How to Format a Cover Letter for 2024 [+ Examples]

Looking for a job but can’t remember the last time you wrote a cover letter? Keep reading to learn how to format a cover letter that lands your dream job.

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CPRW, Career Advice Expert
by Gabriela Hernandez  CPRW, Career Advice Expert 
Last Updated: October 17, 2023 

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a document you use to apply for a job with your resume. The cover letter lets you introduce yourself to the employer and share your experience and enthusiasm for the role.

Most job ads require you to submit a cover letter while some make it optional. In both cases, you should write a cover letter to include with your job application and provide more information to sway recruiters in your favor.

In his article, we’ll discuss:

How to format a cover letter with the proper structure

Structure your header

Want to jump ahead and create your cover letter in just a few minutes? Use our quick and easy Cover Letter Builder, or check out our library of 15+ cover letter templates for extra inspiration.

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STEP 1

Format your header correctly.

The first thing that should appear in every cover letter header is the applicant’s contact information. Doing this allows recruiters to immediately identify you with your accomplishments so make sure your name is at the top.

The contact information includes:

  • Your name
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Basic location (city, state and ZIP code)
  • LinkedIn or relevant social media accounts (optional)

format your header correctly

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PRO TIP

Make the recruiter’s job easier by using a professional-sounding email that preferably includes your first and last name.

Below your contact information, you will add:

  • The date you plan to send the letter

And then the hiring manager’s information:

  • Hiring manager’s name and job title
  • Company name
  • City, state and ZIP code

Here’s how it should look:

  • Sept. 23, 2023
  • Lisa M. Wong
  • The Atlanta Gazette
  • 341 12th Ave.
  • Atlanta, GA 30304

STEP 2

Greet the hiring manager.

We always recommend you strive to find the name of your recruiter or hiring manager because it shows you’ve put the effort in to personalize your cover letter.

For example:

Dear Jamie Ferrer,

Try to use the recipient’s full name, and avoid outdated terms like “Mr.”, “Ms.” or “Mrs.” These identifiers imply a person’s gender or marital status, neither of which you’re aware of nor are relevant in a professional setting.

If you’ve exhausted all channels and can’t find the recruiter’s name, you should use “Dear Hiring Manager” only as a last resort. Check out our article on addressing a hiring manager when you don’t know their name for even more tips.

Examples of cover letter greetings when you don’t know the recipient’s name

  • Salutations by job title
  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • Dear HR Director,
  • Dear Marketing Manager,
  • Salutations by team or department
  • Dear Customer Service Team,
  • Dear Research and Development Department,

Never, under any circumstance, use “To Whom It May Concern”. This salutation denotes a total lack of effort and many recruiters are put off by it.

STEP 3

Write a compelling opening paragraph.

Begin your cover letter with a strong first paragraph that expresses your desire for the job and gives a peek at your credentials for the position.

Formula for an opening paragraph

I saw the opening for [job title] and knew my [1-3 skills] and [X] years of experience in [area of expertise] made me the ideal candidate for the [Company name] team.

Opening paragraph example

“When I saw the job advertisement for the junior account executive position at LCL Global, I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity after excelling as a copywriter with brands like Burger King, Lancome and Porsche for the past three years.”

STEP 4

Share top achievements in the body paragraph.

When writing your cover letter’s body, you need to take the time to craft a brief story of your career.

You can include several paragraphs in the cover letter body provided you’re sharing relevant information. You can also use bullet points to break down the information for easier reading.

Share the milestones that made you successful in previous roles. Explain how you got to where you are and how this experience can help you bring similar results to the new position.

A few examples of achievements you can include in your body paragraphs are:

  • Projects you’ve led
  • Promotions
  • Money saved by your productivity/efficiency
  • Positive feedback from clients
  • Research you conducted that benefited the company
  • Training you imparted to staff
  • Deals and negotiations that were a win

Body paragraph example

“As a store manager in one of the busiest stores in the largest shopping mall in the state, I’ve trained over 400 employees in sales, stocking, customer service and warehouse operations. I’m confident I am ready for a promotion to district manager, partly because my peers have consistently recognized me for outstanding leadership and for increasing and maintaining a high level of sales and client satisfaction. When I began my career as a cashier, I knew my discipline, attention to detail and interpersonal skills would allow me to be a district manager one day.”

STEP 5

Seal the deal in the closing paragraph.

Your closing paragraph should tell the hiring manager you’re excited about the prospect of working for their company. You should be straightforward and confident about your desire for a job interview. Close with a summary of your top qualifications and finish with a compelling call to action.

Cover letter closing paragraph example:

“My content and UX writing skills and SEO experience make me an ideal candidate for this position. I look forward to hearing from you to discuss how I can be an asset to the team.”

And finally, remember to add a proper sign-off and your name.

List of appropriate cover letter sign-offs:

  • Sincerely,
  • Regards,
  • Best regards,
  • Kind regards,
  • Best,
  • Respectfully,
  • Thank you,
  • Thank you for your consideration,

If you need more help with writing and even more examples, check out our extended cover letter writing guide.

