the letters to more than one person. With each successive letter, you can gradually increase the length of your salutation. This will make your letters more formal and less intimidating.

Professional

When you write your first letter, err on the side of caution and formality. Make sure that all of the emails you send are written in formal English. In other words, use correct spelling, avoid slang and colloquialisms, and write everything in present tense. In addition, make sure that your grammar and syntax are impeccable. Remember, your letter is being reviewed by a person who is not your immediate supervisor and it’s essential that you ensure that the content is both comprehensive and polished. The person reading your letter might not be accustomed to receiving formal correspondence and they’ll have to struggle to understand what you’re saying. So, take the time to proofread your letter and correct any errors before you send it.

Focused

Your cover letter should be focused and concise. Try to keep your letter to fewer than three or four pages. Furthermore, you should have clearly defined, specific goals and objectives. As a rule of thumb, be sure to write one cover letter per assignment. If you’ve been given a task to prepare a number of emails, then write a separate letter for each email and include a brief summary at the end. This will help your future employer determine what you’ve accomplished and whether or not they should continue employing your services. In these summary paragraphs, you can point out any parts of the assignment that you feel you’ve accomplished. For instance, if you’re writing to ask for a pay raise, you can mention in your summary that you’ve been able to negotiate a significant pay increase for yourself.

Polite

When you write your letter, you’re immediately playing with power. The person you’re writing to has the authority to either accept or reject your advice and offer you a position, as well as decide what your next steps will be. So, you should always strive to write in a polite manner. Never use slang in your correspondence and be careful with your choice of words, especially if you’re coming from an informal email.

As a general rule of thumb, whenever you’re writing to someone in a position of authority, it’s a good idea to start with, “Dear Sir/Ma’am,” followed by a formal greeting. Then, you can move to the point of your letter. On the other hand, if you know that your correspondent is not a subscriber of formal letters, then you can skip the pleasantries and get straight to the point.

Strategic

Your cover letter should be concise but also comprehensive enough to demonstrate that you’ve thought the matter through and that you’ve clearly defined the purpose of your letter. In order to do this, you need to use your powers of deduction to analyze the assignment and determine what you need to include in your letter. Once you’ve done this, you can then craft your letter, providing additional information as needed. In addition, you should always write your cover letter after the fact. This means that, instead of preparing your letter beforehand, you can brainstorm ideas, determine what needs to be included, and then quickly put the letter together, once you’ve received the assignment.

Closed

Once you’ve written your letter and sent it, close the letter with a formal close such as, “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully.” Then, you can add a small, personal touch such as, “Yours faithfully,” or “With regards to the subject matter of our last correspondence, I’d like to reaffirm my previous position…”

Include a brief note regarding the outcome of your letter. For example, if you’re writing to ask for a job, cite some of the company’s previous employees who are now working in a position that you’re interested in and briefly mention how their previous job qualifications fit your current requirements.

Follow Up

Once you’ve written your letter and sent it, do not hesitate to follow up. This is especially important if you’re writing to ask for a job. If your letter was submitted as part of an application for employment and you’re not hearing back, then it’s a good idea to send another letter, this time addressing the reason for the delay. In addition, if you’ve written to ask for a pay raise, then follow up with another letter, again addressing the reason for the delay. This will help ensure that you continue to receive regular pay raises and promotions throughout your employment.

Writing a good cover letter takes a little bit of knowledge, practice, and most importantly, confidence. Once you’re comfortable writing letters in the same manner as you would a business transaction, formal or not, then you’ll be able to send a polished, professional message to your employer.

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