How To Format A Cover Letter
Formatting a cover letter begins with understanding its purpose and structure. A well-crafted cover letter serves as a personalized introduction to your resume, showcasing your enthusiasm, qualifications, and the value you can bring to a prospective employer.
Most cover letters are formatted with the following structure:
- Contact Information Headings: Include your name, address, phone number, and email at the top of the cover letter.
- Greeting: Begin with a professional salutation, addressing the hiring manager by name if available. If the name is unknown, opt for a general greeting.
- Opening Paragraph: In this section, express your interest in the position and briefly mention how you discovered the job opportunity.
- Body Paragraphs: Use two to three paragraphs to highlight your relevant skills, experiences, and achievements that align with your qualifications for the position.
- Call to Action Conclusion: Summarize key qualifications and express eagerness for further discussion in an interview.
- Signature: Include a polite closing line, such as “Thank you for considering my application.”
It’s very important to keep the cover letter concise, focusing on key points that directly relate to the job you’re applying for so that it is clear why you are a relevant and qualified candidate.
The reader will likely skim your letter very quickly (they probably have a lot of letters and resumes to read), so grab their attention with keywords and quantifiable metrics related to the job position.
This has the additional benefit of making your cover letter stand out with applicant tracking systems (ATS) which automates the hiring process by filtering for qualified candidates based on parameters such as years of experience, specific roles, and desired skills.
Due to this, we recommend you customize each cover letter for the specific job and company to demonstrate your genuine interest and suitability for the position. This way, both AI and humans can easily see why they should bring you in for an interview or hire you on the spot!
Cover Letter Format: Before You Write
Before you write your cover letter, make sure to use the following formats for text, margins, and spacing:
- Body Text: 11 or 12 points
- Name and Section Headings: 14-16 points
- Use a professional and easily readable font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
- Ensure consistency throughout the document.
- Standard margins are typically 1 to 1.5 inches on all sides.
- Adjust as needed, but maintain a professional appearance and be consistent on every side.
- Use single to 1.5 spacing for the body text.
- Add a space between each paragraph.
- Double-space between your closing and your typed name.
How To Start A Cover Letter
The structure of a cover letter is very important. Each section is a logical progression that engages the reader to learn more about you. This combines with the quality of your words to tell a story that provides captivating insight into your qualifications.
In the header of your cover letter, include the same information found in your resume:
- Full name
- Mailing address (optional)
- City, state – ZIP code
- Phone number
- Professional email address
Consider placing your contact information in the header of your document in the same format as your resume. This creates a uniform appearance that helps establish name recognition. A resume and cover letter generator allows you to create such consistency.
Add Hiring Manager & Company’s Information
Like the rest of your cover letter, the hiring manager’s name and contact information should be left-aligned and flush to the margins. This contact header should contain the following information:
- Hiring manager’s name
- Company mailing address
- Company city, state – ZIP code
- Company phone number.
- Mailing Date [Month Day, Year]
Write Your Cover Letter Salutation
Do your best to address the cover letter directly to the hiring manager in your greeting. This helps you stand out and establish more of a connection with the reader.
If you do not know who the hiring manager is, there are several strategies you can use to find out their name. Read the job description carefully and visit the company’s website or LinkedIn to start your search.
When in doubt, you can address the cover letter to the “hiring manager”. However, this is generic and may be less effective. Do not use “To Whom It May Concern” as this is considered outdated.
Regardless, keep your greeting simple and professional with a straightforward “Dear…” as in:
- Dear [Full Name],
- Dear [Mr./Ms. Last Name],
- Dear Hiring Manager,
Note: Only use Mr. or Ms. if you are certain of the hiring manager’s gender. Additionally, use Ms. if, whether or not you know they are married, as this is considered more professional.
Write a Cover Letter Introduction
Knowing how to start a cover letter begins with a strong introduction. This is your first real chance to hook the reader in with your qualifications and interest in the position.
Much like a resume summary or objective statement, your introduction presents you as an exceptionally qualified candidate. You will want to explain why you are interested in the role and what it is about your skills or experience that makes you a great fit.
