Based on the email cover notes I see, I’m not sure we have all made the transition from messages sent in envelopes to those sent by email.
Personally, I have always found electronic files to be maddening, especially very highly developed Excel spreadsheets. Adopting naming conventions so that you can be clear which version of a file was the latest one, used to and still does drive me crazy at times. And, as you can imagine, I’m a pretty organized guy.
Purging files from your computer can also be unnerving because when it’s gone, it’s gone. The problem in a nutshell (Help, I’m locked in a nutshell!) is that reviewing the files on your computer by opening them is like looking at something on your desk with a pair of binoculars.
Paper files on the other hand lend themselves to much easier review. You can stand or sit near a garbage pail and purge to your heart’s content. You can see the whole page at a glance.
In much the same way, the stumbling block to creating an effective email cover note is the limited space you have available. If you accept my theory that people will only read that which requires one computer screen (or worse, one screen on their smart phone), you are beginning to see the problem with blathering on and on, and in many cases repeating information that is in your resume.
Let us assume that your resume is a perfect encapsulation of your work history. (I admit this is a pretty big assumption, but please play along.) If this is the case, what purpose does your cover letter or email cover letter serve? Very simply, it serves to answer the questions raised by the job posting that are not obvious from your resume.
Perhaps a few examples will help. First, let’s assume the job says “Local candidates only.” (Don’t you hate it when it does?) But, let’s assume that although you have lived Southern California for the past 30 years, you would be delighted to move to Northern Maine to be near your aging parents. Well, it might be helpful if you mentioned this fact, especially if you would be willing to do this at your own expense. Otherwise, your candidacy doesn’t make any sense.
Many postings request salary history. I find this a little rude (and now illegal in some places), but the question honestly begs an answer. However, there is no need to be an accountant about this either. The real question is what kind of salary you require and more importantly is it reasonable that you would be willing to work for the money on the table. So, if they have been more than a little unspecific about the salary range, you can be too. Saying “My base salary has been in the range of $150,000-$175,000 the past 3 years.” is sufficient information to get them started. If the job pays $90,000, you probably won’t be considered. If it pays in your range, you will. It would be nice if they let you know, but they don’t always. (And, yes, I do lecture members of the search community about the importance of telling us. As I have been heard to say: “Money talks.”)
Are there specific “must haves” in the posting? Perhaps some of them were things not easily changed on your resume. Again, this is where your cover letter comes in. It can explain the unexplainable. Be brief, but cover all of the specific issues raised by the posting that are not clear from your resume.
And finally, save a little room for a COMPLETE outgoing signature. And, for goodness sake, if you honestly don’t know what an outgoing signature is, please don’t be afraid to ask someone. Although I try to mention the importance of it at least several times a month, I find well over half of the messages I get don’t have one. The question to be answered is: “How do I reach you? And, when I do, what do I call you? Here is mine:
Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
Notice it has my “greeting to use,” my given name, my address (in case they want to send a gift), my email address, and my phone numbers in order of preference. Personally, I don’t like guessing games, and neither do most busy people.
Make it easy for folks to contact you, and who knows, they just might.