How to Format a Cover Letter (+ Formatting Guide, Examples, Free Template) 
A cover letter is a type of business letter and introduction letter between a job applicant and a hiring manager (or recruiter). A cover letter is sometimes referred to as an application letter. This cover letter accompanies a resume or curriculum vitae in a job application. This letter acts as the first impression between the writer and the reader. A hiring manager or recruiter is likely to read a cover letter before continuing to learn about the job applicant’s professional background through a resume.
A cover letter is made up of three impactful paragraphs that have been tailored to a specific job and job description (tailored to the potential employer). The ideal cover letter is roughly 400 to 500 words in length, equaling a single-page document with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This letter is written with formal language, from the greeting to the salutation.
Cover letters are often confused with a prospecting letter. A prospecting letter is formatted similarly to a cover letter but contains information used to perform a long-distance job search or to show interest in employment when there are open positions.
Tip: It can be helpful for a job seeker to perform an informational interview before writing a cover letter. This can help to gain insights about what the company or hiring manager is looking for in a job applicant. An informational interview is when a job seeker can gather career advice from an employee. With this information, it can make it easier to write a more perfect cover letter (since the letter will more accurately target to the reader).
Inside a Cover Letter
To write an effective cover letter, follow these formatting guidelines.
Submitting a digital copy of a cover letter is most common. Meaning, the hiring manager will be reading the cover letter on their computer. The basic contact information like the job applicant’s name, phone number, and email address should be present. Because it's a digital copy, the job applicant can avoid listing their mailing address. Additional information like a LinkedIn profile, personal website, or link to a creative portfolio is optional depending on the job.
Using the hiring manager’s name is best when addressing the cover letter. Using “Dear Hiring Manager” is an alternative when starting a cover letter. Addressing a specific person within the company shows the job applicant is writing a customized cover letter for the job opportunity. This can feel personal. Making the hiring manager want to read the letter. Avoid generic greetings like, “To Whom It May Concern”. The last option is to address the CEO by name, which is often the easiest name to find through research.
The greeting should look like the following:
The first paragraph or opening paragraph. An opening paragraph needs to grab the reader’s attention. This can be done by reiterating a requirement from the job posting or from the prospective employer. A relevant short story can be shared displaying a passion for the business and the company as well.
The middle paragraph and second paragraph. The body paragraph should provide an enticing introduction for the hiring manager to want to read the resume. This should be career accomplishments or relevant work experiences that show the hiring manager the applicant is a good fit for the job title.
The closing statement. This closing paragraph should present a “Call to Action” to the reader. For example, a story that might be shared during an interview if the applicant is requested to perform one. This closing paragraph should entice the reader more. And support an understanding of the requirements (or a single qualification) for the specific position. For example:
Salutation and signature
A salutation should end the formal letter. Avoiding terms like, “See ya later”. A formal salutation is one of the following:
- Thank you for your time.
- Sincerely yours.
- Thanks so much.
Tip: A “good cover letter” is one that’s targeted to the job title and company values. Avoid sending a generic cover letter that’s being used for every job application. A successful cover letter displays unique qualities, traits, and accomplishments on behalf of the job applicant.
Cover Letter Format
Cover Letter Document Format
To produce a professional cover letter, follow these guidelines:
- Use a business letter format.
- Use a 9pt to 11pt font size.
- Use default page margins and line separation.
- Use the default white space.
- Use a professional font, like Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana.
- Export the cover letter as a PDF document or Word Document. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and scanners can only read these file types. Avoid sending a plain text document or presentation.
Tip: Using a cover letter builder can help ensure the document formatting is correct.
Cover Letter Sample
Below is a cover letter example.
Emailing a Job Application
An "email cover letter" is a type of email format used when submitting a job application. It includes some information contained in the cover letter. Below is a sample cover letter of this kind:
Cover Letter Examples
Below are a number of cover letter examples by job.
Popular Cover Letter Examples
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Cover Letter Example
- Nurse Practitioner Cover Letter Example
- ICU Nurse Cover Letter Example
- Administrative Assistant Cover Letter Example
- Office Assistant Cover Letter Example
- Paralegal Cover Letter Example
- Security Officer Cover Letter Example
- Pilot Cover Letter Example
- Waitress Cover Letter Example
- Tutor Cover Letter Example
- Firefighter Cover Letter Example
- LPN Cover Letter Example
Accounting Cover Letter Examples
- Accounting Clerk Cover Letter Example
- Accounting Coordinator Cover Letter Example
- Accounting Manager Cover Letter Example
- Accounting Supervisor Cover Letter Example
- Accountant Cover Letter Example
Administration and Office Support Cover Letter Examples
- Administrative Coordinator Cover Letter Example
- Administrative Assistant Cover Letter Example
- Administrative Manager Cover Letter Example
- Administrative Officer Cover Letter Example
- Administrator Cover Letter Example
Advertising, Arts, and Media Cover Letter Examples
- Analytics Manager Cover Letter Example
- Actor Cover Letter Example
- Band Manager Cover Letter Example
- Marketing Coordinator Cover Letter Example
- Marketing Director Cover Letter Example
Banking and Financial Services Cover Letter Examples
- Banker Cover Letter Example
- Bank Teller Cover Letter Example
- Analyst Cover Letter Example
- Financial Analyst Cover Letter Example
Call Center and Customer Service Cover Letter Examples
- Call Center Agent Cover Letter Example
- Customer Success Manager Cover Letter Example
- Customer Service Manager Cover Letter Example
Community Services and Development Cover Letter Examples
Consulting and Strategy Cover Letter Examples
Education and Training Cover Letter Examples
Cover Letter Resources
- How Long Should a Cover Letter Be
- How to Start a Cover Letter
- How to End a Cover Letter
- How to Address a Cover Letter
- Cover Letter Format
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