So, you've found that dream job. You're psyched. Ready to go for it. Ready to hit "send" on your cover letter and resume. But wait, hold on a sec.
When you're looking for a new position, you only get one chance to make a first impression that lasts. Your cover letter is the initial contact your prospective employer will have with you, so make it count. Of course, your content must be as polished and professional as possible, but don't overlook the importance of the cover letter format.
But do you know how to design a cover letter? Understanding the basics of cover letter font size and margins, as well as how to organize your content, are skills you'll use at any stage of your career.
From length to fonts and sizes to spacing, everything you need to design a cover letter with personality and professionalism is right here.
How long should my cover letter be?
Your cover letter should fit on one page. Don't fall into that trap of decreasing the font size or expanding the margins if your cover letter spills onto a second page. If it doesn't fit on one page, you need to do some editing to tighten excess language and be sure you're telling your best story aligned with the job description.
The most compelling cover letter format consists of four paragraphs:
- The first paragraph introduces you to the recruiter or hiring manager and explains -- succinctly and compellingly -- why you are the best candidate for this position. Be sure to mention the job title and company name specifically.
- In the next one or two paragraphs, you'll want to address your skills and experience briefly. Don't repeat your resume's content. Instead, use words from the job description that highlight how your skills align with the role. Drive home how your skills and background make you an ideal fit for this specific position and organization. Review our Cover Letter Examples for inspiration on how to tailor your experience to the job.
- In the final paragraph, you'll want to thank the reader for their time and consideration and let them know how they can contact you.
How do I know what font to use for a cover letter?
Use a clean, easy-to-read font. Your cover letter design should be professional and, most importantly, legible. Avoid whimsical, hard-to-read fonts such as Comic Sans or Pacifico. This may seem like a unique way to show your personality and make your letter stand out in the stack. Unfortunately, hiring managers sift through many applications, and most probably won't take the time to decipher obscure or complicated fonts.
Many companies also use applicant tracking system (ATS) robots to search cover letters and resumes and weed out underqualified applicants. Using an ATS-unfriendly font may send your cover letter straight to the recycling bin.
We also recommend that you avoid serif fonts (the ones with little lines attached to the strokes of the letters.) Some ATS systems have trouble reading these fonts, so err on the side of caution and stay away from them. We suggest using one of these "safe" cover letter fonts:
As for the font point size, keep it between 10.5 and 12. Remember, don't reduce the font size to fit more on the page. The font size needs to be large enough so it can be easily read. To take the guesswork out of choosing a font, use one of our ATS-approved Cover Letter Templates.
How do I set my cover letter's formatting and margins?
A well-polished cover letter format will feature one to one-and-a-half inch margins on each side. Since this is standard, the default setting in your word processing program is probably already set to those dimensions. Don't extend your margins to fit more copy on the page. Allow enough of a margin for your cover letter to print correctly on a standard office printer.
Your cover letter format should use the standard left-margin alignment style. Don't justify or center your text to fill more of the page. All text should be single-spaced, with an extra space between each section or paragraph.
How should I format my address and contact information?
When sending a paper copy of your application materials, use a proper standard address format at the top left of the page. Include the following information:
- Full name (if you go by a nickname, it's okay to include that)
- Phone number
- Email address
Below your contact information, leave a space then add the date. Add another space, then add the hiring manager's name, title and contact information. Always try to include the hiring manager's name, even if it takes some research. Try the company website or LinkedIn, and if necessary call the company and ask the receptionist or to be connected with someone who can help. It's important to take this extra step; it forms a personal connection and presents you as a more serious candidate.
When applying electronically, include your contact information at the end below your typed name and omit the employer's contact information to make sure the person reviewing your cover letter gets to the meat of as quickly as possible. You may also include links to your LinkedIn profile or portfolio in your footer, if relevant.
Including your mailing address in the contact section of resumes and cover letters has fallen out of favor. People are concerned about identity theft and are therefore hesitant to include it. Whether you include it or not is up to you – but be sure you understand the implications.
How should I close my cover letter?
You cover letter closing should be professional and straightforward. Reemphasize how excited you are and why you would be an excellent fit for the position. Then, sign off with a professional closing.
You can't go wrong with this commonly used closing:
Your typed name
Now that you have a better understanding of what a cover letter format should be, check out our tips on crafting your cover letter content. Once you're ready to create your masterpiece, LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder will help you through the process from start to finish.