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Cover letter format: tips, tricks, and examples for formatting your letter

Cover letter format: tips, tricks, and examples for formatting your letter

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What is a good cover letter format?
  • 7 Steps to format a cover letter
  • Top cover letter formatting tips 
  • Cover letter format examples
  • Key takeaways

Wondering how best to format your cover letter so it hits the target? Cover letters are usually the first thing a hiring manager will review upon receiving an application. Read our step-by-step guide to discover the best layout for your cover letter.

Cover letters can be a bit of an afterthought when preparing a job application. A simple letter you prepare, after investing a lot of time and effort into your resume, which is just a formality. Right? Well, not really. A cover letter is essentially your first pitch to a hiring manager, so it’s equally important as creating a compelling resume.

Done well, this letter can set you apart from the crowd and help you continue in the hiring process. A cover letter encourages the hiring manager to learn more about you by reviewing your resume. So what’s the best cover letter format for maximum results? In this article we’ll explore:

  • What is a good cover letter format?

  • How to format a cover letter

  • Top cover letter formatting tips

  • Cover letter format examples

What is a good cover letter format?


A great cover letter demonstrates your interest in the role, describes your positive impact in previous roles, and explains exactly why you want to work for the company. Cover letters should be perfectly packaged in one single page, with a stand-out opening statement, relevant skills and qualifications in the core section, and a strong finish with a call-to-action. 

It can be tempting to use the same cover letter format and content for each job application, but try to avoid this. Generic cover letters are not as impactful, or successful, as targeted versions that are specific to the job posting and company. 

Expert Tip

Your cover letter will be accompanying your resume, so make sure you use a matching header/template and font for a uniform look. If you send two completely different documents, it will look confusing and won’t project your professionalism.

7 Steps to format a cover letter

Once you have the steps required to format a cover letter the right way, it’s a straightforward process to follow for each job opportunity. Here’s our seven-step guide:

1. Contact details

Start your cover letter with your contact details; use a larger size font for your name so that it stands out. Then detail your location (city and state is perfectly fine), unless you are planning on relocating to another city, state, or country, where it’s probably best to omit this information.

Then add your main contact number (with area/country code if you plan to relocate) and a professional email address. (For example, not something like [email protected]!) Finally, add any relevant online profiles, such as a link to your website, portfolio, or LinkedIn profile. Here’s an example of the format:

Example

John Smith

San Francisco, CA | (123) 456-7890 [email protected] | LinkedIn URL

2. Hiring managers information and date

The next step is to include today’s date, followed by a space, then the hiring manager’s name, company name, address, city, state, and ZIP code. Here’s an example:

Example

5 June 2023

Anna Brown Human Resources Manager ABC Company 341 City Walk San Francisco, CA 94016

3. Greeting 

Address the cover letter to the hiring manager, using just their first and last name and avoiding the use of “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.” Check the job posting and company website, or give the company a quick call to find out the hiring manager’s name. If you can’t find this information, then it’s better to address the letter to the hiring manager.

Example
  • Dear Anna Brown,

  • Dear Hiring Manager,

4. Opening paragraph

A cover letter’s opening paragraph needs to hook the reader and encourage the hiring manager to read on. Recruiters receive a high volume of applications, so it’s crucial to catch attention with this paragraph in order to stand out from the competition.

The most common problem with opening paragraphs is that they can be very generic, so once a recruiter has read one or two they will all blend into one and become instantly forgettable. Expressing your strong interest in the specific role and showing that you have researched the company are key ways to avoid falling into generic oblivion. 

Example

I’m excited to apply for the role of Marketing Associate at ABC Company as advertised on Jobs Online. I understand the company is launching a brand new product line, and I believe my skills in storytelling and product orientation will provide a major advantage at product launch. I’m a huge supporter of your brand, and I’d love to bring my creative outlook and my passion for your beauty products to the company.

5. Middle paragraph

The second paragraph should outline your background relevant to the job opportunity, with particular focus on key achievements, skills, and expertise. Focus on two or three specific details that highlight your successes, including facts and figures where possible to back up the skills being put forward.

The job posting is your best resource when determining which keywords to include in this section. Try to focus on more recent experiences and you can also use bullet points to break up the information, which improves readability and ensures achievements stand out.

Example

As Territory Sales Manager at Harper Smith, I was a key sales leader and successfully drove vast improvements in B2B and B2C sales as well as motivating the 50-member sales team. Prior to this, I steered direct sales, business development, and key account management for a business start-up in the FMCG sector. Recent successes include:

  • Consistently achieved 60% above average sales target in current role and recognized as top ranking converter in the last 12 months.

  • Delivered engaging and informative product training and education sessions to customers – thereby attracting clients and growing the client base by 15%.

  • Established strong client relationships and partnerships, adopting a consultative approach that leads to long-lasting relationships based on trust, honesty, and integrity.


6. Closing paragraph


Finalize your cover letter by thanking the employer for their time and consideration in reviewing your resume. You can also include a call-to-action to encourage the hiring manager to contact you and reiterate your contact details, including cell number and email address. 

This section also gives you the opportunity to clarify any points on your resume that you feel may require some further explanation. For example, if you were relocating to the city where the job opening was based in the next few weeks, you could mention this in your closing paragraph. That way, you can proactively address any concerns the hiring manager may have as to why you currently live in a different area, which they can glean from your contact details, area code, or current employer.

Example

Thank you for your time and consideration. It would be a pleasure to provide further details about my background in relation to your Marketing Associate opportunity. I’m planning to relocate to the Bay area in the next few weeks, and I would welcome the chance to learn more about your current and future needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at (123) 456-7890 or [email protected]

7. Signature 

Your cover letter should end with “Sincerely” and your name. You can also include your signature (this is optional), whether this is a written signature or electronic:

Example

Sincerely,

(Enter Signature)

John Smith

Top cover letter formatting tips 

Now that we’ve pinned down the key elements to creating a killer cover letter format, let’s add a final professional polish to make your letter truly sparkle:

Cover letter font

Select a simple and professional font for your cover letter, such as Arial, Calibri, or Verdana. Fancy or complicated fonts might not be compatible with the employer’s word processor or applicant tracking system (ATS).

It’s also a good idea to keep the font size between 10-point and 12-point for readability, and ensure the font matches your resume for uniformity. 

Spacing

The right spacing on a cover letter can really help readability. If everything is crammed together on the page or there are uneven gaps, it will be much harder for the hiring manager to read your cover letter quickly, and it also won’t look very professional. Stick to single-spacing and add one space between each section. 

Do
  • Use simple and straightforward language in your cover letter and avoid complicated sentence structures. Hiring managers are often time pressed so it’s best to be direct.
Don't
  • Create a long, in-depth cover letter of two or more pages. Cover letters should only be one page and average three paragraphs. Think of your letter as a sales pitch, not a saga.

Margins and alignment

Cover letters should always be aligned to the left with standard margins of 1-inch on all sides. You can have smaller margins if your cover letter is just tipping over one page, so adjust to ¾ inch or ½ inch if you encounter this problem.

File format

Since you’re likely to be emailing or uploading your cover letter, select either a Word doc or pdf for compatibility. It’s a good idea to name the file [First Name- Last Name-Cover letter], for example [John Smith Cover letter] just to make life easier for the hiring manager when they download and save your documents.

Cover letter format examples

Here are some copyable examples of cover letters in different formats and career levels to give you some inspiration!

#1 College Student Cover Letter

John Smith

5 Bay Road, San Francisco, CA  (123) 456-7890 | [email protected] | LinkedIn URL

January 5, 2023

Anna Brown Human Resources Manager ABC Company 341 City Walk San Francisco, CA 94016

Dear Anna Brown,

I am writing to express my strong interest in the summer internship opportunity with ABC Company. I learned about your company from my university career center, and after visiting your website, I am impressed by your significant advances in the field of engineering. 

I am currently in the final year of my degree in Chemical Engineering, majoring in Environmental Engineering, due to be completed in the spring of next year. I have acquired a strong understanding of engineering design principles and process design, with emphasis on natural resources engineering. In my studies to date, I have achieved excellent results including a place on the Dean's List, and this has confirmed my passion for developing a career in the environmental engineering field.

Following graduation, I would love to work for a forward-thinking company like yours, where I can increase my experience and deliver optimal support to your clients. I look forward to an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this exciting opportunity in more detail. If you require any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me on (123) 456-7890. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

John Smith

#2 Management Cover Letter

John Smith

5 Bay Road, San Francisco, CA  (123) 456-7890 | [email protected] | LinkedIn URL

January 5, 2023

Anna Brown Human Resources Manager ABC Company 341 City Walk San Francisco, CA 94016

Dear Anna Brown,

As a talented project manager with 10 years of experience, I am writing to express my strong interest in the program management opportunity advertised on your website. Having acquired the majority of my experience in the FMCG sector, I am confident that I would be an ideal addition to the team at ABC Company.

Across my project management career, I have secured strong skills in project scoping, progress monitoring, budgeting, and Agile methodologies. I have consistently ensured that projects are delivered on time, in budget, and to exacting specifications via effective leadership of project teams. An engaging and articulate communicator, I clearly convey complex information and propose novel solutions to build consensus with key project stakeholders. Recent areas of focus include: 

  • Generated high-volume revenues following project management of large-scale product roll-outs—with individual contracts ranging up to $300K.

  • Harnessed technology to benefit the business, deploying a new OMS that boosted cost-efficiency, performance, and operations management.

  • Tracked performance of commercial projects, applying lessons learned, best practices, and Agile approaches to ensure continual improvement.

I am impressed by the mission and vision of the organization, particularly in terms of continually optimizing products and the customer service experience. I would love to meet with you and discuss this position in more detail. Should you need any further information, I am available on (123) 456-7890 or [email protected]. Thank you for taking the time to consider my application.

Sincerely,

John Smith

#3 Senior Executive Cover Letter

John Smith

(123) 456-7890 | [email protected] | LinkedIn URL

January 5, 2023

Anna Brown Human Resources Manager ABC Business 341 City Walk New York, NY 10014

Dear Anna Brown,

As Chief Operations Officer for a leading retailer, I have achieved proven success steering operations, enhancing client satisfaction, and establishing top-performing teams. This includes experience with high-profile multinationals as well as the successful launch of new retail concessions. 

Holding over 20 years of experience driving revenue growth and profitability, combined with a focus on operational and performance improvement, I am confident in my ability to be a valuable addition to the leadership team at ABC Business. This includes oversight of significant transformation projects, deployment of best practice approaches, and development of high-quality training programs. Please consider the following career highlights:

  • Transformed a siloed, underperforming operation to a team-driven, profitable enterprise with COGS reduced by 6% in 2022, DSO decreased by 7.5 days, and 100% client retention achieved during tenure.

  • Steered operations for a $75M+ retail concession, including the successful launch of 100 new concessions across the US and an increase in profit margin of 25%.

  • Spearheaded talent development and succession planning initiatives, with 25 staff transitioning to supervisory and leadership roles in the past two years. 

Having completed my MBA and acquiring an extensive background in brand, sales, and business development in the retail industry, I consider myself an ideal candidate for the role of COO with ABC Business. I am relocating to New York in two weeks, and I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with you further and learn more about the position and company. Until then, thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

John Smith

Check out the Cover Letter Builder on Career.io to get started!

Key takeaways

  1. Cover letters are still an important part of the hiring process. Formatting your cover letter the right way will ensure you make the best first impression on the hiring manager.

  2. Follow our cover letter format checklist. Include contact details, date, hiring manager and company information, stand-out opening paragraph, informative middle paragraph, strong closing paragraph, and your signature.

  3. Factors such as cover letter font, spacing, margins, alignment, and file format are minor things, but still contribute to projecting your professionalism to the hiring manager.

  4. Keep your cover letter to one-page, three paragraphs, with a professional font, great formatting, and a final check for any typos, spelling,or grammatical errors. 

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