Many companies only accept resumes in electronic format, but don’t always give instructions for how to submit items such as work samples, references or cover letters. Even if a potential employer doesn’t specify whether it needs a cover letter, it’s a good idea to include one. You can submit it as a separate document or make it part of one word processing document or portable document format, or PDF, file. Either process is simple and shouldn’t take more than a minute or two to do.
A cover letter is an introduction to a potential employer that briefly discusses the position for which you are applying and one or two key reasons why you are qualified and then directs them to your resume. Start with an interesting opening sentence that makes the reader want to learn more about you, rather than simply stating you are applying for a particular position and that you are enclosing your resume. Keep the cover letter short or the reviewer might assume it’s a re-hash of your resume and discard it without reading it. When submitting resumes by email, many people use the email message area to create cover letter contents instead of creating a separate word processing document or PDF file. If you choose to go this route, write your cover letter in a word processing document, rather than directly in your email to give you more spelling and proofing options and to prevent losing your work in an email crash.
Most people submit resumes as either a word-processing document or a PDF file. It’s possible to save a resume as a .jpeg or other file format, but this won’t allow employers to pull text from the document to put into any database they might be using. If you create a PDF file from a word processing document, review the final version to make sure no spacing, type or other problems occurred during the conversion. Set the permissions on the PDF file to allow the reader to make comment if your program allows that.
If you submit using a job board, you might not be able to upload and submit multiple documents. To include a cover letter with your resume, place a blank page at the beginning of your resume for your cover letter. Put your name, address, phone number and email address at the top of the page and center it. Put the date a few lines down, skip a line, then put the recipient’s name, title, company name and address, as you would for a business letter, and create your cover letter. Check to see that you have not left an extra page between your cover letter and your resume, and check to make sure the resume starts at the top of the second page. If you inserted a page before your resume, you may have accidentally hit the return key too many times after you finished your letter and pushed your resume heading down one or two lines. If you have created your cover letter separately from your resume and wish to attach it to a PDF file, rather than adding a new page to a word processing document, follow the directions on your PDF program for doing so. Some PDF programs allow you to combine multiple documents. This will come in handy if your resume is already in PDF format.
If you wish to keep your cover letter separate from your resume, create both documents in the same type of format, then save them using similar names. For example, use JSmithCoverLetter.docx and JSmithResume.docx for your file names. This will help the recipient find one document easily if it is placed in a different folder. Hedge your bets when submitting a cover letter and resume for a job application by submitting both documents in word processing and PDF formats.
About the Author
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.
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Once you have saved your resume and cover letter and they are ready to send, the next step is to write an email message to send with your documents.
First, open your email account. Then click on Message at the top left of the screen or click on File, New, Message.
You can either type your cover letter directly into the email message, copy and paste from a word processing document or if the company requests an attachment, send your cover letter and resume with the email message. So, your choices are to send a cover letter attachment or to use the email message as your cover letter.
If you are attaching a cover letter, your email message can be brief. Simply state that your resume and cover letter are attached. Offer to provide additional information and let the reader know how you can be contacted.
If you're writing an email cover letter, review these formatting tips before you send it.
Also, be sure to follow the directions in the job posting for how to apply when sending your cover letter and resume or your application may not be considered.