Learn what to include in a cover letter to get this job. See how to format a cover letter and which parts to include. Check best examples and hints.
Imagine you’re a recruiter and you’ve got a pile of 300 job applications to sift through.
The first cover letter you see gives you a headache because you can’t read the tiny font. The next one has an ugly typo in your name—yuck! Then there’s a cover letter that starts with an off-putting joke…
Maybe those candidates are brilliant professionals in their field, but you have zero motivation to even look at their resumes. Cover letter format matters.
Now imagine the HR person at your dream company looking at your job application and saying, “Hey, this is the best cover letter I’ve seen today, let’s invite this person!”
This guide will show you:
- Cover letter format examples that will get you the job.
- How to format a cover letter like a pro.
- Avoid rookie cover letter formatting mistakes.
- What is the best cover letter structure for different types of jobs.
In fact, creating a beautifully formatted cover letter is easier than you think.
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Proper Cover Letter Format Example
Sonia F. Quattlebaum
Senior Android Developer
1641 McDonald Avenue
Apopka, FL 32703
Mark M. Elliot
IT Hiring Manager
Tampa, FL, 33606
Dear Mr. Elliot,
Cindy Murphy suggested that I apply—she knows how I discovered a vulnerability in the municipal parking app in Rocherster MN that could have given hackers access to all information on the citizens’ phones, and stepped up to fix it.
I see you’re looking for an Android developer with experience in leading cross-departmental efforts to create highly secure financial apps. At Goldcoin Bank, I:
- Oversaw the development of a mobile banking app that was ranked #1 in the Most Secure Bank Apps ranking.
- Collaborated with UX/UI designers and UX writers to provide the best customer experience, as proven by the 4.5-star rating of Bigcoin’s app.
- Ensured that the app was ready for release 2 months before schedule.
When Bigbank introduced a new-generation fraud alert system in its mobile banking app, I could not help but admire the hard work and dedication of its developers—and I was not surprised when it won the Banking App of the Year award. It would be an honor to join your team and make Bigbank Mobile even more reliable and secure in the face of ever-changing cyberthreats.
Can we schedule a meeting next week to discuss how I could contribute to the upcoming versions of Bigbank Mobile?
PS. I can’t wait to tell you how I helped a well-known online store prevent a massive cyber attack that put the bank accounts of 50,000 clients who used its mobile app in immediate danger.
This cover letter follows all the best practices for cover letter structure and format. Let’s go through all the steps you need to have a cover letter like that.
How to Format a Cover Letter Like a Pro
The best practices of formatting a cover letter are always the same, no matter if you’re writing your first cover letter with no experience or applying for an executive job.
To make sure your cover letter is as effective as possible, follow these steps:
- Adjust the page layout and the font settings so that your cover letter looks professional
- Start your cover letter with a header
- Use the proper greeting
- Open with an attention-grabbing paragraph
- In a separate paragraph, list specific achievements that prove you’re the best person for this job
- Add another paragraph where you “confess” your passion for the company
- End your cover letter with a call to action
- Sign off according to business etiquette rules
- Add a P. S. if necessary
This cover letter format works wonders for entry-level candidates and seasoned pros alike, so it’s worth mastering no matter where you are in your career.
Now we’ll look at each step in more detail.
Set Up Your Cover Letter Format: Page Layout and Fonts
If you use a cover letter template, this part of cover letter formatting will take care of itself. But if you prefer to start with a blank page, here’s how to format a cover letter:
- Set the page margins to 1” on all sides
- Pick a classic typeface that matches your professional resume font, such as Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, Times New Roman, or Verdana
- You can also try fonts like Lato, which looks professional but friendly, or Garamond, a classic font that looks good when applying for academic jobs
- When in doubt, stick with the default font in your word processor
- Avoid fonts that look handwritten or otherwise unusual, even if you’re applying for a creative job
- Set the line spacing to 1 or 1.15
- Set the font size to 11 or 12 pt
- Make sure you add a blank line between paragraphs
- Align the paragraphs to the left—justifying looks good in newspapers, not in business letters
Expert Hint: Save your cover letter as a PDF file so that it looks the same on all devices. A Word file that looks great on your computer can look like a trainwreck when opened on someone else’s device.
