Apparently, this question is in the air, as a job seeker noted in her IM to me this morning. My initial response was:
Normally, I’d say “attach” as you control the look of your letter. Also, I think folks are more likely to just skim an e-mail instead of really reading it, and highly unlikely to print it out. It’s more likely that they’ll save it as an attachment just as they would save the resume.
However, if you strongly prefer, it is OK to paste your cover letter text into the body of an e-mail. You’ll have to pay attention to margins and font, make sure it looks OK in an e-mail – and when it’s printed out.
On second thought, however, I recommend sending a PDF or Word file that has the cover letter as page1 or at most pages 1-2, and the resume as pages 2-3 or 3-4. This way, the person is saving only one document. Tolook at the resume, they have to see the cover letter as well.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you label the file with your name followed by the words “resume and cover letter.”
Including your name ensures that your materials are associated with you alone, and can be easily sent and found using your name. It also is that attention to detail that makes potential employers associate you with providing solutions instead of causing problems – e.g. they have to label your resume with your name in order to maintain a record of your application.
In this environment, small things like an unlabeled resume loom large. Chances are that the employer won’t bother adding a label, instead simply tossing your application in the virtual trash can.