Elements of a
Well-formatted Cover Letter
Whether you are applying for a job, requesting an informational interview, or networking, all cover letters should follow the same basic format, which includes these five sections. By writing these sections in order and making sure to include the information indicated, you’ll have accomplished the first hurdle of formatting a cover letter.
The header of your cover letter should contain your current contact information, as well as a link to your LinkedIn profile and your website or online portfolio (if applicable).
The salutation is where you greet the intended reader of your cover letter. Do your best to address the letter to the appropriate recruiter or hiring manager. If the job ad doesn’t list a name, do research on the company’s website or on LinkedIn to find the appropriate person. Avoid a generic “To Whom It May Concern” whenever possible.
- Introduction paragraph:
The opening paragraph of a cover letter should outline the job you are applying for and why. Use this section to demonstrate your interest in the role. Use this section to make a good first impression but keep it succinct – three to five sentences should do it.
- Body paragraphs:
The body of your cover letter should be made up of one or two paragraphs that highlight the relevant experience an employer will find on your resume. Here, use data and relevant metrics to show the impact your work has had on a past employer. To keep the length in check, feel free to use bullet points in this section.
- Closing paragraph:
In the final section of your cover letter, recap your skills and experience and summarize your goals. In the last sentence, thank the employer for considering your qualifications and state your intention to follow up.
How to Format a Cover Letter
Pay Attention to Proper Content Flow
The order in which the sections of your cover letter appear is critical to it being properly scanned by an applicant tracking system (ATS) and by a human recruiter. Here is the order in which your sections should appear… header, salutation, opening paragraph, body paragraphs, and closing paragraph.
Choose a Readable Font and Font Size
Choosing a readable font is critical to the success of your cover letter. Avoid fussy, hard-to-read fonts like Comic Sans, and opt for a simple font, such as Arial, Times, or Calibri.
Carefully Consider Spacing
While you want to pack your cover letter with information about your skills and experience, white space is important, too. Writing short paragraphs, rather than blocks of text, offers the eye something to land on and makes your content more digestible. Adding bullet points to shorten long blocks of text can help, as well.
Watch Your Length
With few exceptions, your cover letter should be a single page. This means that each sentence must pack a punch. Use your letter to highlight elements of your background that relate directly to the job ad. Leave out the details of your job duties since these appear on your resume.
Manage Your Margins
Margins are a pain point for many cover letter writers. Margins should be between 1-inch and 1.5-inches, depending on the length of your letter. Wider margins will make a letter appear longer, while smaller margins will help a longer letter fit onto a single page.
Match Your Resume
Look to give your letter the same style (i.e., a similar header) as your resume. This gives your job application a more cohesive look, and shows your professionalism. To choose a resume template that matches up with your cover letter, use our Resume Builder.
Select and Customize a Cover Letter Template
Our Cover Letter Templates make formatting a snap.
Just choose a template,input your information, and our templates take care of the rest!
5 Tips for Formatting a Cover Letter for Email
Formatting a cover letter to be sent via email presents some special considerations. Here are some things to keep in mind when emailing a cover letter:
- If you are sending your cover letter as an email, you don’t need the header of the letter. Simply cut and paste the contents of the letter into the composition field and write a Subject line.
- If you want to send your cover letter as an attachment, save your letter as a PDF file or Microsoft Word document (.doc).
- Be sure to include your name when naming the file so that hiring managers can quickly identify it as yours.
- In your email, let the recipient know that you’ve attached your resume and cover letter.
- Choose a straightforward subject line that mentions the job title to which you are applying, such as “Application for Legal Assistant role.” If the job ad includes a job number, include that in your subject line, as well.
Strategies for Building
a Better Cover Letter
To create a standout cover letter for each and every job to which you plan to apply, follow these guidelines.
Target Your Letter to the Specific Job
To write a letter that targets what the job needs, pick out the employer’s primary requirements from the job posting. Then pinpoint your own qualifications that match this list, and use them in your letter. For instance, to address a job that emphasizes being a self-starter, mention a previous achievement that underlines your ability to excel as an independent worker.
Show How You Fit the Company
Every company has a particular culture and mission. Study up on the company’s goals, its current challenges, and what it looks for in its employees. Based on this research, describe how you can benefit the company in your letter, providing examples of how your work ethic and personality fit the company’s culture. Demonstrate how you have specific skills or experience that can help solve a challenge the company is facing.
Complement Your Resume with Your Letter
Your cover letter and resume should work together to give a hiring manager a complete picture of who you are as a candidate. Use your letter to detail your best qualities and how they fit the position, as well as the reasons why you have a specific interest in the job and the company. The resume will provide more detail on your skills and previous jobs to fill out your strengths.
Tips for Networking and Prospecting Letters
Studies show that 85 percent of all jobs are attained through networking. If that figure wasn’t impressive enough, it’s also been estimated that 70 to 80 percent of all jobs aren’t even publicly announced. Whether you’re writing to a familiar contact in order to make a connection, or sending a prospecting letter to a company you’re interested in, keep these tips in mind:
- Find the right contact person. If you’re writing to inquire about openings at a specific company, write to a contact you have at the company, if you can. Even if the recipient is in a department that’s not the focus of your job search, it’s always better to reach out through a connection. If you don’t have a connection, write to the manager of the specific department you’re interested in.
- Explain your connection or interest. If your networking contact is not a close acquaintance, be sure to mention up front how you were previously connected, or how you have a common work acquaintance. When writing a prospecting letter, explain your specific job interest, and why you’ve sought out the recipient.
- Get to the point. Respect your recipient’s time. Quickly mention the particular job or industry you’re interested in, and elaborate on how you think your contact can help you.
- Show you’ve done your homework. In the case of a networking contact, show that you understand this person’s particular areas of knowledge and expertise, and explain why they can be of help to you. When submitting a prospecting letter, describe what appeals to you about the company’s goals or products, and why you think you can be a valuable member of the team. In both cases, note prime examples of your skills, education and work history to give the reader an idea of what you bring to the table, and what you’re looking for.
Take Your Cover Letter to the Next Level
For additional help creating a first-class cover letter, our Cover Letter Builder provides all the tools you’ll need to write a document that will get a recruiter’s attention – fast!
- Choose a template that fits the job you’re seeking.
- Answer a few quick questions about yourself.
- Use our pre-written text suggestions, industry-specific keywords, and job-specific skills in your letter.
The builder performs spelling and grammar checks to make sure your document is free of errors. It also offers you the option of saving your letter in one of three file formats – MicrosoftWord, PDF, or SimpleText. Choose a file format, download and send. It’s that simple!
Want to Learn More About Cover Letters?
Did you know that nearly half of all job applicants skip writing a cover letter altogether? While writing a cover letter may not have the power to land you a job on the spot, it can set you apart from other similarly qualified candidates. The key is that it be well-written. Learn more about cover letter tips that can help you land an interview.