Format Your Cover Letter Header
Every business letter needs a header, and cover letters aren’t an exception. The header goes into the top left corner of the page and contains contact information—both yours and the recruiters. Addressing a cover letter is pretty straightforward in most cases.
Here’s a cover letter header template that you can copy and paste straight away:
Cover Letter Heading Format: Basic Template
Your Job Title
Street, City, State
Hiring Manager’s Name
Hiring Manager’s Job Title
Street, City, State
If it makes sense to include other professional online profiles like GitHub, feel free to do so. Just avoid mentioning any personal profiles, especially if they contain potentially awkward photos or posts.
Oh, and remember to use your “best” email address for your job application. It’s hard to take a candidate seriously if their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This cover letter header is an indispensable part of a business cover letter format if you send your cover letter as a PDF or print it out. If you choose to send your cover letter in the body of an email, omit the header and go straight to the opening.
Expert Hint: Do your best to find out the hiring manager’s name. Sometimes it’s mentioned in the job ad. But if it’s not, do some research on LinkedIn, browse the company’s website, or do a quick Google search.
Craft a Successful Cover Letter Opening
The cover letter header was easy.
Now comes the hard part… but we’ll make it easy, too.
First, you need to greet the reader. If you know the hiring manager’s name, choose between these three salutations:
Pick the first variant (Dear Mr. / Ms. Lastname) if you’re writing a cover letter for a federal job or any other position with a formal work environment. Most business cover letters for corporate positions fall under this category, too.
If you can’t tell the hiring manager’s gender by their first name, opt for Dear First-name Last-name to avoid awkward misunderstandings.
Last but not least: you can also address the hiring manager by their first name only, but only if you know that your prospective employer has a relaxed company culture.
But… what if you couldn’t find the hiring manager name, even though you tried?
In this case, it’s acceptable to write Dear Hiring Manager. It’s not as personal as greeting someone by their name, but it’s still better than these opening formulas:
The first two greetings are way too impersonal and outdated. Hi there is too informal, and starting a letter with Good morning is not the best idea—you never know if your letter will actually be read in the morning.
Write a Compelling First Paragraph
You’ve attracted the reader’s attention by mentioning their name. Now you want them to continue reading.
So… how do you start a cover letter without turning the reader off immediately?
Your best bet is to mention a big professional achievement and suggest that you could do the same for your new employer.
Well, that’s nice if you do have a big achievement to brag about. But what if you’re just starting out in your career?
You can opt for these attention-grabbing strategies:
- Drop a name
- Congratulate the company on an award or some other achievement
- Mention a fact you love about the company
But whatever strategy you pick, be specific and straightforward. Don’t write things like this:
This intro contains zero proof that the candidate is either an excellent customer service professional or at least passionate about this specific company.
Let Your Cover Letter Format Prove That You’re the Best Candidate
Done with the intro?
Make a new paragraph (remember to leave a blank line between paragraphs!) and show why you’re the best person to solve the company’s specific challenges.
How do you approach this paragraph?
First, re-read the job ad and research the company’s website. Are they hiring people for a new project? Are they looking for a pro who can help the company navigate a specific challenge?
Once you’ve found the answer, make it clear that you understand the company’s unique needs.
After that, list a few relevant achievements that clearly show you’re the superhero the company needs. By “relevant” we mean “closely related to the skills and requirements listed in the job ad”. You can list these achievements in plain text, but bullet points are easier to read. Here’s an example:
Note how the candidate uses numbers to describe their achievements. This makes their expertise more believable.
Let’s look at another example and compare the two:
This example is full of meaningless achievements and unproven claims. Also, why was the software dev responsible for the aquarium? But anyway, no one cares.
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Make it Clear that it’s Your Dream Job
Time for another paragraph!
Now that you’ve explained why you’re the best person for this job, it’s time to show why this job is the best opportunity for you.
Why is it so important to write about it?
Well, if you don’t really want to work for this specific company, why should hiring managers bother to invite you?
So go ahead. Compliment the company on a recent achievement, praise its values (and explain how they resonate with your values), show your excitement about its upcoming projects. Don’t be afraid to confess your passion.
Make it very clear that you’ve tailored this paragraph to a specific company. If you write a bunch of generic clichés, the hiring manager will assume you’ve copied and pasted this paragraph from somewhere else.
