In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the essential elements of a cover letter format that will make you stand out from the competition. Whether you're a seasoned professional or a recent graduate, this guide will equip you with the tools to create a cover letter that gets noticed and opens doors to exciting career opportunities.
So, without further ado, let's dive into this essential guide and elevate your cover letter game to new heights!
What is a Cover Letter?
Before diving into the details of crafting a perfect cover letter format, let's first understand its purpose.
A cover letter is a document that accompanies your resume when applying for a job. It gives you the opportunity to express your interest in a position, showcase your qualifications and demonstrate how your skills align with the job requirements. Additionally, a cover letter allows you to convey your personality, professionalism and enthusiasm for the role, making it an essential component of a job application. There are two types of cover letters:
- Standard cover letter, or an application letter, is the most popular type. You send it as an attachment in response to a job ad.
- An email cover letter is a shorter cover letter type that you write directly in email message. It’s less formal.
Choosing either depends on the type of job application process you’re in. Most online applications allow you to upload your resume and cover letter, but that may not always be true. Sometimes, tools let you upload only your resume. In such cases, you’ll be asked to email the recruiter or use a dedicated field in the app to write a short cover letter.
Also, if you want to make a compelling resume, read our guide on powerful words to include in your resume that will help you stand out from the crowd.
How to Format a Cover Letter?
Standard Cover Letter Format
You’ll notice the distinction between layout and structure, meaning the look and feel and the order in which you should write a standard cover letter. The tips below will let you create and maintain the best cover letter formatting in regards to legibility and readability. Here’s everything you need to know:
- Pick a legible cover letters font, like Arial, Calibri or Verdana, and keep it between 10 and 12 font-size points.
- Set margins to 1 inch on each side of the page.
- Adjust cover letter spacing: double spacing between paragraphs and 1–1.15 between lines.
- Left-align all contents.
- Limit the length of your cover letter to one page.
- Save your cover letter in PDF. It’s the best choice to keep the cover letter layout intact.
- Name your cover letter file like this YourName—JobTitle—CoverLetter.pdf.
Email Cover Letter Format
If you’re required to send your cover letter in the body of an email (not as an attachment), the formatting of this cover letter should look something like this:
- Subject line – Use a professional subject line that clearly states the position titles and your name.
- Salutation – Begin your cover letter email by politely addressing the hiring manager by name (for example, “Dear Ms. Prudence”)
- The “Intro” paragraph – Introduce yourself and express your interest in the position.
- The “Hard Sell” paragraph – Prove how qualified you are. Reference the job posting.
- The “Action” paragraph – Thank the hiring manager and express interest in an interview.
- Sign-off — ”Sincerely” is standard for cover letters, but “Best wishes,” “Cordially,” and “Best regards” are also acceptable for email cover letters.
- Contact Information – Provide your contact information at the bottom of your email.
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Structuring Cover Letter
Here is an outlined section by section cover letter format to help you write a cover letter on your own.
- Date and contact information
There are two ways to list your contact information on a cover letter, depending on whether you provide a digital or hard copy. If you’re submitting a digital copy online, include your city, state, phone number and email:
Although it’s becoming less common, there may be a time when you’re required to submit a paper copy of your cover letter. In this case, the top left-hand side of your letter should include the following:
Your city, state, ZIP code
Your phone number
Your email address
Hiring manager’s name
Company city, state, ZIP code
Start your cover letter by addressing the hiring manager. If you can, try to find out the name of the hiring manager. Reread the job offer or check the company website to see if it’s listed there. Do not use ”Mr.,” ”Mrs.” or ”Ms.,” rather,use the hiring manager’s first and last name.
If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, stick with “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid outdated greetings, such as “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
- Opening paragraph
The opening paragraph is your chance to catch the hiring manager’s attention, introduce yourself and express your enthusiasm to the employer. Include why you’re excited about the job, the company and how it aligns with your career goals. Include keywords from the job posting and match your skills to the employer’s requirements.
If you were referred to this job by someone who knows the hiring manager or already works at this company, you may want to mention this referral in your opening paragraph.
- Middle paragraphs
Use the middle paragraph to discuss your most relevant experience, highlighting specific qualifications and skills that make you the perfect candidate for the job. In one or two paragraphs, connect your previous accomplishments and suitability for the role you are applying for. Think of these paragraphs as a way to pitch yourself as the ideal match for the role.
- Closing paragraph
Use the final paragraph to thank the employer for their time and consideration and clarify any details from your resume. For example, if you have employment gaps because you cared for a sick loved one, you can briefly mention this here. You can also use this space to summarise your qualifications for the role and express an interest in continuing to the next stage in the hiring process.
- Complimentary close and signature
Choose a complimentary closing that is friendly yet formal, followed by your first and last name. you might want to including or use the following for closing :
Thank you for your consideration
Avoid closings like ”Cheers,” ”Warm Regards”, or ”Yours Truly”, as these may be considered too casual or affectionate. If you provide a hard copy of your cover letter, handwrite your signature and include your full typed name.
Crafting a perfect cover letter format requires research, personalization, and effective storytelling. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can create a compelling cover letter format that showcases your qualifications and sets you apart from other candidates. Remember to tailor each cover letter to the job and company while also demonstrating your enthusiasm, skills and cultural fit. With a well-crafted cover letter, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?
Cover letters should be concise and to the point, including three-quarters of a page to one full page, ensuring you provide enough information to showcase your qualifications while keeping the reader engaged.
Should I Address My Cover Letter To A Specific Person?
Whenever possible, address your cover letter to a specific person. This demonstrates your attention to detail and effort in researching the company. If the job posting does not mention a specific contact, take the time to find the appropriate person's name through LinkedIn or the company's website.
Should I Include My Salary Expectations In The Cover Letter?
No, don’t mention salary expectations in your cover letter. Focus on showcasing your qualifications and fit for the role instead. Salary negotiations typically occur at a later stage in the hiring process.
Is It Necessary To Include References In My Cover Letter?
No, it is not necessary to include references in your cover letter. The focus should be on highlighting your qualifications and experiences. If required, references are usually requested separately in the application process.