There is one cover letter format: a one-page standard business letter. It should be structured and organized in a way that makes it easy for hiring managers to read. On this page, we’ll show you the right way to format a cover letter, and we’ll provide useful tips, examples and templates to help you create one that makes employers want to hire you.
Anatomy of a cover letter format
An appropriately formatted cover letter should include, in order:
The applicant’s contact information.
Depending on the design you use, you can put this info on the left, right or in the center of your cover letter heading, but you must always place your contact information at the top.
The current date.
Write the date in long-form: October 14, 2021.
The employer’s address.
Like your contact information, you can write the employer’s address on the right, left or center of the page, but you should always place it below the date. Dig around for the hiring manager’s name to use it at the top of the address. If you can’t find it, then use the company name.
It’s best to greet the hiring manager by name if you can find it. If not, then “Dear hiring manager,” is second best.
The body is where you introduce yourself, express your interest in the position, provide details about your qualifications for the job, and tell the employer how you plan to help them succeed. It should be at least three and no more than four paragraphs long.
The body of a cover letter should include:
An introductory paragraph: A strong introduction communicates enthusiasm for the position and the company.
One or two middle paragraphs: A cover letter’s body paragraphs should demonstrate your personality, describe specific aspects of your related experience, including measurable achievements, and explain things like employment gaps.
A closing paragraph: The closing paragraph is where you reiterate your interest, thank the hiring manager for their time, and invite them to contact you.
This section is where you sign off respectfully and professionally: “Regards,” “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” and “Thank you for your consideration,” are all good closers.
Chances are, you will be sending your cover letter through email or a digital job application portal; in that case, type in your full name. If you have been asked to send your cover letter through postal mail, it is appropriate to hand sign your full name in blue or black ink, followed by a typed version of the same.
Cover letter formatting basics
Proper cover letter formatting is critical to appear professional and well-organized. Here is what you should keep in mind when you format your cover letter.
Fonts, spacing and margins
A great cover letter is defined by proper use of margins, white space, and font style and size.
Not all fonts work well on cover letters. Some, like Times New Roman, are easy to read, while others, such as Comic Sans, Courier New and Impact, are not. Your cover letter must be both professional and easy to read, so choose one of the standard business-style fonts: Arial, Calibri, Verdana or Times New Roman and use only that font throughout.
Font size matters, too! We recommend using only 11- or 12-point fonts because those sizes are easiest for most people to read.
Cover letters should have one space between lines of text and between words, two spaces between paragraphs, and two spaces between each section.
3. Margins and alignment
The standard rule of thumb for cover letters is that margins should be 1 inch, and text should be aligned to the left of a document. Some cover letter designs allow headers to be centered or right-aligned but always align the salutation, body and complimentary close to the left.
4. Bullet points
A bulleted list is a clean way to break up the paragraphs and call out top achievements in the body of your cover letter. Use simple bullets — nothing fancy — and make sure they match the style you used in your resume.
T-format cover letter variation
If you have over 20 years of experience or if you have a highly specialized job, such as a small-aircraft technician, you might want to put the focus on your skills and show employers exactly how each one matches the job requirements. You can do this easily with a T-format cover letter.
To create a T-format cover letter:
Add a header to the top of a blank document, followed by the date, employer’s name and address, and a salutation.
Write a one-paragraph introduction below the salutation.
Divide the rest of the page into two columns — one with a bulleted list of the job requirements (with Your Job Requirements as the header) and the other with a list of your qualifications (with My Qualifications as the header).
Wrap it up with a paragraph summarizing your interest with confidence and an invitation to connect with the hiring manager.
Conclude with a professional and respectful closing statement like “Respectfully yours,” and your name. If you are mailing your letter via post, then hand-sign it above your typed name.
Here’s What People Are Saying About Us
Tips for properly formatting a cover letter
Understand what the employer prefers.Read the job description carefully. Some employers prefer cover letters written in the body of an email rather than attached. Others might want you to send your document through postal mail or via their online application system. That said, digital cover letters and resumes have become standard, so if you’re not instructed otherwise, attach your application materials along with your resume to an email message.
File format matters.If you are sending your cover letter digitally, you need to know which file format to use when saving it. Employers sometimes ask for a particular file format and reject cover letters sent in a different one, so to be safe, save your document as a PDF unless otherwise indicated in the ad.
