The Traditional Cover Letter. Is it Outdated?

graphA recent survey by the global careers association, Career Directors International, showed 53% of hiring authority respondents believed that a cover letter wasn’t necessary. Extra comments accompanying the question showed recipients were bored with seeing the same old thing. So why should we all go to the trouble of writing these things if no-one is going to read them… right?

Wrong. First, what about the other 47% of people who do read them? Should we forget them? Those  people may be in the position to hire us and we’ve thrown away an opportunity to impress! That’s just seems plain wrong.

Maybe the idea is to make cover letters more interesting, more contemporary and not just get the 47% to read them, but aim to win over that pesky 53% too!

First, let’s look at what you do with your cover letter. Do you attach it as a separate file to your email, along with your resume? If yes, then what do you say in the body of your email? Do you squander the opportunity by writing “Please find attached a copy of my resume in support of my application for VP of Banking”? Or perhaps you paste the entire cover letter in the email to test the reader’s patience, their time, and their tolerance for duplication.

Neither of those options sound like a winning strategy do they?

Enter, today’s default cover letter: the E-Note.

The E-Note is a shortened cover letter for the digital age where emails are sorted and decisions made with snap-your-fingers speed [Tweet This] in a world where people would rather hit “archive” than resort to the tedium of information overload (well-written or otherwise). The E-Note, at just a third to a half a page, cuts away the fluff and waffle, and gets to the core of what the decision maker needs to know.

Written right in the body of the email, the E-Note has several advantages.

  • By virtue of it being right there when an email is opened, there is a good chance it will be read (or skimmed at least).
  • It starts selling you before the hiring authority even sees the Word attachment. So it provides your best selling points immediately.
  • It is concise, facts-based, and shorter than a cover letter—making it reader friendly.
  • It provides insight into the jobseeker via a signature block with LinkedIn and Twitter links, along with, Email, Mobile, and any information you want to provide (such as locality preferences and branding statements).
  • It can bypass the traditional formalities. A cover letter without a “Dear Name” looks plain rude; yet an email without a name is fine and helps overcome the limitations of those blind advertisements where no name is given.

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Here is one of these new cover letter examples (e-note) on the right. (You can click on the image to see a larger version). At just 167 words it cuts through the typical 400+ word cover letter. Note that the subject can hold your branding statement or some important element that meets the needs of the employer or reader. Note also the signature for personal branding, social media and other contact elements.

Start now by cutting and refining your existing cover letter and transforming it into a powerful E-Note that can be used for any electronic job search communication. Don’t forget to observe the following:

  • Create a punchy subject line. Exert care when using words or phrases that may send your email to the SPAM filter.
  • Develop a two-line opening based on your background or current job that will catch the eye and relate to the job for which you’re applying.
  • Follow with three or four one-line bullet points that provide verifiable facts. Remember, this is a “Fluff and Waffle-Free” zone!
  • Create a three-line paragraph summary that highlights an important career point.
  • Finish with a call to action. You want them to call you or you will call them.
  • End with a signature block with important information.




  1. John Richardson

    In traditional paper based advertising, including a sticky note in sales letters increases the conversion rate considerably. Same thing here. Since most readers are scanners, make your enote bold enough to be seen and succinct enough to be understood. Designing it to look like a standard yellow sticky note might be a good experiment.

    • Gayle Howard

      Thanks for your comment and for visiting John! While I agree wholeheartedly about the succinct nature of the E-note, I do have reservations about the yellow sticky note look in that many businesses do not use HTML email and many (like myself) have images turned off. Consequently what you end up getting is a broken image that looks somewhat unattractive and may stand out for all the wrong reasons. As we can’t really be sure what system and what system preferences are in play when we send emails, I’d opt for an elegant presentation with minimal bells and whistles (just in case!). Make the content be king.

  2. WalterAkana

    Great post, Gayle!!

    Not only have you captured the clear advantages of the
    E-Note, but have offered clear and actionable tips to guide people in
    transitioning toward more conscise, reader-oriented content. Of course, “content
    marketing” does require really knowing the audience, but making that effort
    will not only serve future communications …

    Frankly, I think the philosophy for this approach is best captured by Daft Punk:

    “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”

    …but definitely worth it!!

    • Gayle Howard

      Thanks so much for visiting Walter and for your comments. I can see a time not too far away when these will be the default document rather than the cover letter! Harder, better, faster, stronger… great words that encapsulate the idea exactly!

  3. Gary Hyman

    I believe the enote is extremely important, and if well crafted will do what it is supposed to do – i.e. create the curiosity needed so the reader opens the attachments. Most hiring managers (or HR) are pressed for time – making their job easier by constructing a short, punchy, relevant enote will raise the odds of the resume being read.


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About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.