This candidate might think they’re a great fit, but no recruiter would agree with them.
Add a Confident Call to Action
Your cover letter isn’t a school essay. You write it with a specific goal in mind: namely, you want the recruiter to take action and call you back.
So make a new paragraph and ask the reader to take action—this is an important and often overlooked element of cover letter structure. This is what a cover letter call to action can look like:
This call to action is confident and professional. See how this candidate makes a specific offer? They haven’t been hired yet, but they’ve already got some ideas on improving the company’s business results.
Look, no one cares. If you can’t explain how you’re going to contribute to the company’s success, you’re not getting hired. Period.
Follow Best Practices in Cover Letter Formatting When Signing Off
It’s time to end your cover letter. Write “Sincerely” (or some other classic business letter closing) and type your name.
It’s also a good idea to repeat your contact information under your signature. If the recruiter wants to contact you straight away, they won’t have to waste their time looking for your phone number or email address.
You can also add a P. S. at the very end of your cover letter. For example, you can promise to tell a story about a hard-to-believe achievement. The hiring manager might call you back just to hear the story!
Expert Hint: Before you submit your cover letter, check how long it is. The best length for a cover letter is under one page, so aim for 200–350 words.
Cover Letter Format Isn’t Everything: Don’t Forget Your Resume!
Your cover letter is just a part of your job application. Check out our full guide on how to write a resume or our best resume writing tips to make sure your resume is up to par—otherwise, you won’t get your coveted job!
With ResumeLab’s resume builder you’ll write your resume in a flash. Get specific content to boost your chances of getting the job. Add job descriptions, bullet points, and skills. Improve your resume in our resume builder now.
Nail it all with a splash of color, choose a clean font, highlight your skills in just a few clicks. You’re the perfect candidate and we’ll prove it. Just pick one of 21 resume templates and get started now.
Now you know how to format a cover letter like a pro! The best professional cover letter format consists of the following elements:
- Cover letter header
- Business greeting
- Attention-grabbing first paragraph
- Proof why your expertise makes you perfect for the job
- Proof that you’re passionate about the company
- Call to action
It’s also important to stick to basic formatting rules:
- One-inch margins
- Classic business font
- Line spacing between 1 and 1.15
- Extra lines between paragraphs
Questions? Concerns? Not sure about anything to do with cover letter formats? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll get back to you!
Cover Letter Format: Frequently Asked Questions
How do you professionally create and format a cover letter?
For a professional look, use a cover letter generator that will take care of the layout. Then, do the following:
- Create a header with contact info
- Begin with a personal greeting
- Mention a big professional achievement to grab the reader's attention
- Give specific proof why you're qualified for the job
- Show your passion for this particular company
- Ask the hiring manager to schedule a call or meeting
- Sign off
- Add a P. S. (optional)
For more information and tips, follow our in-depth guide to writing a cover letter.
How should you format your cover letter when sending it by email?
- You can send your cover letter as a separate attachment or right in the body of your email
- Write a clear subject line that won’t get lost in the recruiter’s inbox
- When sending your cover letter in the body of your email, avoid fancy formatting
- If you send your cover letter as an attachment, give it an easy-to-read filename
- Save your cover letter as a PDF file before attaching it—find out more about the best file format for job applications in our special guide.
- Check our in-depth guide to emailing cover letters
How do I write a good cover letter?
- Keep it relevant to the specific job opening
- Don’t rehash your resume
- Show that you’ve researched the company’s values and challenges
- Follow business formatting rules
- Keep it short
- Use a cover letter builder to make your cover letter look professional
What should a cover letter layout look like?
Cover letter layout is just like the layout of any business letter:
- One-inch margins on all sides
- Left-aligned paragraphs
- Header with contact info in the top left corner
- Line spacing between 1 and 1.15
- Font size 11 or 12 pt
- Extra spaces between paragraphs
Check out cover letter templates to see what a professional cover letter layout looks like.
What font is best for cover letters?
There’s no single best font for cover letters. Your cover letter should be easy to read, so opt for a classic business font like Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Trebuchet MS or Calibri. Use the same font in your resume for a consistent look—consider using a matching resume builder and cover letter builder for best results.