The Cover Letter Format Guide: Tips & Templates for You

Choosing a cover letter format is a key step for jobseekers. Which one is right for you?

Cover letters aren’t all created equal. The great ones can convince a hiring leader to spring into action and invite you for an interview, and the bad ones can eliminate you from the running in a moment.

One of the keys to writing a good cover letter is knowing not only the right information to include but the right way to format it: you’ll want to let your personal style and unique value shine through. Our cover letter formats and writing tips will help you strut your stuff and showcase your work story next time you apply for a new job.

Cover Letter Format and Writing Guide

Sitting down to write a cover letter is often a daunting task for jobseekers. Even if you’ve written an outstanding resume that showcases your most impressive accomplishments, writer’s block can set in at the cover letter stage. It can be difficult to know what to write and how to best sell yourself to a recruiter, but no matter how frustrated you’re feeling, don’t skip this step.

Your cover letter is your chance to separate yourself from candidates who have similar credentials and experience. A good cover letter expands upon information listed in your resume without rehashing it. A great cover letter does the same, plus uses keywords and phrases pulled straight from the job ad to make the argument that you’re a perfect fit for the job.

Your cover letter shouldn’t be a repetition of your resume; rather, it should expand upon the information your resume provides. To accomplish this, be sure your cover letter has the following five sections: a heading, a salutation, an introduction, a strong body, and a conclusion.

Read on to learn the best practices for writing each of the five sections.

The Heading

Every cover letter should include a heading that contains your contact information. This includes your full name, phone number, and email address. Since snail mail isn’t used as much in the hiring process today, some experts feel that it’s unnecessary to add your street address to your heading. However, if you are looking to relocate for work, it’s a good idea to add your mailing address for transparency.

Do your research to find the hiring manager’s name rather than addressing the letter “To Whom It May Concern.” It might take a little legwork on LinkedIn, but making this small effort shows that you are invested in the role.


COVER LETTER HEADING EXAMPLES


The Salutation

Beginning your cover letter with the greeting “To Whom It May Concern” is one of the most common and easily avoided writing mistakes. As noted above, it typically doesn’t take a lot of time or energy to find out the name of the hiring manager for an open position, even if it isn’t listed in the job ad. Search LinkedIn for the names of the company’s recruiters or for the name of the person you would report to should you get hired. (Often a job ad will list this information.)

In a perfect world, you should do your homework, find a name, and address your cover letter with “Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name.” However, if you are not provided with the name of the employer, and despite your best efforts you can’t find a name, you can write, “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Hiring Professional.”

Don’t use “To Whom It May Concern,” which is a bit too generic, or “Dear Sir or Madame,” which sounds old-fashioned. The best greeting uses the recipient’s name, such as, “Dear Ms. Johnson.” If you have tried and failed to find the name of the hiring manager, an alternate, though less desirable, greeting would be “Dear Hiring Manager.”

The Introduction

The goal of this section is to reel in the reader and entice them to devour your cover letter and resume – hook, line, and sinker. Your introduction paragraph is, in essence, your mission statement. Here you outline why you want to work for the company, which role you are applying for, and, briefly, why you are qualified for the role.

If you have a personal connection to the company, such a referral, definitely mention it here. You might also add a line about what has motivated you to apply. For example, if you have been a long-time user of one of the company’s products, this might be a motivator for applying to work for the company.

The introduction should only be a few lines but can pack a punch. Here are two examples of introductions that could get you to the next step in the hiring process:


INTRODUCTION EXAMPLES


“Please accept my resume as my application to the Marketing Associate position at Pottery Plus. Marketing Manager Joe Johnson referred me to the role. He and I worked together for several years, and he believes that my five years of experience working in busy marketing departments and my proven track record of building and launching successful seasonal retail campaigns make me a great fit for the position.”

“I am writing to apply for the Store Manager position at Green Apple Market. When I first moved to San Francisco, I lived near the market and shopped there regularly. Throughout my career, my experiences at Green Apple Market have stood out as some of the best customer services I have ever received. During my ten years in the health food industry, I’ve striven to emulate the service I received at your store, which is why I was excited to learn about this opportunity.”

Notice how the first example calls out the name and title of the employee who is making the referral, names the title of the job he is applying for, and calls attention to the fact that he has the experience that the job ad requires.

In the second example, the applicant states a personal connection to the company and is able to briefly articulate her experience and why she would like to join the team.

Again mentions the title of the job she is applying for, her years of experience, and explains briefly why she would be a good fit for the role. She also makes sure to mention the name of the company, which instantly lets the hiring manager know that this is not a cookie cutter cover letter.

Sell Yourself in the Body Paragraphs

These paragraphs are all about what you have to offer the employer. Here, highlight examples of relevant work you’ve performed in the past and explain what results it achieved. It goes without saying that these examples should always be ones that reflect positively on your performance in past roles.

Use one or two examples of achievements that draw on some of the key competencies you’ve outlined in your resume. To identify these, refer to the job post and ask yourself, “What is the company trying to achieve with this hire?” and “What problem exists that this position will solve?” Once you’ve identified these, look back at your work history and find similar examples to mention.

If you have several examples that you’d like to use, utilizing bullet points in this section is effective both to draw the reader’s eye to your successes and to break up the text into digestible chunks.

Remember, writing a cover letter is all about calling attention to your achievements. To accomplish this, it’s not enough to just state the achievement. Employers want to see quantifiable data that demonstrates the impact of your actions and your work ethic.

