The Proper Cover Letter Format
Here’s what proper cover letter formatting looks like:
Cover Letter Formatting: Examples
No matter what your industry, cover letters should all have the same basic layout shown above. However, you should ensure the cover letter template you use is appropriate for your field.
Check out the cover letter examples below for more inspiration.
Standard cover letter format
If you’re applying for a job in a formal industry, such as law or finance, use a more traditional cover letter, like our basic cover letter template below:
Basic Cover Letter (Text Version)
[Hiring Manager’s Name]
[341 Company Address]
[Company City, State xxxxx]
Dear [Mr./Mrs./Ms.] [Manager’s Name],
This letter is in regard to my interest in applying for the entry-level paralegal position at [Company Name]. With my skills and qualifications, I am more than capable of providing paralegal support services to protect your company’s innovations and intellectual property.
While pursuing an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies from Southern Community College, I have developed knowledge of intellectual property law. As a member of the Junior Paralegal Club, I was able to stay up to date on all current affairs in relation to corporate law. With an internship at a mid-size law firm I was able to apply this knowledge and gain hands on experience in the field.
During my internship with The Wachester Firm, I was responsible for:
- The preparation of documents for criminal and civil trials by scheduling and conducting interviews with clients, witnesses, and other lawyers
- Creating and maintaining a paper and electronic litigation database
- In-depth research and analysis of cases on corporate governance and litigation
Together, I believe my educational background and internship experience make me a suitable a candidate for the paralegal position at your firm. I have attached my resume highlighting my academic and professional skills, and I look forward to hearing from you in due course. I appreciate your time and consideration.
Modern cover letter format
A cover letter for a job in more casual industries, like marketing or graphic design, can use a more eye-catching header, like our modern cover letter template:
Modern Cover Letter (Text Version)
[Hiring Manager’s Name]
[341 Company Address]
[Company City, State, xxxxx]
Dear [Mr./Mrs./Ms.] [Manager’s Name],
Thank you for the opportunity to submit my application for the Marketing Manager position. I have over 6 years of experience in the marketing industry, and I wish to continue to succeed in the field.
In my current role as Marketing Manager for L’Oreal, I have developed product-centric promotional campaigns which are projected to grow our year-on-sales figures by $400,000. I have recruited, hired, and trained the vast majority of our current marketing specialists, all of whom have contributed to improving our overall sales goals by 24%.
Additionally, I have also:
- Managed corporate marketing functions with a budget of $2m, including brand management, product launch, advertising, marketing collateral, and events
- Led the design of new packaging elements for Panasonic which saving $50K in costs, and earned our company Green Award for utilizing cheaper, environmentally-friendly materials
- Established a new social media team that grew our web presence and global brand awareness by 34%
With a background rooted in sales and marketing, a drive to take charge in this ever-changing industry, and the core skills required to effectively manage a dedicated marketing staff; I am certain that I would prove to be a great asset to your already talented team.
I want to thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to apply for this position. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Notice how this cover letter sample’s format is modernized for a more digital job, so it’s fine to leave out the company’s address in this case.
How to format a cover letter
If you’ve been wondering about the proper cover letter structure, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to format a simple cover letter in seven steps:
1. List your contact details
First, you need to know how to head a cover letter. At the top of your cover letter, include the following information:
- Name: Your full name should be the focal point of your cover letter header (use a large font size and bold text)
- Phone number: If you’re applying for a job in a different city, state, or country, include your area/country code
- Email address: Use a professional email address such as email@example.com
- Online profile: Include a link to work-relevant online profiles, such as your personal website or LinkedIn profile
2. Add the hiring manager’s address and today’s date
Next, list today’s date followed by the employer’s contact information, leaving a space between the date and the hiring manager’s name. Structure this part of your cover letter like this:
- Today’s date
- Hiring manager’s name
- Company name
- Company street address
- Company city, state, and ZIP code
3. Include a salutation
It’s good cover letter etiquette to address your cover letter to the hiring manager. To find out their name, look for it in the job description or on the company’s website. If you still can’t find it, try calling the company and asking for the hiring manager’s name.
If none of these strategies work, avoid using a generic greeting such as “To Whom It May Concern”. When addressing a cover letter without a name, customize your cover letter salutation for the team or department you’re applying to join, such as “Dear Accounting Director,” “Dear Accounting Team,” or “Dear Hiring Manager,”.
4. Start with an introduction paragraph
The first paragraph of your cover letter should:
- Grab the hiring manager’s attention
- Provide a self-introduction
- List the position you’re applying for
- Describe where you found the job posting
It’s also important to express your excitement for the position when starting your cover letter.
