Body of an Email or An Attachment - Which Way is Best?

Nancy Anderson
Posted by

When you apply to a position, should you put the cover letter in the body of the email or in the attachment? In this case, visibility is key: Place it in the body of the email unless specifically asked to supply an attachment. Here's why.

When your reviewer opens your email, you want that person to see what you're applying for and why you're applying for it. If the reviewer has to open an attachment, your email has a high chance of being ignored.

If the cover letter is an attachment, it may fail security screening systems or be unopenable, relegating your email to the deleted folder. In addition, some employers do not allow employees to open attachment due to fears over viruses, Trojans and other type of malware. Therefore, having it in the email's body is much more effective as you know the recipient has a good chance of actually reading it. According to the University of Kent, over 42 percent of employers thought that cover letters were important.

While email doesn't allow you to format to the same extent that a Word or Open Office file does, it does have sufficient formatting for a basic letter. In addition, most email clients allow you to paste material directly from a document so that you can format and spell-check it before sending it.

There are some exceptions, however. Some employers ask that job applicants upload attachments to a dedicated server, which then handles many of the functions of the traditional HR manager. These databases may use software to pick out select keywords within the cover letter to ensure that job applicants have the necessary experience required by the company. Of course, this is much more error prone compared to human review, but it does simplify the process for HR teams substantially. Therefore, it's wise to implant relevant keywords within your cover letter to ensure you get past these automated gatekeepers.

For this reason, it's often best to rewrite each cover letter from scratch every time you apply for a new position. While you may get away with reusing the same resume each time, addressing a cover letter to the wrong person or even focusing it on the wrong company completely is a sure-fire way to ensure your resume is rejected almost immediately.

When writing a cover letter, look at the company's requirements and ensure you mention that you have each qualification that the company is looking for and include it in both your cover letter in the same way that the company requires. If it states you need four years of print publishing experience, simply state you have four years of print publishing experience — assuming, of course, that you have this.

Including a cover letter in the email's body is a good way to ensure you're not ignored from the get-go. Only use an attachment if the company specifically asks for one, and make sure each cover letter is tailored to the company to which you're applying.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch