Q: I hate writing cover letters. They take so much energy and people probably don’t even read them. Do I have to bother…or can I just attach my resume to a short email?
A: I say “both” – write a brief, yet meaningful cover message in an email, rather than laboring over a long cover letter that likely largely repeats what’s in your resume. Everyone’s time has compressed, so a lengthy letter isn’t needed…and you should also omit stock phrases from “I believe I would be a unique asset” to “Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.”
Instead, foreshadow your resume. Create unifying themes (e.g., As my resume shows, I am both careful in my drafting work and a strong negotiator – or – My background as a teacher helps me be a clear communicator in the courtroom). Express your enthusiasm for the role, selecting each word well yet not obsessing over a long letter (e.g., rather than “I am very interested in working for your firm” try something like “I am drawn to work in your firm to help you efficiently help your clients.”).
Don’t fight the cover message concept…people will read and be impressed by an efficient well-written message. Don’t say you are detail oriented and then forget to attach your resume. Ex out the passive voice and legalese (e.g., Enclosed please find…), correct any typos, and quickly tailor your message where need be. Don’t waste the opportunity to differentiate yourself and thus keep your submission in the “Yes” column.