Cover Letters versus E-NotesPosted: May 18, 2012
Some things get super-sized, like fast-food portions. Others get minimized…like cover letters? Just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about writing cover letters (not really), I started seeing references to e-notes. Apparently, we now have to start thinking in terms of the old quote about “less is more” with regard to cover letters. So, hello, e-notes!
Difference between a Cover Letter and an E-Note
As I understand it (I’ve just started researching this), an e-note could be compared to a cover letter on a diet. It needs to fit comfortably into the body of an e-mail message, ideally short enough to be read without scrolling down. Typically, it might have 6-7 paragraphs of 2-3 lines each, sometimes only one line. The first paragraph should grab the right kind of attention, preferably with a clear reference to something the reader is likely to care about or at least a concise statement of your purpose in sending the message. You can use an e-note to reach out to your network, to contact recruiters and, presumably, to pursue opportunities directly with hiring managers. The e-note also needs a strong and clear subject line if you hope to have recipients actually read it.
Cover letters have normally been a full page or close to it–maybe as few as 3 paragraphs but more likely as many as 5 or 6, with each paragraph running from possibly a couple of lines to as many as 5 lines. The cover letter might or might not contain a short bulleted list. It also might or might not have a subject line, which often would simply be the title of the position being sought (although that’s not a particularly creative approach, it is direct). We know that not everyone reads the cover letter that comes with your resume, although a good letter has still been considered important because it allows you to reinforce the impression you hope your resume is making and also lets you do some customizing.
Are Cover Letters Doomed in Favor of E-Notes?
While it might be premature to pronounce cover letters a thing of the past, it’s hard to ignore an emerging trend toward brevity, which has also had some impact on resumes in recent years (possibly accelerated by devices such as smart phones and tablets). That job search trend suggests an e-note might increasingly be the communication tool of choice, particularly when so many of our communications travel electronically. You can also hope that the e-note will actually get read before the recipient opens the attached resume–it might be a little harder to ignore than a separate cover letter and also more encouraging for people to read, simply because it’s short. That’s if–and it’s a big IF–you craft your e-note thoughtfully and judiciously to make every word count as much as possible.
Whether you create a cover letter or an e-note to send with your resume, you still need to do your homework about the position you’re pursuing and the company that’s hiring for it. In fact, it might be even more important to do this with an e-note, since you’ll have to choose wisely to make the best use of the space available. Think of it this way: If you had to pay $5 for each word you used, would you weigh your choices carefully? I’m betting you would!