Here is a good example of a cover letter introduction:
“As an experienced Sales Associate, Good Denim’s open position for Lead Cashier sparked my interest. When reviewing the position requirements and your organization’s website, I believe my rapid calculation skills, warm people skills, and years of personal shopping experience align with your store’s needs.”
Consider our cover letter writing guide for further advice on how to write a cover letter introduction.
Cover Letter Body
The body of your cover letter is where you present your best professional accomplishments and quantifiable achievements that show why you are a valuable job candidate.
It’s particularly important for the content of your body paragraphs to tell a story that validates a particularly relevant skill. Engage the reader with a narrative that shows your professional growth and expertise, adding a touch of personality to help make yourself unique among other applicants.
This means you will want to provide context and specific, quantifiable achievements that show what you can do.
You can write this as a traditional paragraph or explain the information in bullet points and numbered lists.
Keep your paragraphs tightly constructed. For example:
“As an administrative assistant at ABC Realty, I have had to learn how to organize resources to improve our company effectively. Through my own initiative, I created an online marketing campaign that increased our client base by 30%. This required persistent management of materials provided by other employees, which gave them more time to focus on their work.”
Lists allow you to separate each accomplishment individually to bring equal attention to all of them.
They are also easier to read, so if you already have a text-heavy introduction and closing, a bulleted list is an excellent formatting choice.
This is how a bulleted body paragraph can look for an administrative assistant position:
“Although I struggled at first, with a persistent drive to improve, I have achieved many goals as an administrative assistant for ABC Realty, such as:
- Creating an online marketing campaign that increased our client base by 30%.
- Improving our customer satisfaction ratings by 65% by providing concierge-level customer service.
- Establishing an interactive online calendar to reduce appointment incompatibility and optimize realtors’ schedules, increasing monthly viewings by more than 65 listings.”
Additionally, you will want a body paragraph that takes your previous experiences and ties them to your application.
Explain how these skills can be used to fulfill the job requirements and bring success to your prospective employer.
“My administrative experience at ABC Realty taught me the value of time management and direct communication. These are skills that your company needs so that its employees can better serve your clients. Your exceptional customer service begins with exceptional administrative organization.”
Cover Letter Conclusion
Make sure to finish strong on your cover letter!
Your conclusion should wrap up your qualifications and interest in the position by providing a call to action for the reader.
Prompt the reader to reach out to you for further discussion. Make sure to convey the following information:
- Recap why you’re applying for the job.
- Provide the hiring manager with your most reliable forms of communication.
- Offer the hiring manager your contact schedule.
- Explain that you look forward to hearing back from the team.
For example, your conclusion to a cover letter may look like:
“I am fully invested in providing the best administrative qualities to this position because I want to grow with this company and help bring success. I am available during regular business hours from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my interest in this position further.”
It is important to remember that your conclusion must tie back to your letter overall and leave the reader wanting to learn more about you.
After your conclusion, use a professional sign-off such as:
- Thank you for your time,
- Best regards,
After which, you will type your name.
If you are mailing your cover letter, or want to get extra fancy, you can write your signature above your printed name as well.
Cover Letter Format for Email
We’ve written about how to format a cover letter document. This advice is helpful if you’re uploading your resume, cover letter, and additional application materials through a company’s online application system or a job board like Monster, Glassdoor, Workday, or LinkedIn.
However, if you’re applying to a smaller company or have a direct line to a hiring manager, send your cover letter directly via email.
An email lets you do away with the formal sections of the cover letter (i.e., the contact headings and your electronic signature) in favor of the actual body of your letter.
You can copy and paste the introduction, body, and conclusion of your letter directly into the body of your email and upload your resume and application materials as email attachments.
Most email servers offer the same general formatting options as most document software, such as indents, bulleted and numbered lists, font treatments, and three standard font sizes.
Before hitting send, highlight your entire text and apply a standard font style and size to create a clean, uniform email.
Formatting a Cover Letter Tips
To create the best cover letter, you need to keep in the following fundamentals of its format.
