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.
Using the right cover letter format is key—
Imagine you are the hiring manager. On your desk, there’s a pile of cover letters 300 deep. You need to review all of them by noon.
Will you actually read each one?
No. You’ll be looking for reasons not to.
A sloppy cover letter format will be that very reason. Proper cover letter formatting, on the other hand, will make a great first impression right away.
Without further ado then, have a look at this sample cover letter format. Read on for a breakdown on how to format each section of your cover letter right.
What does a perfectly formatted cover letter look like? See below—
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Proper Cover Letter Format Template
Cover letter format follows the rules of a formal business letter. It is divided into paragraphs, includes contact details, a date, a salutation, closing, a signature, and (optionally) a postscript. Professional cover letters are targeted to the job ad and show how well you are qualified for the specific position.
To go directly to the cover letter format section of your interest, click on the desired link in the table of contents below:
- Contact information and date
- First paragraph to grab attention
- Middle paragraphs to describe how well you’ll fit in
- Closing paragraph—a call to action
- Professional sign-off
- (Optional) The postscript
- Cover letter format and layout: technicalities
Now, let me show you what professional cover letter formatting is all about on these examples.
How to Format a Cover Letter
1. Place your Your Contact Information, City and Date, Employer’s Contact Information in the Top-Left Corner
As with any other formal business letter template, start with the basics. Formatting a cover letter is mostly about following the correct letter format etiquette.
Proper Cover Letter Address Format for USA—Example
Your Job Title
(Optional) Street, City, State
Hiring Manager’s Name
Hiring Manager’s Job Title
Street, City, State
Expert Hint: If you’re submitting an electronic version of your resume and a cover letter via an online application form or a job board, leave off your address and include your email and telephone number only. Also, there’s no need to include the hiring manager’s contact details.
Applying by email? Learn all you need to know about an email cover letter format: How to Email a Resume and a Cover Letter
2. Add a Professional Salutation Addressed Directly to The Hiring Manager
Start your cover letter with the right salutation:
Cover Letter Salutation Examples
- Dear Mr. Brown,
- Dear James Brown,
- Dear James,
Format your cover letter salutation so that it fits the company culture. If you’re applying to a conservative, traditional organization, go with Mr. / Ms. and the hiring manager’s last name.
A cool, relaxed startup? The first name will do.
Expert Hint: Unsure about the hiring manager’s gender? Try to find out by checking their LinkedIn profile picture. Also, if your hiring manager is a woman, begin your salutation with the neutral “Ms.,” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs.,” which assume the recipient's marital status.
If you don’t know the hiring manager’s first name, write “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear [Team Name] Hiring Manager.” Both feel way more personal than “To Whom It May Concern,” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
3. Hook the Recruiter with the First Paragraph
The hiring manager hasn’t read your cover letter yet. Convince them to.
Make the first paragraph of your cover letter grab their attention right away. Mention your most relevant professional accomplishment. Make it irresistible for the hiring manager to read on!
Sample Cover Letter Format: First Paragraph
When I found the opening for the Senior Customer Service Specialist with ABC Bank I felt as if it was addressed to me, personally. In my current position as CSR at Acme Corp, I’ve boosted customer retention by 37% in 9 months and raised the mean NPS from 7.9 to 8.8. I’m sure my expertise can translate into similar results for ABC.
4. Explain Why You’re the Perfect Candidate in the Central Paragraphs
Your cover letter is not a trophy case where you show off your achievements and brag relentlessly.
Employers don’t need superstars. They need solutions to their specific problems and challenges.
Show them you’ve got it all. In your central paragraphs, refer to the job description and show that your skills and expertise fit the job like a bespoke Zegna suit.
Expert Hint: Don’t Be Generic. Sending a generic cover letter breaks all the important rules, because: 1) It’s not tailored to the company. 2) It is not personalized to the hiring manager. 3) It tells them you are lazy and not so interested.
How to format a cover letter main body?
You have three options:
- Go for plain paragraphs,
- Use bullet points to outline your most relevant achievements, or...
- Include a table (this one’s risky).
How to format cover letter bullet points?
Make sure to:
- Focus on your best wins you cannot afford the hiring manager to miss.
- Quantify whenever possible.
- Be brief and to-the-point.
Bullet Points Cover Letter Format: Example
In my previous position as a Software Developer with Acme, my primary challenge was creating new mobile apps for personal finance management. Here are some of my recent results:
- Paid premium versions of the apps increased Acme’s online sales by $70,000 per quarter.
- Skyrocketed End User Satisfaction scores by 40%.
- Optimized manual testing flow to cut testing time, saving the company 11 work hours a month.
