We’re often asked what to write in the subject line of a cover email. Some people like to get creative and put things like “Rockstar Assistant Candidate” in their subject lines, and while there are definitely hiring managers that will respond well to this, it’s also possible that some will think it's overly showy. Because of this, we like to play it a little safer.
From our perspective, there are two good options for your subject line. Often, the hiring manager will indicate the exact verbiage for the subject line in a posting as a test to see which candidates can and cannot follow directions -- an easy way to weed out unqualified applicants. When there's a specific directive, follow it exactly -- if they used all caps or a colon, you should do that too. In this case, if you choose to go with your own subject line, don't be surprised when you don't get a phone call for an interview.
When there are no specific subject line instructions in the posting, we like to use “[Position title] Candidate: [First & Last Name]” (for example, “Agency Assistant Candidate: John Smith”). Using this format allows you to clearly indicate what position you are applying for, and it also helps you stand out in the crowd. Many email programs tend to group emails that have the same subject line together, and using your name will ensure that you will get your own thread. Plus, it makes your email easily searchable later on.
Realistically, your email subject line won’t make or break your application (unless you have a spelling error or fail to follow instructions). There are plenty of options that are perfectly acceptable, so pick one and then focus on creating a stellar cover email!
Cover letters can be very helpful tools in your job applications—they provide context to your resume and can give you an opportunity to explain any unique circumstances that don’t otherwise come across. Cover letters aren’t hard to write...if you know how to write them. Here are five tips that will help you craft the perfect cover letter:
1. Keep it short. Recruiters are busy people – they don’t have time to read long cover letters. Get your point across clearly and concisely and keep your cover letter to half a page or less.
2. Avoid sounding like a robot. Write in a professional yet conversational manner, as if you were explaining to a friend why you want to work at this company. And don’t use the same cover letter for every application.
3. Tailor your cover letter to the posting. Each role and company has something that differentiates it from others – what specifically draws you to this particular position? And why are you uniquely qualified for this role? If you’re having a hard time answering either of these questions, you may want to reconsider your application — this may not be the perfect job for you.
4. Include only the most relevant pieces of information. Look at the posting and highlight the key skills you have that match the qualifications that are listed. Sure, you have other skills that might be impressive, but save those for your resume or an interview.
5. Focus on what you can do for the company, not the other way around. Although you should briefly express why you’re interested in a company on a personal level somewhere in your cover letter, the majority of the letter should demonstrate what you have to offer the company. Spend time outlining your main qualifications instead of going on and on about your passions.
Remember: Simpler is always better when it comes to a cover letter. Think of it as an elevator pitch — if you can get the basics of who you are and what you’re looking for across, a hiring manager will easily be able to decide if it’s worthwhile to consider you as a serious candidate.
What’s the best greeting to use in a cover letter? What about a cover email? They’re not the same, so different rules apply. Here’s our best advice:
A cover letter is considered to be a formal type of business correspondence. Therefore, your greeting should start with “Dear ____,” just as you learned in school. If you aren’t submitting your cover letter to a specific person, we recommend “Dear Hiring Manager.” But in an ideal world, you’ll have figured out the hiring manager’s name and can use “Dear [first name].” If last names are more your style, that’s fine, but if the hiring manager emails you back and signs her first name, consider yourself on a first name basis from then on. And when closing your cover letter, “Sincerely,” is always a safe bet.
Because email is a more casual form of correspondence, it’s even more important to figure out the hiring manager’s name in a cover email than it is for a cover letter. If you MUST apply to a generic email address, you can write “Dear Hiring Manager,” but if you’re able to figure out the person’s name, you should use “Hi [first name].” Why “Hi” and not “Dear?” This less formal greeting will make the reader feel more comfortable with you -- most people don’t start their regular business emails with “Dear _____,” so why would you do it in a cover email? You want to go for a personal feel to give your cover email maximum effect. If you want to end your cover email with a more formal sign off, you can always use “Sincerely,” or “Best,” but a simple “Thank you!” can also go a long way.
Many job seekers apply to every job posting they see, hoping that if they cast a wide net, they’ll surely find a fish. But the truth is, that approach only works if you have the time to tailor your application to every posting, which is usually unrealistic. Employers are looking for someone who’s a great fit for their company, and if your resume and cover letter are too generic, they won’t be able to communicate that key message. Sure, some job postings are generic themselves -- “Assistant needed for top production company,” or “Writers’ assistant needed for cable series” -- and in those instances, you can send the same resume to the same type of posting, but even then, you’ll sound more authentic if you start your cover letter from scratch.
Certainly, your resume for a production company job should read differently than your resume for a writers’ assistant position, even if that means simply reordering the bullets in each section. As you move up in your career, the nuances in job postings become even more apparent, and you’ll need to read through your resume very carefully before each submission to make sure you’ve hit on all the important bullet points. Firing off 100 resumes a week sounds like it should yield a lot of interviews, but you’re more likely to get responses from 10 well-crafted applications.