How to Format a Cover Letter
What is the best way to format a cover letter? This guide has everything you need to format your cover letter like a pro.
Follow it to the end, and by the time you read the last word, you will have mastered how to format your cover letter professionally. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
Cover letter formatting rules
- Left-align all contents. Avoid justifying. It is against the standard rules of business letter formatting.
- Set one-inch margins on all sides.
- Use business letter format spacing: 1 or 1.15.
- Put double spaces between paragraphs.
- Add a digital copy of your handwritten signature in your sign-off. This adds a professional touch (optional).
- Save your cover letter in PDF. Saving as PDF keeps the layout intact.
The basics of a cover letter template
Below are the basics of a cover letter template:
- Greetings: Address your cover letter to the right person.
- Opening: Write an appealing opening paragraph that notes how your skills are a good fit for the job and display your enthusiasm.
- Hook: Highlight your past achievements that are related to the job you are applying for.
- Skills: Emphasize additional relevant skills, such as programming or certifications.
- Close: Briefly state your strengths again as a candidate, and include your contact information.
Cover letter heading
A cover letter heading is primarily there to provide your contact information to employers. Traditionally, this information was displayed in plain text (either left-aligned or centered) at the top of the letter.
Today many templates have a modern look. For example, bolded text, icons, and alternative fonts and colors.
What to include
Regardless of the design you pick, make sure your cover letter header has the following:
- Address: Today, it is allowed to omit your street address and just include your city and state.
- Phone number: Remember to include the relevant area or country code if applying for a job in a different city, state, or country.
- Email address: Only add a professional email address — for example, email@example.com.
- Online profile: Today, it is acceptable to add a link to your relevant online profiles — for example, LinkedIn or personal website link.
Date and employer contact information
After your cover letter heading, list today’s date, followed by the employer’s contact information. Remember to leave a space between the date and the hiring manager’s name.
What to include
- Today’s Date
- Hiring Manager’s Name
- Company Name
- Company Street Address
- Company City, State, and Zip Code
You may have noticed employer contact information is skipped when submitting a digital application. Why? Because hiring managers already know their contact information.
That said, start your cover letter with today’s date, followed by a simple greeting for the hiring manager. We shall dive deeper into this later.
Addressing a cover letter
The worst mistake you can make is addressing your letter wrongly. Keep in mind that you have one chance to make the first impression. So, make sure you have nailed it.
Often make sure to address your cover letter to the hiring manager in charge of the position you are applying for. If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, try calling the company and asking for the hiring manager’s name.
If finally, you don’t eventually find the name of the hiring manager, use generic greetings like “Dear Hiring Manager,” “Dear Accounting Department,” and “Dear Accounting Team.”
Assuming the hiring manager’s name or marital status is the other thing to avoid. If not sure about the marital status or name, avoid titles such as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.”
Cover letter body
The first paragraph of your letter is the most crucial. It is a paragraph that determines whether employers will read the rest of your letter. This means you have to tailor it well. To have a perfect intro paragraph make sure it:
- Grab the attention of hiring managers.
- Provide a self-introduction.
- List the position you are applying for.
- Describe where you found the job posting.
- Offer a sneak peek into why you’re the ideal candidate for the role.
Have a look at this example:
Please accept my enclosed application for the role of web developer officer at [Company Name]. I noticed your job posting on [Website Name] and am happy to say that my 5+ years of web development experience matches your company’s needs perfectly.
Note. If you have been referred to that role by mutual contact of the hiring manager, make sure to include that information in the intro paragraph. A referral comes in handy when applying for a job and increases your chances of landing an interview.
- The hard sell paragraph
Use this paragraph to hard-sell yourself. Dive deeper into your accomplishment and experience. Remember to delve into experience and accomplishments that are related to the job you are applying for. See the example below.