What about the table cover letter format? Have a look:
Table Cover Letter Format: Example
A marketing manager focused on business performance
Led a team of 20+ employees to increase ABC’s revenue by 220% in 3 years.
Someone skilled in SEO
Grew SEO traffic from 1 to 3.5 million in 8 months.
A leader experienced in team building
My team has scored highest in internal employee satisfaction surveys 16 months in a row
A table cover letter format is a great space-saver. The problem? Some employers find it pretentious. Especially when applying for corporate jobs, it’s best to skip the idea of formatting your cover letter body into a table.
After you’ve showcased your skills and achievements, briefly explain why you want in. Maybe there’s something about the company mission that inspires you? You’re excited to collaborate on their upcoming projects? Tell them!
Expert Hint: Should you include every detail about your career in a cover letter? What’s the actual ideal cover letter length? 300 words for experienced professionals, 200 for entry-level candidates.
Double your impact with a matching resume and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter builder and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There’s 18 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
5. End with a Compelling Call to Action
How to format a cover letter call to action?
Ask for a meeting or a call, suggest a date, and state exactly what’s in it for them.
Professional Format of a Cover Letter Call to Action: Example
Can we schedule a meeting next Monday to discuss my solutions for boosting XYZ Corp’s ROI by 30% in the next quarter?
6. Add a Complimentary Close and a Sign-Off
The hiring manager already wants to grab her phone and call you.
She just changed her mind.
What went wrong?
The format of your cover letter ending was shambolic and unprofessional. Here’s how to avoid it:
- Write a “Sincerely,” or “Best regards,” synonym and put a blank line below.
- Sign off with your full name.
- In the footer, include your basic contact information.
Cover Letter Closing Format—Example
Expert Hint: To add a nice, professional touch to your cover letter format, include a digital copy of your handwritten signature above your sign-off.
7. Hook the Recruiter Once More with the Postscript
This is a simple cover letter hack that can pay off big time. Just look at this example:
Cover Letter Postscript Format—Example
P.S.—I’d also value the opportunity to tell you how I raised my team’s customer experience phone survey ratings by 48% above the company average.
What’s so great about the P.S.?
It screams “you cannot miss this information.” Works like a magnet for hiring manager’s eyes.
Expert Hint: Put full stops after the P and the S. Then, add a colon or an em-dash: “P.S.:” or “P.S.—”
8. Work on your Cover Letter Format and Layout: Fonts, Spacing, Margins, and Alignment
Think about the science of first impressions:
A famous study by UCLA’s Prof. Albert Mehrabian revealed that in face-to-face encounters, we can convey no more than 7% of our message by words we speak.
The remaining 93% boils down to non-verbal signs.
Apply this science to your cover letter formatting—your wording matters, but it’s both about what you say and how you present it.
This way your cover letter will follow the rules of a proper business letter format.
Make it elegant and professional by applying all the below formatting rules:
Cover Letter Formatting Step by Step
- Set one-inch margins on all four sides.
- Left-align all contents; don’t justify the text right: it would create gaps in the text, making it harder to read.
- Choose a professional cover letter font—Ariel, Tahoma, Calibri if you prefer sans-serif fonts; Times New Roman or Bookman Old Style if serif fonts are your usual pick.
- Use single or 1.15 line spacing.
- Put a blank line after each section: contact information, salutation, each of the main paragraphs, and the complimentary closing.
- Finally, save your cover letter in the PDF format. The formatting of MS Word cover letters may get skewed depending on the device they get opened on. Start from one of these MS Word resume templates and export it to PDF once you are done.
Expert Hint: “Should I write a cover letter?” If you’re still unsure whether or not a cover letter could be a game changer, let’s just say that according to our recent survey 83% of recruiters find cover letters important for their hiring decisions.
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To have a cover letter format that lands you the job, remember about the following:
- Apply the rules of business letters formatting: use a professional font, single line spacing, one-inch margins on all sides, put a blank line between sections and paragraphs.
- Put yours and the hiring manager’s contact details in the top left.
- Open with a professional salutation, addressed directly to the hiring manager.
- Begin with the hook: show your value in the first paragraph.
- Make an offer in the middle paragraph.
- End with a call to action.
- Sign off with your full name and include your basic contact details in the footer.
- Keep your cover letter below 300 words.
Need more help? Check out these cover letter resources:
- Learn how to correctly address a cover letter.
- Our full guide on how to write a cover letter.
- We asked recruiters whether cover letters are necessary. The answer should not surprise you!
- Learn how to format a cover letter to land more interviews.
- Browse through our collection of cover letter examples and compare it to your own.
- Hit the ground running by downloading a free cover letter template.
Questions? Concerns? Let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you right off!