How to Format a Cover Letter
If you’ve never written a cover letter before, then you probably don’t know what a cover letter format looks like. In this extensive writeup, we’re going to cover what should go inside of your cover letter and how to write each section.
With each of these sections defined for you, it should provide you ample understanding of not only how to build your cover letter but how to format your cover letter as well.
In this guide you will learn:
- What goes inside of a cover letter and what pieces of information are important to list in each.
- How to write each section of your cover letter for an effective and thought provoking cover letter message.
- How to use a cover letter template.
And much more. Ready to get started with writing your cover letter? Let’s go!
Are Cover Letters Important?
But they are important to write and write with intention. And here is why. Some managers will read cover letters and others won’t. But you can’t predict whether or not your future manager cares about cover letters with regard to their style of interviewing.
Because it’s impossible to predict, it is important you spend the time to create yours. And do so without haste.
What Goes Into a Cover Letter?
Here is your basic breakdown of the sections that go into a cover letter.
- Your contact information
- The current date
- Your future employers contact information (though not necessary)
- Your salutation or greeting
- Your opening paragraph or starting paragraph of your cover letter
- Your achievements bullet point
- Your closing statement
- Your sign-off
- Your signature
These are the components that go into your cover letter. Let’s break down what each of these is.
- Your full name
- Your mailing address (though not always necessary)
- Your phone number
- Your email address
The reason why mailing address may not be necessary is that most HR representatives will ask you for your up to date mailing address before interviewing with you. This is a great way to slim down on some of the text in your cover letter to make more room for your message. And seeing as your resume should be one-page in length, it might be useful to remember this trick.
The Current Date
This doesn’t need much of an explanation, but the current date should look like the following:
May 29th, 2020
Future Employers Contact Information
If you’re sending your job application by email, then you might need this information. But if you’re mailing this as a printed letter, it may be good to include the business contact information if the letter goes to the incorrect mailing address.
Salutation or Greeting
A salutation is an opening remark. This is often confused as what you say when you end a letter, but it isn’t. It is the statement that you open the message with. This would be classified as “To Whom It May Concern” or some other type of opening remark or opening addressing like “Dear Hiring Manager”.
The best greetings to use for your cover letter would be:
- Dear Hiring Team
- Dear HR Team
- Hello team
- Dear Mr. Smith
- Dear Ms. Smith
- Dear Mrs. Smith
To keep it formal, use an "em-dash" directly after you address the reader. This would look like the following:
Your Opening Paragraph
Utilize these prior achievements to help make you stand out. For example:
“I’m applying to the position of Software Engineer because I noticed that you were seeking someone who could lead, hire, and engineer. That person is me. In my prior position, I hired more than 18 Software Engineers as well as reached 14 major business KPI’s within the first 3 quarters of 2019.”
Your Achievement Bullet Points
Most cover letter formats won’t tell you this. But modern cover letters should contain one to three bullet points that encapsulate prior work achievements.
This is the best way to catch the reader's attention. By not including them, you make the cover letter far more subjective. And it can make it more difficult for the HR representative to scan your cover letter for insights.
Bullet points should look something like the following:
- Increased sales 23% in Q2 of 2019
- Implemented a CRM system which increased efficiency by 19%
- Worked closely with executive leadership to train new sales persons
Your Closing Statement
If you’re following the principals above, your closing statement should be simple yet impactful. It should be one to two sentences where you show your excitement, enthusiasm and passion to want to work with the business.
Closing your cover letter with this type of enthusiasm is important. It ensures that the time you spent crafting the perfect cover letter introduction and body is welcomed and accepted by the reader.
Choosing a sign-off is important. You don’t just want to say “thanks” and then end your cover letter. If you can, use something like “Thank you so much for your time.” Or some other statement which is going to be appreciative to the reader.
Here is what that should look like:
Thank you so much for your time,
That’s All the Sections
That’s a comprehensive breakdown of each of the sections that go into your cover letter. And what makes up a proper cover letter with business etiquette built-in.
But how does it look when you put it all together? Let’s take a glance at a full sample cover letter (with this formatting) so you can get an idea.
Sample Cover Letter
Here is an example cover letter using the formatting from above.
Cover Letter Template
Other Formatting Tips for Your Cover Letter
Here are a few other formatting tips that you might want to know regarding your cover letter:
- Keep your margins the default setting. Don’t try to move your page margins to 2 inches or some other type of custom setting.
- Keep your font choices simple. The best font choices for your cover letter are going to be Georgia, Calibri or some other type of serif font. Keep them 11-point font size if you can. Anything larger than that will risk looking unprofessional.
- Line spacing. Keep your line spacing to single-spaced or 1.25 line-spaced if you’re using Google Docs. This will provide enough breathing room to let the reader comprehend your message. But won’t look unprofessional.
- Have a friend or family member read your cover letter. There’s no better feedback than having someone else read your cover letter. You should always have at least one to two people look over your letter and provide you feedback before sending it. Did they understand what you were trying to say? Did you keep the message terse (short) and impactful? Did you use the words “just” or “really” too frequently? This is the type of insight you need from your close friends.
- Consider the job description. If you don’t know what to write about in your cover letter, try to go through the job description on the company career portal or the online job board where you noticed the opportunity. The job description contains helpful insights that you can use as a starting point for what to write about in your letter. If you can, target your achievements, merits, or other insights towards what the job description mentions as requirements or duties.
- Always send your cover letter as a PDF. Not all computers have Microsoft Office installed on them. In order to help the reader open your cover letter more easily, export your cover letter as a PDF instead of Word Document.
Resources Mentioned In This Article
Below are the resources and articles that were references in this writeup.
- : How to Start a Cover Letter - Example Openings
- : How to End a Cover Letter (30+ Examples)
- : Including Your Contact Information on a Resume
- : 5 Reasons Why Cover Letters Are Still Necessary in 2020
- : How to Address a Cover Letter and Find a Name to Use
- : 35 Salutations to Use (Salutations List)
- : How To Accept A Job Offer (+ Sample Letters)
- : This Is How Long Your Cover Letter Should Be
- : 5 Tips When Emailing a Resume (From a Recruiter)
- : How to End a Letter (Example Closings, Sign Off's)
- : To Whom It May Concern - Capitalization, Alternatives
- : 10 Answers To "What Makes You Unique?" (5+ Expert Tips)
- : 10 Answers To "What Are You Passionate About?"
- : The Best Margins For Your Resume
- : Best Professional Font Size For The Resume
- : Job Description Templates
Phone interviews have become a core part of the process when attempting to find a secured placement for an open position. Companies receive massive responses from potential candidates for any..
Concerning a job search, you might receive numerous offers from your recruiters. Before you choose one, you need to assess all the conditions, for which it is vital that you know everything associated with the offered position..
Answering this question during a job interview requires more than knowing why you are unique as an individual. Yes, the true scientific answer is made up of two main components: your..
So, you have been in search of a job for a considerable time but are yet to be selected for one. If that's the case, don’t worry anymore because we have got you covered..
Open-ended questions like “What motivates you?” can elicit a deer-in-the-headlights reaction from job candidates if they are unprepared. It’s a broad question and can leave the interviewer..
A lot of interviewers ask this question - how did you hear about this position? This way they can judge you if you are a passive or an active job seeker..
Writing a thank you note after an interview says a lot about you as a potential employee. Most notably, it says that you care about the opportunities presented..
Writing the perfect letter of resignation is more of an art than it is a science. And we’re going to cover how to master that art form in this full guide..
Knowing how to end a business note or email is an important skill to develop. It helps portray a sense of confidence, respect and tone to your message..