- Font: Use a 10-12 size font. Anything larger than that will look odd and take up space from your letter, and anything smaller will be too hard to read. We recommend easy-to-read fonts like Arial or Times New Roman. Eccentric fonts won’t look professional and might not even be properly scanned by applicant tracking systems.
- Margins: These should range between 1 to 1.5 inches, and no more than that. This margin width gives you ample space to write a long and thorough letter without your text looking cramped or cutting off when you print or download your letter. If the margins are too small, your resume will look crowded and be hard to read.
- Alignment: All your paragraphs should be aligned to the left since it allows for the most natural reading flow. Make sure to be consistent with indentations. If you indent the first sentence of one paragraph, follow through with the rest of them.
- Length and spacing: Don’t extend your cover letter past one page and avoid long, run-on sentences. For line spacing, between 1 to 1.5 spacing is ideal. To reduce length yet remain concise, you can also format the body paragraph using bullets.
- File format: When you submit a cover letter, it will likely be read by an applicant tracking system (ATS). This automated process will filter out any cover letters with incompatible formats. To avoid this issue, use a cover letter generator, then you can easily write your document and download it in multiple ATS-friendly file formats like PDF and DOC.
- The format of a cover letter can be broken down into sections: contact information, salutation, introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, concluding paragraph, and sign-off.
- Do your best to address your cover letter to a specific person. This helps make you stand out as someone who is dedicated and has put time and effort into their application.
- Stick to traditional font and spacing formatting: 10 to 12-point font, professional typefaces such as Times New Roman, 1 to 1.5-inch margins, and 1 to 1.5 spacings.
Cover Letter Format FAQ
A basic cover letter should hit the following goals.
- Introduce yourself: Give the reader context about who you are and why you are interested in the position.
- Showcase one to three job-relevant skills with examples: Tell a story about how your qualifications have had tangible results in the past. Additionally, show how they directly relate to the open job position.
- Invite the hiring manager to connect with you: By the end of the cover letter, if you have formatted it correctly, the reader will want to learn more about you and set up an interview.
Our detailed cover letter writing guide offers step-by-step advice on connecting with hiring managers, features real-world examples of effective cover letters and access to free templates and additional resources.
A lack of formal experience shouldn’t discourage you from writing a compelling cover letter. You can also impress hiring managers with your cover letter by highlighting the following:
- Soft, hard and technical skills.
- Personal projects related to your industry or profession, i.e., creative content portfolios, hardware creations, software development or YouTube channels.
- Hobbies, volunteer work or school club activities.
- Relevant coursework or research projects.
- Personal anecdotes that demonstrate your professional or leadership capabilities.
Establishing a strong introduction and closing statement that focuses on how you can positively impact the company is a sure way to impress a hiring manager and convince them that you are a serious candidate to consider.
Employers are generally looking to get two things out of your cover letter:
- Clarification on your resume: Your resume is a one-page summary of your professional skills and accomplishments. The best cover letters hone in on select skills or achievements and flesh them out, providing quantifiable examples that a hire manager can analyze when considering your candidacy.
- Culture fit: Since a resume follows a strict format and summarizes up to a decade of work, it can be difficult to gauge your personality and compatibility with an existing team. Your cover letter can help demonstrate your personality and professional interests, offering hiring managers a glimpse into your collaborative working style.
Although including a cover letter in your job application is the right choice, some mistakes could hurt your chances of impressing employers and hiring managers.
Three things you should never do on your cover letter are:
- Repeat the same information on your resume: Instead, offer your perspective on the goals or challenges you have had throughout your job history and talk about experiences that have made you grow both professionally and personally. This way, you will create a cover letter that complements your resume rather than duplicating it.
- Write a generic cover letter: Do write a personalized cover letter for each job so that you can present yourself as the best candidate for that specific position. Showing you’re a candidate who’s invested in the job is a big plus for employers.
- Ignore typos: They might seem like common mistakes, but in a tight pool of candidates, being the one with perfect grammar will give you bonus points. Turn on your spellcheck and have someone else proofread your cover letter just in case.