Still stuck on how to quantify your success? There are tons of ways to do so. Consider adding some of the following information to your cover letter:

  • An increase in sales volume

  • The number of new contracts that you’ve won

  • Increases in market share thanks to your work

  • An increase in the number of customers served and retained during your tenure

  • The number of direct reports you manage

  • The amount of money you’ve saved the company

  • Percentage by which efficiency has improved thanks to your efforts

  • Deadlines you meet in an average week, month, or year

  • How you rank in performance, especially if you are the number one performer or are in the top 10 percent

  • Professional awards you’ve won

  • Magazines or journals that have published your work

  • The amount of money raised thanks to your grant applications

  • Improvements in employee engagement thanks to your initiatives

  • Increase in website traffic or conversion rates

Here is an example of an effective paragraph of body copy:


EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH OF BODY COPY EXAMPLE


“As a customer service representative for Shoe World, I am responsible for answering up to 50 calls and 100 emails per week to assist customers with questions, complaints, and concerns. Last quarter, 85% of the customers I assisted reported being satisfied with the resolution of their issue in online polling, which is 10% over the company’s average satisfaction rate. Last year, I was recognized for handling more calls than any other customer service rep in the company.”

Or, this section could also be written as a bullet point list. Here is how you would make the information above into list form:


EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH OF BODY COPY EXAMPLE


  • Responsible for answering up to 50 calls and 100 emails per week to assist customers with questions, complaints, and concerns.

  • In Q4 of 2017, 85% of the customers I assisted reported being satisfied with the resolution of their issue in online polling, which is 10% over the company’s average satisfaction rate.

  • In 2016, I was recognized for handling more calls than any other customer service rep in the company.

Conclusion

Your conclusion is all about summarizing. At this point in your cover letter, your job is to sum up how your hard and soft skills come together to make you a good fit for the job at hand.

Don’t be afraid to express enthusiasm for the position as you wrap up your cover letter. Mention a project or problem that you are excited to work on for the employer. Finally, say that you would love to have the opportunity to interview.

Be sure to include a mention of the best way to contact you (either phone or email). Last but certainly not least, thank the recruiter or hiring manager for reviewing your qualifications and reviewing your application and end with a professional signature, such as “Sincerely” or “Respectfully yours.”

Here are two examples of cover letter conclusions:


CONCLUSION EXAMPLES


In addition to my marketing experience, my passion for fitness would be an asset in this role. I am excited by the possibility of applying my marketing skills to an area that holds so much personal importance to me and World Fitness’ mission is exactly one that I’d love to help promote.

Please see additional details of my relevant experience in my attached resume. I am available via phone or email to answer additional questions you might have about my background and to set up an interview.

Sincerely,

Kim Stevens

In addition to my educational background in early childhood development and my experience as a nanny, I find it gratifying to be around children. My past charges have taught me patience, empathy, and humor in ways I could never have imagined. I would love the opportunity to meet you children and discuss this role with you further.

Thank you for reviewing my qualifications. Please contact me via telephone or email at your earliest convenience to set up a time to meet.

Respectfully yours,

Molly Fuller

Cover Letter Format Examples

Once you’ve nailed down your content, the fun part begins: choosing a cover letter format. Your cover letter is one of the first documents a recruiter will open when you apply for a job, so making it look clean and attractive is critical to getting a recruiter to continue reading.

Whether you like things sleek and modern, or you lean towards colorful and artistic, there’s a cover letter format for every taste and style. When choosing a cover letter template, keep your audience in mind. An applicant for a job in a conservative environment, such as a law firm or financial services company, will want to choose a simple, classic cover letter template. However, an applicant for a job in beauty, fashion, or a creative field might want something edgier.

If you aren’t sure of which cover letter format is right for you, a basic template will work for everyone, regardless of the stage of their career or their industry.

Basic and Simple Cover Letter Format Examples

Hloom’s basic and simple cover letter format examples will work for anyone in any industry. Clean, fuss-free designs keep the focus on the content. Whether you are a recent grad seeking your first job or an experienced professional looking to make your next big move, a basic and simple cover letter format will get the job done.

Cover Letter Formats:

Clean Cover Letter Format Examples

Like Hloom’s basic and simple cover letter format examples, our clean over letter formats work across industries and experience levels. The designs are clean and simple, with a twist of personality, to keep the focus on the content while drawing the eye to your header with a pop of color.

Cover Letter Formats:

Modern Cover Letter Format Examples

Applying for work in a creative industry such as fashion, beauty, architecture, or editorial? You’ll want to choose a cover letter format that not only gets your points across but that does so with flair. Choosing a modern cover letter format might be the right choice for you!

Cover Letter Formats:

Contemporary Cover Letter Format Examples

Our Contemporary cover letter formats have an eye-catching, modern look. Layouts in this category offer one- or two-column formats with the look and feel of a newsletter, complete with headlines (some even allow photographs!)

Cover Letter Formats:

Portfolio Cover Letter Format Examples

Portfolio templates allow you to highlight creativity and accomplishments in a visual way, which is perfect for someone in a creative field. Artists, advertising executives, architects, and anyone who has visual samples of their work should check out these cover letter formats.

Cover Letter Formats:

Creative Cover Letter Format Examples

You march to the beat of your own drum and so should your cover letter format. These visually appealing layouts burst with creativity. If you work in an industry that encourages bucking the norm, check out our creative cover letter format examples.

Cover Letter Formats:

Cover Letter Format Examples

Your cover letter format is important, but it’s not the only consideration when thinking about the appearance of your cover letter. Keep the following cover letter best practices in mind when you sit down to write your cover letter.

Cover Letter Format Tips

Use 1” – 1.5” margins – these look best on the page

Use 10- to 12-point font. Anything larger will look odd. Use a font size that’s smaller and you run the risk of making your resume hard to read.

Make sure all of your paragraphs are left-aligned

Rather than writing long paragraphs to describe your skills and demonstrate your professional wins, consider using bullet points for easy reading.