The PDF file format is the safest bet because:
- It is compatible with most systems, browsers and applications;
- It is easy for applicant tracking systems (ATS) — software companies use to scan cover letters and resumes for the best matches to job descriptions — to read; and
- Because they can’t be altered, so your formatting and content are preserved.
Give your document a proper name.Naming your cover letter file is an important part of overall formatting — it’s got to be legible and professional. For best results, use the standard convention: your first and last name, the job title you are applying for, and close it with “cover letter.” Put spaces and/or dashes or underscores in between each part to make it easy to read.
- Jane Doe_Medical Assistant_Cover Letter
- Pat Sommer — History Teacher — Cover Letter
Send your document from an email address that sounds professional.Use an email address like YourName@email.com, Your_Name@email.com and Your-Name@email.com, not SoccerMom20@email.com or Golfer517@email.com. Remember to use a professional email address in your cover letter’s contact information as well.
Write a relevant subject line if you send your letter by email.Otherwise, your cover letter may go to the employer’s spam or trash folders without ever being read.
- Read the instructions in the job description. Employers often specify what they want applicants to write in an email subject line.
- Be clear. Specify why you are writing along with your name and the job you are applying for; something like: “Construction Job Inquiry — Joe Smith or “Receptionist Job Application — Sam Jones.”
- Keep it short. The Nielsen Norman Group recommends that you limit your subject line to 40 characters.
- Proofread it! Even one typo could cost you the interview.
Don’t forget to add a message for the hiring manager to explain why you are contacting them if you are attaching your cover letter to an email.Your message should be brief and to the point. In two short paragraphs, let the employer know that you are writing with interest in the position and that your resume and cover letter are attached. You might also let them know how you can be contacted should they require additional information.
How to send a cover letter (so it retains its formatting)
While some companies still ask job applicants to send their cover letters and resumes by mail, most modern employers expect them directly through online applications or by email.
Below, we provide best practices for submitting your cover letter through a website or via email, including formatting tips, naming conventions, and which file formats to use.
Uploading a cover letter to an employer website or job board portal
If you’re submitting an attachment:
Choose the right file format. Most employers will tell you exactly what file format they need in the job ad. In the rare case there aren’t any specific instructions, use a PDF or DOCX file, both of which are better at retaining formatting than a Word file or Google Docs.
Give your file a sensible name. Your file should have a professional name. We recommend the following structure: First Name-Last Name-Job Title-Cover-Letter. Avoid spaces and unusual characters, both of which can show up awkwardly on the employer’s end.
If you’re pasting your cover letter into a text box:
Be careful with formatting. Occasionally, you will be asked to submit your cover letter via a text box. Since you have no idea whether the employer’s system will retain your formatting, strip any special styling (like bullet points or italics) from your letter. Use plain, simple paragraphs to guarantee a hiring manager will be able to read the text.
Read through your cover letter before you submit it. It’s easy to make a mistake when you’re copying and pasting. Take the time to read your letter once it’s in the text box to make sure the text is complete and in the proper order.
Sending a cover letter email
Emailing your cover letter is easy. Simply follow these steps:
Use a professional email address. If you don’t have an email address set up specifically for job applications, then take the time to create one with a standard email provider. Employers will take you more seriously if your email address consists of your first and last name or a combination of your name and initials, like: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. Never use personal email monikers with nicknames like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and avoid numbers like firstname.lastname@example.org. Employers will notice and they may pass you by without reading your cover letter.
Follow the instructions in the job description. Employers often provide instructions in the job description for sending your cover letter and resume, so read it carefully. You might be asked to write a cover letter in the body of an email, or you might be asked to include it as an attachment in a specified file format (most often Word document or PDF). Not following instructions is grounds for most employers to dismiss your job application.
If the employer requests a cover letter in the body of an email, then copy and paste the text of your cover letter as a message. You might have to reformat it after pasting it. Keep the same margins, spacing and alignment, but use your email provider’s default font and style.
