Sending an email vs an old-fashioned letter

Job-search clients often ask me whether they should mail or email their cover or followup letter.  I tell them to default to email unless there is a compelling special case for sending a traditional letter.  The reasons I recommend email:

  1. It works—I see the positive results all the time with my clients.
  2. It’s much easier on you, the jobseeker, to send an email then to start fiddling with the printer, stamps, etc.— which is important both from a time management perspective and psychologically.
  3. It’s easy for the recipient to just hit reply.
  4. Email is the language of business these days—everyone reads email.
  5. You may appear too old-fashioned if sending a letter.

That said, you will need a compelling subject line to get people to open the email, so it doesn’t go into spam (e.g. “referred by…”, “saw your article…”, “Our meeting last week…”, etc.).  You also need an email address that has your name in it, both so that the email will be less likely to go into spam, and to take advantage of this opportunity to market your name.  That is, works well, while — not so good.  Include the letter in the body of the email, not as an attachment– make it as easy and likely as possible for your message to be read.

Letters do have the advantage that they can stand out given the deluge of emails (if the postal mail is read in a timely way—not always the case these days), they show care and effort, and may appeal to “old school” hiring managers, so don’t rule them out completely.  Also, if someone did you a favor, sending a handwritten thank you note is always appreciated.