If you're looking for a job, chances are good that there will be times that you need to send your resume and cover letter to a hiring manager via email. When deciding how to approach the process of emailing these important documents, it's important to consider the preferences of the recipient as well as the challenges you may face when sending a formatted document via email.
Preferred Submission Method
Resumes and cover letters can be sent effectively within the body of an email message or as file attachments. While the easiest option is typically to include the cover letter in the body of your email with the resume as a PDF attachment, this is not what all people or companies prefer.
Responding to an Ad
If you are responding to a job announcement that requests submission of a resume and cover letter via email, look closely at the text to see if a preferred format is specified. Follow any instructions provided exactly, or you may be excluded from consideration.
- If the instructions specify including your information in the body of an email, for example, do not send an attachment. Some companies do not accept attachments from people outside of their company, and such documents may not even make it through the firm's spam filter.
- If the announcement requests that one or both documents be submitted as attachments, follow those instructions. The person who receives the emails may simply be printing the attachments on behalf of the person who will screen them to set up interviews.
General Resume Submission
If you are not responding to a job announcement, but rather are submitting an unsolicited resume in the hopes of capturing the attention of a hiring manager or HR professional, take the time to try to find out what format is preferred.
- If you meet someone at a networking event who suggest that you send in a resume and cover letter, ask if he or she has a preference for how the documents are submitted.
- If you are sending in your resume as a 'cold call' to be considered for employment, contact the company to find out exactly who you should send the document to and what email address to use, as well as what format is preferred.
Once you know the preferences of the person or organization you are contacting, you will be able to prepare your resume and cover letter to be sent via email. Based on those preferences, you will go with one of four options.
- Cover letter in body of email, resume as attachment
- Cover letter and resume in body of email
- Cover letter and resume as separate attachments
- Cover letter and resume in the same document as a single attachment
For cover letters that will be included in the body of an email:
- Prepare your cover letter in Word or another word processing program.
- Proofread and spell check it closely before copying and pasting it into the email editor.
- Make any spacing adjustments needed to keep paragraph structure intact using the arrow and return keys.
- If you are including both the cover letter and resume in the body of an email, the cover letter should appear first.
For cover letter attachments:
- Prepare the letter in your favorite word processing program just as you would any business letter.
- Proofread and spell check the document closely before finalizing.
- Ensure the format is visually appealing and would look attractive if printed; make sure that it looks good enough to mail on paper.
- Convert the letter to a PDF document before attaching it to an email message so you can be sure the recipient can open it and see it as you intended.
- Use a descriptive file name, such as your name and the phrase 'cover letter'.
- Attach the letter to the email message using the appropriate command in your email editor, which is usually attached to an icon that looks like a paper clip.
For resumes that are included in the body of an email:
- If your resume is going into the body of an email message, chances are that your cover letter is too. The cover letter should be first, and it's best to insert a line at the end of the letter to separate it from the resume.
- Create your resume in a word processing document, being sure to proofread it carefully before moving it to the email template.
- Format the document so that tabs are not needed (because they will likely not line up the way you intended on the recipient's computer).
- The easiest way to do this is to place the headings at the left margin in bold text directly above the text sections they are describing.
- Alternately, you can set up your resume inside a table, though you'll want to make the cell outlines invisible if you do this. Doing this will keep the spacing even when your message is transmitted.
- Copy your resume to the email template.
- Email it to yourself to see if it looks okay when received. If it looks good to you, send it to a few friends who use different email systems than you so you can get a good idea of how it will look to the recipient.
For resumes being sent as an attachment:
- When sending your resume as an attachment, you can be more creative with the formatting than if it is being transmitted within the text of an email.
- Create your resume in your favorite word processing program, setting it up with headings, tabs and bullet points as desired.
- Proofread the document carefully, being sure to check for all types of errors (spelling, grammar, style, clarity, accuracy, etc.).
- When you are sure the document is correct, finalize it for sending by converting it to a PDF file so that you can be certain of how the document will look to the person who receives it.
- Use a descriptive file name, such as 'resume of Bob Jones' (using your name).
- Attach it to the email message using the appropriate command in your email editor, typically represented by an icon of a paper clip.
Combined Cover Letter/Resume Attachment
When combining your cover letter and resume into a single document that will be sent as an attachment:
- Create the letter in your favorite word processing program, being sure that it is formatted so that it would look good if you printed it.
- Insert a page break at the bottom of the letter.
- Below the page break, either create your resume or copy it in from another document.
- Proofread carefully, being sure both documents are well written, accurate and free from mistakes.
- Convert the finished document to a PDF, again to make sure that the formatting stays the way you set it up no matter what software the person who views it uses.
- Attach it to your email message.
PDF Conversions for Attachments
Do not skip the step of converting your resume or cover letter to PDF if you are sending either document (or both) as an attachment. If you don't do this, you run the risk of having your hard work negated by margins that are set differently on the recipient's machine, or the document being unreadable because it goes to someone who doesn't have a word processing application that is compatible with yours.
If your word processing program doesn't give you an option to use 'Save As' to convert your documents to PDF files to use as attachments, you can download PrimoPDF, a free conversion program that is easy to use.
Message Body for Attachments
If you are sending both your resume and cover letter as attachments, whether they are in one file or two, you will need to put some text in the body of your email message. If you were to send a blank message with one or two attachments, that could be a trigger to spam filters to exclude your message, and it could also keep the recipient from feeling comfortable opening the attachments even if your message gets through. Consider including text along the lines of:
Please see the enclosed resume and cover letter, submitted in response to your advertisement on CareerBuilder for an administrative assistant.
Subject Line Tips
Choosing an appropriate subject line for your resume and cover letter email is just as important as the quality of the documents themselves. Select a subject line that will make it easy for the recipient to search for your correspondence in his or her inbox. If you are responding to a specific opening, consider something like "John Doe - Accounting Clerk Application". If you are not responding to an advertisement, something like "Jill Alltrades - Resume for Consideration" could be appropriate. The key is to include your name and provide a preview of the purpose of the message.