Your resume and cover letter are a reflection of you.
While your resume is a straightforward outline of your work history, skills, and accomplishments, your cover letter should serve as its commentary. It's responsible for communicating a glimpse of your personality, your overall vision for the job, and any important background details that will support the details of your resume.
Although the content itself should be the star of your application, the cover letter format plays a huge role, too. Hiring managers have a lot of applications to review, so it’s important that your cover letter’s format catches their attention.
In fact, a well-written cover letter can sometimes be the tiebreaker between two similarly-qualified candidates. For this reason, crafting a cover letter that complements your resume can tell the hiring manager that you are serious about landing the job and even help your application stand out.
Here are some ways you should format your cover letter to match your resume.
Use similar design elements
Your cover letter format should show your professionalism and be cohesive with the rest of your application. To achieve this, make sure they both follow the same theme, and that the colors and fonts are consistent throughout both documents. They don’t have to be identical, per se, but keep the following in mind:
Follow a similar color scheme for both. If your resume incorporates blue borders, try to use the same shade of blue in your cover letter’s design to create a smooth transition between the two. Having a matching color palette isn’t mandatory, but you should avoid using contrasting shades or mixing different colors since it can be distracting and even confuse the hiring manager. Remember, the purpose of having color is to steer attention towards your skills and experience, not away from it.
It’s also recommended to use either the same or a similar font style for both the cover letter and resume.
Classic, traditional resumes typically use serif fonts, such as Cambria and Times New Roman. These are great because they are safe, simple options and read well, both electronically and in print.
However, for a more contemporary or stylized look, consider using sans serif fonts such as Helvetica and Garamond.
Since hiring managers typically skim over cover letters and resumes, your text should be at least 10-point font, but no bigger than 12-points. If your text is too small or difficult to read, they might not even bother to look at it.
Having slightly larger text is not only easier on the eyes, but also appears better visually and will make the cover letter look more complete. However, go above a 12-point font, and a hiring manager might assume that you are trying to make your letter look as if it contains more content than it does.
Pay attention to the layout
Just like with your resume, the aesthetics of your cover letter should be as clean and polished as possible. From the margins to line spacing, it’s a good idea to ensure your cover letter’s format is aligned with your resume.
- For both the resume and cover letter, the margins should stay around one inch. However, if the text in your cover letter is lengthy, it is acceptable to stretch the margins to 1.5.
- Always all the text to the left and leave a space between paragraphs. Your cover letter should also use single spacing.
Incorporating these small formatting details can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of your cover letter.
Keep it to a single page
Try to keep your cover letter and resume to one page. Cover letters for entry-level jobs, especially, should never reach two pages. As you apply for higher jobs and positions, the page limit may increase, but it will never exceed three pages.
For cover letters, like with resumes, brevity is a skill to master. Write only what is critical to the job at hand. It’s best to condense your information and be straightforward when writing your cover letter.
Keep contact information identical
The contact information shared in the headers of both your resume and cover letter must match. While it is acceptable for the header of your resume or cover letter to share more information than the other, the specific personal details shared between the two should be the same.
Double check that the name, phone number, email, and address you shared are identical between both documents. After all, a hiring manager can only contact you if your contact information is accurate.
Steer clear of graphics and images
Avoid using images or flashy graphics on your cover letter and resume. Although incorporating images, or including your headshot, may seem creative and modern, it can come off as unprofessional.
Even worse, adding a photo of yourself could introduce unconscious bias into the hiring process by exposing your age, race, or ethnicity early in the process. It’s better to follow a safe, traditional format than to risk having your application tossed.
Use the same builder for your resume and cover letter
A sure way to establish cohesiveness between your cover letter and resume is to create both using the same builder or template maker. This way, you ensure the style and format match in both documents. Start crafting your cover letter and resume with LiveCareer’s Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder.