How to Format a Cover Letter

A cover letter can make you stand out from the sea of applicants. But it's also important to format your cover letter properly.

How to Format a Cover Letter

When you are applying for a job, just a resume is rarely enough.

If you want to increase your chances of getting the job, you need a cover letter.

A badly-crafted cover letter that is difficult to read can effectively eliminate your chances of getting the job.

But a good, well-formatted one can really put you one step ahead of other candidates.

But how to get the best result with your cover letter?

We’ve got you covered.

In this article, we are going to explore the following questions:

  • What is a cover letter?
  • How to format your cover letter?
  • What if your cover letter is in an email?

And we are going to leave you off with everything you need to know to format your cover letter correctly.

If you need a hand with building your cover letter, check out our Cover Letter Examples and  Cover Letter Builder.

But if you are ready to format your cover letter in the best possible way, stick around.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a concise, one-page document that is submitted alongside your resume when you are applying for a job.

It is usually between 200 and 400 words long, and its goal is to show the hiring manager a little more of who you are.

A covering letter should highlight your most important work experience, achievements and skills, related to the job position you are applying for.

Furthermore, it should show a bit more of your personality, compared to a resume.

Your resume presents all your professional qualifications, so your cover letter should contribute with some personal touch.

An important note we should mention here is that you should write a unique cover letter for each job position you apply for.

With that said, we should mention that the format of your cover letter is essential.

It’s good to keep the design and tone of voice you use in your cover letter close to the industry and company you’re applying to.

A good cover letter can and should get the hiring manager’s attention and make them keep reading.

A properly written cover letter should put you one step ahead of other candidates and make the hiring manager spend more time on your application documents.

How to Format Your Cover Letter

Now that you know what a cover letter is, it is time to understand how to structure and format it correctly.

To do so, we are going to go through all sections your cover letter should have.

A crucial part of your cover letter is the header.

Its goal is similar to that of the header on your resume – it should give the hiring manager basic information, like your name, and any means of contact.

What you would want to include in your header are:

  • Your full name – use a large font size and bold text to make it stand out
  • Phone number – if you are not applying for a local job, make sure you include area code
  • Email address – use a professional one, like firstname.lastname@gmail.com
  • Date of your application – it is good to list it, as it would make tracking your application easier for the hiring manager
  • Name of the hiring manager and their position (if you have found that information)
  • Name of the company you are applying for

There are also some more specific things you can include in your header, including:

  • Social Media Profiles – that can be either LinkedIn, or GitHub (if you are a developer), or Medium (if you are a writer)
  • Personal Website (if you have created one that could serve nicely for your application)
  • Professional Portfolio (if you have one that would demonstrate your skill level)

Make sure you make your header as professional and detailed as possible.

A well written header on your cover letter makes it easier for the hiring manager to follow up with you about the position.

Greeting

When writing your salutation, there is some work you need to have done already.

Do your research on who the hiring manager for your position would be and address it to them.

The easiest way to find that is through LinkedIn.

Just do a quick search for your company, and you should be able to find the person that is most likely to be responsible for the candidate selection.

Using a name would really impress the hiring manager, as it shows that you have put in some extra work.

After you have the name, just start with “Dear” as it is the best cover letter salutation out there, and follow it up with their name.

If you are not sure about the gender of the hiring manager, don’t try to guess it.

Just use both their names instead of Mr/Ms and you should be fine.

However, if you can’t seem to find the hiring manager’s name, don’t give up on the position.

You can still open with “Dear Hiring Manager”.

Introduction

It’s time for the most exciting part of your cover letter.

But also the most crucial one.

What you state in your introduction may determine whether the hiring manager will continue reading.

So make sure you make it short, impactful, and straight to the point.

With the hundreds of applications hiring managers receive, they don’t really have time to read every single one end to end.

And that’s exactly why your introduction is so crucial.

If you want to make a great first impression, you can also include the name of the company and the position you are applying for in these opening lines.

That would show them that you are really interested in the job, and not just sending out template messages left and right.

What you need to do with the introduction is show the hiring manager why you are interested in the position, and give them a taste of your qualifications.

Body

The body of your cover letter should include all the crucial information that the hiring manager would be interested in.

Every single word of your cover letter should show them that you are the perfect candidate for the job.

A great thing to do to increase your chances is to check out the job listing.

Scan it for the most important skills that the hiring manager would be looking for, and make sure you use keywords highlighting those skills.

But don’t just write an endless list of every skill you can think of.

The best approach is to read through the job description and figure out exactly what the company is looking for.

Make sure you highlight all the right skills and provide some proof to back them up.

But your qualifications are not the only essential thing to show you are a good fit for the job.

You should also show that you are passionate about it.

As many candidates are constantly going between jobs these days, the hiring manager would look especially for someone who would stick around for more time.

Another thing you need to do is present yourself as someone who has the same values as the company.

Showing that you are a perfect candidate for the job position would usually not be enough.

You can be the perfect candidate and still quit sooner than the company would want you to.

That’s why you should also show them that you are a good fit for the company. For that purpose, you should do your research. It might take quite a while, but it is absolutely worth it.

You would want to learn everything you can about the company, so that you can show that you are a perfect fit.

The most essential things you need to learn are:

  • What’s the company’s business model?
  • What’s the company product or service?
  • What’s the company’s culture like?

Chances are you will find all that information by just googling.

Once you are ready with your research, just think about all the things you like about the company and what you have learned about it.

And simply turn that into text.

Call to action

If the hiring manager has got to the end of your cover letter, you are one of the lucky few.

And you can be sure you have done a great job writing and formatting it.

But you are not done yet.

It is of great importance to finish up your cover letter just right.

The finishing lines of your cover letter are the place to wrap up anything you didn’t have a chance to do so in the previous paragraphs.

But more importantly – you need to end your cover letter with a call to action.

The last sentence of your cover letter should always prompt the hiring manager to take some sort of action.

Make it polite and open-ended, showing them that you are excited to offer more information, and you are looking forward to getting in touch.

Professional closer

You are almost done. The only thing left is to use the proper salutation to end your cover letter professionally.

To do so, just use one of the most popular cover letter closers:

  • Kind regards,
  • Best regards,
  • Sincerely,
  • Thank you,

And just follow it up by your full name.

A nice touch you can include is a handwritten signature if you’re mailing the cover letter physically.

What If Your Cover Letter Is in an Email?

There is one more situation that we need to discuss to get you good and ready.

You may stumble upon a requirement in the job listing that states your cover letter should be in an email.

Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Writing an email cover letter is not that different from a traditional one.

There are just two key moments you need to keep in mind.

First, make sure you format the subject of your email correctly.

You should clearly state the position you are applying for and your name.

After you are done with that, the name part of your header has a new place – in the subject.

Your contact information should also be moved.

In an email cover letter, you should not have a header.

Instead, all your contact information should be at the bottom of your email, just after your ending salutation and name.

Cover Letter Formatting

Now you know all the basics of writing a cover letter.

But as we said, that’s just half the job done.

The formatting of your cover letter is just as important, as what you write in it.

So, to get you good and ready, we are going to go through everything you need to know about formatting your cover letter correctly.

Font

When it comes to the font you use, the simpler, the better.

Stick to the most popular ones, like Arial, Calibri, Rubik, Lato, or Chivo.

Any more fancy fonts will probably come across as unprofessional, so you should stay away from them.

Furthermore, more and more employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which make a pre-selection.

And the ATS will automatically disqualify your documents if any more fancy fonts are detected.

When it comes to font size, you should use between 10 and 12-point size.

That way, your text would be easy-to-read, and would not be too big.

Spacing

White space is essential for your cover letter.

You need to leave enough spacing between all the different sections and paragraphs.

Keep in mind that the body of your cover letter usually includes more than one paragraph, so you need to leave spacing between them as well.

Margins

To make your cover letter easy to read, you need to keep the text alignment to the left, and use standard 1-inch margins.

If your resume has become too long, take a look at it, and think about any information you can omit.

If there is none, you can adjust the margins, but make sure you don’t make any large adjustments, as that would not work in your favor.

File format

No matter if your cover letter would go through ATS, or it would directly go to a hiring manager, you need to send in a proper file format.

If you want to be sure that your formatting would remain the way you have done it, there is a simple choice – use a PDF file format.

Furthermore, PDFs can’t be easily modified by others, and don’t pose compatibility issues.

File naming

The last thing you need to take care of is use a proper file naming.

As the hiring manager would be able to see the name of your document, you need to keep it professional.

The best thing to do is use “Your-Name Cover-Letter”.

Takeaways

We are all done.

Now you know how to structure and format your cover letter correctly.

Once again, to do this right, you should go through all your cover letter needs:

  • Header
  • Greeting
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Call to action
  • Professional closer

Remember, no matter if it is a separate file, or an email, your cover letter should include all that.

Make sure you have all your formatting checked, including:

  • Font
  • Spacing
  • Margins
  • File format
  • File name

You would want all that to look professional, in order to get the best results.

Keep our advises in mind, and get your dream job in no time.