“I noticed in your job posting that you are looking for a candidate that will require minimal training and supervision. After gaining 3+ years of dental assisting experience, I can assure you that I am completely familiar with the routines associated with patient care, performing dental work, record keeping and billing, handling scheduling, insurance, and even doing inventory maintenance.”
- The research paragraph
Exceptional candidates and who are often sought-after by employers always go an extra step. They research potential employers. For example, they can find the position of their target employers.
If you decide to take this step, writing a detailed paragraph will definitely wow your bosses to be. For example, you can explain how you will help the company progress further in reaching its goals.
More tips on how to format middle paragraphs
- Read the job posting carefully: Look for challenges your boss to be is currently facing and explain how you can provide solutions.
- Dig into your expertise that will help you solve the challenges you have identified. You can use bullets to detail your expertise.
- Explain your motivation: Make sure your future employers understand your motivation. That way, it will be easier to wow them to want to know more about you.
After writing an impressive cover letter, conclude with a strong paragraph. Make sure to:
- Thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration of your application.
- Reaffirm your contact information, including your email address and phone number.
- End with a compelling call-to-action that prompts the hiring manager to invite you in for an interview.
- Though not a must, briefly recap what makes you a fit candidate for the role.
Check out this example:
“I would love to have an opportunity to join the team at [Clinic Name]. I am looking forward to having a more detailed discussion with you about how I can join your team and help you achieve your goals.”
Cover Letter Conclusion
Finally, bid goodbye to the hiring manager with a friendly letter close. You can use closing examples, such as:
- Best Regards
- Thank you for your consideration
- Yours Respectfully
Avoid closing letters like:
- Warm regards
- Best wishes
- Yours truly
- Take care
- Yours sincerely
- With appreciation
Finally, authenticate your cover letter by signing below the closing salutation. If submitting a digital copy, you can type the first and last name or initials of your names as a signature. Alternatively, and if old-fashioned, add an e-signature.
Cover letter aesthetics
Here are a few tips that will make your cover letter stand out:
- Font style: Use only professional fonts. For example, Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana.
- Font size: Choose between 10 – 12pt fonts. Too smaller fonts will strain the eyes of the hiring managers, while a large font will make you look like a joker.
- Spacing: Set one-inch margins on all sides. It is also ok to make slight adjustments to the margins if strapped for space, but be cautious to avoid giving your document an unprofessional look.
- File format: Always save and submit your cover letter in PDF format unless stated otherwise. A PDF is preferred because it cannot be altered and doesn’t pose any compatibility issues. Additionally, PDFs can be scanned by applicant tracking systems. Finally, remember to use an appropriate name such as “Your-Name-Cover-Letter.PDF” when saving your document.
Cover letter length: What is the ideal length of a cover letter?
As a rule of thumb, your cover letter should not exceed one page in length. Try to keep it between 250 – 400 words. Keep in mind that hiring managers are busy people and don’t have enough time to read a lengthy cover letter.
Again, if your letter is too short, hiring managers may see you as a joker. So try your best to keep your cover letter within a reasonable length.
Cover letter format for email
We promised at the beginning of this post that we shall delve deeper. Now let’s see how to format your letter if required to send a digital copy.
If required to upload your letter as an attachment, you don’t need to make any changes to your cover letter format. Just save your letter to the appropriate file (PDF or Ms. Word) and upload it.
Remember to craft a small formal message in the body section of your email that briefly tells the hiring manager you have attached your letter. It is professional to do so.
However, if you are required to send your cover letter (not as an attachment), make the following adjustments to the format.
- Craft a professional subject line: Make sure your subject clearly states your name and the position you are applying for. For example, “Marketing Associate Position – Robert Smith.” That way, you simplify the work of hiring managers.
- Relocate your contact information: It is not professional to start an email by stating your name, address, email, phone number, and online profile. Instead, place this information below your salutation. Make sure you write the details out and don’t rely on your e-signature.
- Remove the date and employer’s contact Info: Since you are sending it via email, there is no need to include these old-school details. Go straight to the salutation.