Cover Letter Format Examples (+ Free Template, How to) [2020]

cover letter format

The format of your cover letter is almost as important as what you write in your cover letter. If your hiring manager has a difficult time reading your letter, what good does it do for you? The good news is that the format of this business letter doesn’t need to be complex. The simpler it is for your hiring manager to read, the more you can rely on your great writing to do the work for you.

As a job seeker, you’ll be asked to create a cover letter whenever you apply for a job through a job application. Some positions may ask for a curriculum vitae, which these formatting tips are applicable for, as well.

Cover letter format basics

Your letter format

The format of your letter should be that of any legal letter or business letter. The best way to ensure that your professional cover letter is formatted correctly is to use Google Docs. Start a new document, modify the font size to be 9pt. And then start writing. By default, the letter will have the correct formatting for you to start your writing. And is considered a professional business letter format as indicated by Google Docs.

Your letter font

Your employer wants to be able to read your cover letter and resume, not be impressed by it. The creativity you put into your cover letter should come from what you write, not how you present it. Keep your font either serif or sans serif. A sans-serif font would include Helvetica or Arial. And a serif font would include Garamond, Calibri, Times New Roman.

An email cover letter

Some job applicants feel as though writing an email cover letter is better than writing a cover letter in PDF format. The issue with this is that it doesn’t show commitment to the specific job you’re applying for or show respect to the fact that you took the time to write your own cover letter that’s professional and targeted to the reader or hiring manager. If you are deciding between writing an email as your cover letter or writing a formal letter to the hiring manager, I would urge you to leave a better first impression to the hiring manager by writing a formal cover letter.

Prospecting letter format

If you’re writing a prospecting letter, this is similar to a cover letter and can use the same business letter format described. A prospecting letter is sent to an employer when there is no job description or job advertisement posted online for an available position. In this case, you are recommending the employer opens a position for you by presenting yourself as a good fit for the business.

What goes in the cover letter

Here are the basic components of what goes inside of an effective cover letter.

Contact information: At the top of the page, include basic contact information like your name, phone number, email address, website, LinkedIn profile URL, and job title you’re applying for. You can find the correct job title in the job description or job advertisement that your potential employer posted online.

Opening phrase or greeting: It’s important to know who you’re writing your cover letter to. Address the reader using the hiring manager's name who is going to be reading your letter. Addressing a specific person is better than having a vague start to your letter. Writing “Dear Hiring Manager” is a great backup when the hiring manager’s name isn’t listed on the job posting or job advertisement.

Opening paragraph: The first paragraph of your cover letter should display some relevant information about why you’re applying for this position, using the research that you gathered from your initial research or glance at the job ad. Show the hiring manager that you comprehend the goals of the business for that fiscal year. That should be sufficient enough to "hook" your reader into continuing to read.

Middle paragraph: Your middle or second paragraph should provide the reader your career accomplishments and professional background to truly support why you’re a great candidate for the role. This is the part that is really going to grab your prospective employer and tell them to read your resume. These career accomplishments should be in support of what you believe the specific position you’re applying for should require. This is much better than listing a skill or qualification that you have which meets the employers hiring needs.

Closing paragraph: Your closing paragraph (or salutation) should contain a level of gratitude and detail that tells the reader that your resume contains more information like what you’ve provided to help the hiring manager make a decision in the hiring process. It can be a great idea to proposition the reader, as well. For example, "I'd love to be able to walk you through how I increased sales by 32% at XYZ Company in 2012." This can help to invite yourself to an interview and tell the hiring manager you want the job.

By ensuring that each of these sections is in your cover letter and by customizing each section to the hiring manager's expectations that have been set through the job description, you can create a successful cover letter and a perfect cover letter format.

Cover letter sample

Below is a cover letter example you can use for your formatting needs. Remember, a good cover letter is readable. As long as that’s the case, your hiring manager should be pleased with your format.

sample cover letter

free cover letter template

Free Cover Letter Template

Download this cover letter letter template in Word format. Can be imported as a Google Doc. Instant download. No email required.

Download Template

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Best Business Letter Format (+ Writing Guide) [2020]
3 Resume Formats Explained - Free Template Download for 2020
author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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