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How to format a cover letter for email

Employers may require you to submit a cover letter via email. You can opt for writing your cover letter in the body of the email or send it as an attachment, but never do both.

Here are the steps for sending your cover letter as an attachment via email:

  1. Write a subject line that quickly identifies you.

    Your email’s subject line should include:

    • The desired job title
    • Your name
    • Job ID (if available)

    You can find the job ID in the job advertisement, but your name and job title will suffice if there isn’t one.

    For example:

    Senior Software Engineer – Paul Lipovetsky (ID: 38461)

  2. Draft a brief body paragraph.

    For example:

    Don’t just attach your letter and send it without context. Share a short introduction where you share your name, your motivation to apply to the job and one or two professional qualifications.

    Here’s an example of a cover letter email:

    Dear Bruno,

    Please find a copy of my cover letter attached to this email with an overview of my qualifications for the position of Senior Software Engineer at XYZ Company ID: 38461.

    After seven years in the startup industry in Silicon Valley, I am eager to challenge myself in a new position and offer my expertise in object-oriented design (OOD) and mobile applications.

    I’m looking forward to speaking with you.

    Best regards,
    Paul Lipovetsky

  3. Don’t forget to attach your letter!

    Finally, attach your letter to the email. You should attach your letter as a PDF to prevent editing or tampering. However, always follow the instructions of the recruiter or job advertisement.

    You should also be naming your cover letter file with your name, for example, “Paul Lipovetsky CoverLetter.”

    Writing a cover letter directly via email

    When writing your cover letter directly in the email, you should follow the same rules for writing a cover letter. The main difference is that you won’t include a copy of your cover letter as an attachment.

    When drafting a cover letter directly via email, include the following:

    • A subject line
    • Greeting
    • Introduction paragraph
    • Body paragraph(s)
    • Closing paragraph

    Here’s an example of a cover letter format for email:

    New Message

Cover letter format examples

These cover letter examples will show you our top-rated cover letter templates and the right content for various in-demand jobs. Feel free to pick your preferred cover letter format and edit it with your information.

Accountant cover letter

This accountant cover letter does a great job of sharing highly relevant expertise for the job in the body paragraph. Pairing the letter with this traditional style template makes it all the more appropriate for an accounting job.

Project manager cover letter

Starting strong by sharing their experience in top companies, this cover letter cleverly hooks the reader in the opening paragraph. A simple and clean template like this one is ideal for practical job seekers like this project manager.

Registered nurse cover letter

This registered nurse cover letter shows how to use bullet points in the body paragraph, making this a straightforward and easy-to-read letter, enhanced by our Charismatic template.

Customer service representative cover letter

The compelling closing statement sets this customer service representative cover letter apart, demonstrating the candidate’s communication skills. The Whitespace template leaves plenty of room for this slightly longer letter.

High school teacher cover letter

This brilliant cover letter contains professional skills, qualifications and highly relevant knowledge for this education role. This job seeker opted for one of our bolder templates that will surely leave a good impression.

Sales agent cover letter

This sales agent cover letter hits the mark by listing all the requirements this role entails, assuring recruiters they are well-trained for the job. The pop of color makes this otherwise simple template a favorite for many job seekers.

FAQ

Is a cover letter ever optional?

Smart job seekers include a customized cover letter for every job application. Even when not mandatory, writing one allows you to show off your communication skills and willingness to go the extra mile. Additionally, writing a cover letter will enable you to draw direct connections between your skills and experience and the requirements of the role. A cover letter is optional only if the job ad explicitly states not to include one with your application.

Do I need a cover letter for every job application?

Yes. Applying with a generic cover letter is a sure way to get passed over for a job. Customizing your cover letter with skills and tailored accomplishments that demonstrate you possess the correct skill set to excel at one particular position is crucial. Remember that employers are looking for specific qualifications and expect to see them in your cover letter and resume.

How to write a cover letter with no experience?

If you’ve never had formal work experience, your cover letter should focus on experiences in other settings that show you have the necessary knowledge for the job.
You can mention academic achievements, internships, hobbies or volunteer work related to the qualifications you need for your desired position.

You should focus on soft skills that help you be an efficient worker and collaborator, which is key for any role. You can also find transferable skills from seemingly unrelated experiences and apply them to this new job. We have a whole article you should check out dedicated to including transferable skills on a cover letter.

What are some common mistakes when writing a cover letter?

Some things you should never do when writing a cover letter are:

  • Extending your cover letter beyond one page.
  • Not utilizing the correct cover letter format.
  • Rewriting what’s already on your resume.
  • Using informal greetings or sign-offs.
  • Never proofreading.

If you’re worried about making a mistake when writing a cover letter, check out our “8 Cover Letter Mistakes” article.

About the Author

Gabriela Hernandez

Gabriela Hernandez CPRW, Career Advice Expert

Gabriela Hernandez is one of LiveCareer's resident writers. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in Journalism. Throughout her career, she has tackled copywriting, blog articles, journalistic writing, academic writing, resume writing, and even prose and verse.

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