For example, check out this candidate’s professional yet charismatic introduction:
I’m applying for the position of dental assistant at Sage Dental. I noticed your job posting on Indeed and am happy to say that my 4+ years of dental assistant experience matches your clinic’s needs perfectly.
If you’ve been referred to the role by a mutual contact of the hiring manager, include this referral in your cover letter opening paragraph.
5. Add your body paragraph(s)
Now that you’ve introduced yourself, highlight your experience and accomplishments to further impress the hiring manager. Use the skills, experience, and qualifications listed in the job description for ideas as you write your cover letter to show you’re a good match for the role.
You can even connect the accomplishments on your resume to the goals of your target company in your cover letter.
For example, watch how this candidate sells their relevant skills:
To exceed the expectations of the hiring manager, research your potential employer. Determine the current state of the industry, the company’s position in the market, and if possible, its future plans. Write a paragraph detailing how you fit into these plans, and explain how you can assist the company in reaching its future goals.
If you have some career highlights to include, you can (optionally) format them as a short bulleted list between your body paragraphs. Formatting them this way helps draw more attention to your accomplishments, and makes them easier to skim.
You should choose points that you can quantify by including hard numbers, which will make them stand out as more memorable and impressive.
Here’s an example of how to include some quantified points in your cover letter:
Including career highlights like this shows employers what you’re capable of and what tangible results they can expect to benefit from if they hire you.
6. Close out with a final paragraph and a call to action
Next, end your cover letter with a strong concluding paragraph that:
- Thanks the hiring manager for their time and consideration
- Restates your contact information, including your phone number and email address
- Finishes with a compelling call-to-action that prompts the hiring manager to invite you in for an interview
For example, check out this candidate’s enthusiastic yet professional closing:
Thank you for considering my application. I’d love to join the team at [Clinic Name]. I’m looking forward to having a more detailed discussion with you about how I can join your team and help you achieve your goals. Feel free to contact me at (555) 047-1701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Leave your signature
Before signing your cover letter, close it by writing “Sincerely,” and then leaving a gap of two to three lines. Then type out your name.
If you want to add some extra flair, you can print out your cover letter and sign your name in the gap you left. Or you can use an electronic signature.
Professional cover letter formatting tips
Using proper cover letter format goes a long way towards making a favorable first impression on employers. Here’s everything you need to know about cover letter formatting:
- Font style: Keep your cover letter font professional. Use a conventional font such as Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial or Verdana. Avoid fancy fonts because they will come across as unprofessional to hiring managers — and might not get picked up by applicant tracking systems.
- Font size: Use no larger than a 12-point font and no smaller than a 10.5-point font. Small fonts cause hiring managers to strain their eyes, while larger fonts are unprofessional.
- Margins: Use cover letter margins between 1” and .5”. If you’re running out of space, it’s okay to adjust the margins. However, avoid large adjustments that make your letter look too thin or too full.
- Spacing: Proper cover letter spacing requires you to leave space between each part of your cover letter. Specifically, Leave space between the date, recipient’s address, salutation, body paragraphs, sign-off, signature, and your name.
- File format: If you’re submitting a digital copy of your cover letter, submit your cover letter in a PDF or DOCX format. PDFs can’t be easily modified by others, don’t pose compatibility issues, and can be read by applicant tracking systems.
- Naming your file: When saving your cover letter as a PDF, make sure to use an appropriate name such as Your-Name-Job-Title-Cover-Letter.PDF.
- Length: Your cover letter length should be between 250-400 words, and use up no more than one page.
Cover letter formatting for email cover letters
If you’re required to send your cover letter in the body of an email (not as an attachment), the format of your email cover letter should look something like this:
Cover Letter Format for an Email
- Subject line – Use a professional subject line that clearly states the position titles and your name.
- Salutation – Begin your cover letter email by politely addressing the hiring manager by name (for example, “Dear Ms. Prudence,”)
- The “Intro” paragraph – Introduce yourself and express your interest in the position.
- The “Hard Sell” paragraph – Prove how qualified you are. Reference the job posting.
- The “Action” paragraph – Thank the hiring manager and express interest in an interview.
- Sign-off — ”Sincerely,” is standard for cover letters, but “Best wishes,” “Cordially,” and “Best regards” are also acceptable for email cover letters.
- Contact information – Provide your contact information at the bottom of your email.
There’s no need to include the date or the hiring manager’s contact information because you’re already communicating over email.
Here’s an example of a cover letter in email form:
Once you’ve properly formatted your cover letter, you should double-check for spelling and typos (and get someone to do a final check). Then send it off. Good luck on the job hunt!