Covering the Cover Letter

In our Twitter chat last week, we got an abundance of questions asking us about cover letters.  The questions ranged from “when do you send a cover letter?” to “how do you start a cover letter” to “who do you address a cover letter to?”  Adrianna and I were actually taken aback by how many questions we received, because to be honest… we didn’t know people still drafted formal cover letters AT ALL!

We understand that when you’re applying for a first job or internship, you want to go above and beyond.  To be honest, a formal, attached-document-style cover letter is a bit antiquated and redundant.  The shift has gone over the past several years to a “cover email,” or “email of inquiry” when sending in your resume for consideration.  It’s basically taking the meat of what was in your old “cover letter” and putting it in a friendly email to a prospective employer.

For PR girls and guys, this email is basically your first test in the public relations world.  You need to be able to “pitch” yourself in two short paragraphs to an HR rep or new contact so they want to open the attached resume and call you in for a meeting.  If you can’t sell yourself through an email about yourself, than how are you going to pitch that new anti-aging cream to Marie Claire?

Here are a few guidelines to remember when drafting your “email of inquiry”:

  • Be sure you have the right contact, and address them properly – If you are going in blind, be sure you are sending your resume to the HR department or main contact email.  Call out in your subject that this is a job inquiry, something like “Job Inquiry: Summer Internship 2013” is perfectly fine.  DO NOT USE “To Whom it May Concern” as the greeting, even if you don’t know the contact’s name.  A friendly “Hi there – ” or “Hello!” usually works wonders.  Unfortunately in this day and age, “To Whom it May Concern” SCREAMS “I copy and pasted this from the internet.” If you do know your contact, be friendly, and address the connection in the first sentence: “Hi Amanda!  It was so great to meet you at the PRSSA event last Tuesday.  I wanted to quickly follow up on our discussion regarding an informational interview with Shadow PR.”
  • Keep it short and sweet…seriously – Do not copy and paste line items from your resume.  Do not rehash every task and event you handled at your last internship. Do not lament about how you are dying to get into fashion or public relations. Pick two of your favorite PR-related experiences that you are most proud of in the past year, or something that inspired you to contact the company, and talk about that. The point of this note is to entice the reader to open your resume, not give away the farm.  If you have zero PR experience, your email can include  something as simple as: “I recently attended a public relations workshop at my university hosted by beauty PR girls and famous personal care brands.  At the end of the day, I realized I wanted to work for a firm like DeVries that represents some of the biggest names in beauty.”
  • Check your spelling, check your grammar, check your language – You would be AMAZED as to how many resumes and emails I receive with spelling and grammar errors.  I truly feel sorry for these girls and guys.  In PR, and in most companies, your resume will be immediately deleted with a spelling error.  Everyone is allowed a slip in real life (everyone knows we’ve made mistakes on this very blog!), but when your job is on the line you better be clean cut.

What are some other questions you have regarding cover letters? Do you agree that the cover letter has turned into the “cover email?” Do you have any additional tips or tricks that have worked for you?

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