If instructions are not included, err on the side of attaching your cover letter as a PDF. Many employers consider an attached cover letter more professional, and since you will likely be sending your resume as an attachment, it’s consistent. PDFs are a safe bet because they maintain their formatting no matter what software is used to open them, while Word files run the risk of losing their formatting depending on how they are opened
Name your file properly. When sending your cover letter as an attachment, the file name should be professional, like your email address. The appropriate way to name a cover letter when saving it as file is:
First Name-Last Name-Job Title-Cover-Letter
For example: Jane-Smith-Journeyman-Electrician-Cover-Letter.pdf (or .doc)
Include a brief email message. Always write a brief note when sending your cover letter as an attachment in an email.
Your email message might be something like:
Dear Ms. Rodriguez,
I’m writing with interest in the catering position with Yummy Eats.
I’ve attached my cover letter and resume for your review.
Please let me know if you require any additional information.
Dear Ms. Rodriguez,Thank you for your consideration!
Add a relevant subject line. Increase the chance that the recruiter or hiring manager will notice and open your email. Be specific and succinct.
The best way to do this is: Job Title-Cover Letter-Your Name
Custodial Manager-Cover Letter-Sam Lyons
Cover letter format guides
Need more support? We’ve got you covered with an array of cover letter guides you can use when you create your cover letter.
How to write a cover letter
A well-formatted cover letter will be supported by quality content. Our how to write a cover letter guide takes you through the process from start to finish (with sample cover letter text you can customize to your needs). The following cover letter sections are included:
Cover letter examples
Here are some cover letter examples demonstrating how to properly format a cover letter. Pay particular attention to fonts, space and margins, as well as paragraph treatments, within each cover letter.
Cover letter templates
Formatting comes in different flavors depending on your cover letter template. Check out a few of our most popular templates suited for different types of professionals. Keep an eye on how the format differs based on the template, from the header down to the bullet points..
How do I write a cover letter format?
With Resume Now, you don’t have to worry about creating your own cover letter format. We have dozens of templates to choose from. You can use our tips to guide your writing, or you can use our Cover Letter Builder to take the work out of formatting a cover letter for each job application.
Do I need a cover letter?
Yes, you need a cover letter and should submit one even when it isn’t required (generally speaking). They are one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition. Considering that 85% of hiring professionals read cover letters, you can show a company you are professional and committed by including a cover letter and making the strongest possible case for your candidacy.
Is a cover letter ever optional?
Sometimes writing a cover letter is optional. For example, sectors like retail and food service have high turnover and often need to hire workers on the spot. With this need to move quickly comes a lack of interest in reading cover letters. All they want to know is whether you have the skills to perform the job. You’ll learn through experience which types of jobs and industries don’t require cover letters.
What are the different types of cover letters?
Types of cover letters range from general job application letters to cover letters that address specific circumstances. Many circumstances require a customized cover letter, including (but not limited to) recently graduating, changing careers, explaining job-hopping, being laid off/unemployed, asking about unadvertised job openings and more.
Which is the best date format for a cover letter?
The best date format for a cover letter is month, day and year, written in long-form: October 14, 2021.
How do I start a cover letter?
Begin with a salutation like “Dear John Smith,” or “To Jane Doe.” If you don’t know the recipient’s name, then you can choose to use a title such as “Head of Marketing.” Never use the generic “To whom it may concern” if you want to be taken seriously.
Which are the appropriate closings for an email cover letter?
The closing for an email cover letter should always be professional. Don’t use informal phrases like “Later” or “Thx.” Instead, choose something tasteful like “Kind regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Thank you for your consideration.”
Can I include my cover letter in the body of an email?
Yes, you can include your cover letter in the body of an email. As long as you keep it short, treating the email as your cover letter is just fine. That said, you may want to attach your cover letter to the email, and save the email itself for a short, bullet-point summary of your cover letter’s highlights.
How personal should I make my cover letter?
That depends on what you mean by “personal.” You should personalize every cover letter to each job ad. This means including the relevant skills from the job ad and explaining why your career achievements make you a good fit for the role. On the other hand, personal details, such as life history, should only be invoked as it pertains to work. Adding irrelevant personal details can turn off the employer and make you seem unprofessional.
What is the best cover letter writing online tool?
Resume Now offers the best cover letter writing tool available online. You can select from many proven templates and easily tailor them from there. Our builder abides by cover letter writing best practices and helps job seekers create documents that bypass applicant tracking systems (ATS), which parse resumes and cover letters for relevance with ease. To top it off, it edits your document for spelling and grammar errors before you download.