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How to Nail the Cover Letter Format

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Not all job applications require candidates to send cover letters. Yet, submitting one with your resume can boost your chances.

The tricky part is figuring out the proper cover letter format. From margins to text justification, there are a lot of details to consider.

In this post, we’ll go over all the nitty gritty details that make the best cover letter layout.

What Are the Parts of a Cover Letter?

Regardless of the tone and formatting, there are a few essential sections to include in any cover letter.

1. Contact Information

The first part of a cover letter is usually a header with contact information.

Ideally, you’ll want to include your email and number. Some people opt to include their addresses, too.

2. Receiver’s Address

Before greeting the employer, you can add their address and job title.

The exact layout varies depending on the chosen format, but we’ll cover how to add a recipient address in a minute!

3. Greeting

Next, you can greet the employer on a separate line. Thankfully, you don’t have to use the traditional “Mr.” or “Mrs.” in this section.

Something like “Dear Hiring Manager” will do the trick if you don’t know the person’s name.

4. Opening Paragraph

After addressing the hiring manager, you can jump into the “opener” in a new paragraph. This paragraph is usually 2-3 lines introducing you as a potential candidate.

Most people start with something along the lines of “As an X, I was thrilled to see your job posting for Y.”

If you’re sending an unsolicited cover letter, let the recruiter know what role you’re seeking.

5. Middle Paragraph

The middle section can be one or two paragraphs long, depending on the position and the candidate’s experience.

However, the goal is always the same: highlighting why you’re a good fit for the position.

6. End Paragraph

After showcasing the skills and qualifications that make you an ideal candidate, end the letter with a compelling call to action.

At its core, this section is all about encouraging the employer to initiate contact. You can express your desire to meet and discuss the role further. Even showing that you’re open to feedback is a good move.

Some people ask the recruiter to get in touch if they have questions. Then, they tie back to their contact information and availability once again.

7. Closing

The cover letter should end with a closing sentiment and a signature (your name).

If you’re not sure what sign-off to choose, we’d recommend “Best.” It’s a go-to closure for formal letters and emails.

You can also thank the recruiter for their time and consideration before closing.

How to Write a Cover Letter

With all the elements in mind, here’s how you can write the cover letter:

1. Pick a Template

The typical cover letter is a one-page document, and there are plenty of designs out there.

It’s okay to pick a template with a dash of color. However, you’ll want to keep the visuals sleek.

We’ll get to the formatting guidelines and template sources in a minute!

2. Keep Your Contact Information Polished

Never use a clunky email address. It compromises the professionalism of the letter.

Next, remember to add any necessary codes to your phone number.

Plus, if you include a location, there’s no need to write the full address. It can be too bulky and ruin the visuals. The city and region will do fine.

3. Nail the Opener

When you’re writing the opening paragraph, put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. Odds are, they receive hundreds of cover letters and resumes. If yours doesn’t stand out, you’re toast.

Make sure the opener isn’t generic or bland, like “Hi, I’m X, and I want to apply for position Y at your company.”

Instead, hook them right away with an engaging sentence that reflects your top career achievements.

4. Do Your Homework

The whole deal with cover letters is that they’re supposed to be customized for positions vs. a general resume.

Before you write a word in the middle section of the letter, do some research into the following aspects:

  • Employer’s vision, culture, and business model
  • Skills needed for this specific position
  • Career path for this role

You can use this info to highlight how your skills and work ethic align with the company’s goals.

Don’t regurgitate the company’s about page. Instead, try reflecting on how specific instances from your work experience fit a certain corporate goal.

5. Add a Touch of Personality

It’s okay to add a hint of personality and show enthusiasm. Don’t go overboard with humor—it usually doesn’t read well in formal letters.

Don’t overuse the personal pronoun “I” in the letter, either. The cover letter should be about how your skills can serve the organization.

6. Keep It Brief

Don’t stretch the middle paragraph too much. You don’t have to list every skill you have—leave the details for the resume or CV.

Instead, keep the letter tight and encourage the recruiter to get in touch.

What is the Best Cover Letter Format?

There are a few styles of business letters, but the block format is a staple for cover letters.

Here are the main aspects of a block-format cover letter:

  • Left-justified text all across the letter (no indents)
  • Readable font (11-12pt)
  • 1-inch margins on the sides
  • Recipient’s address in a block with 3-5 lines (person’s name, job title, organization’s name, street address, city, and zip code)
  • Single line spacing for text
  • Double line spacing between paragraphs

How Do You Format a Cover Letter?

You can create the letter on a blank document using the block format guidelines or opt for preset templates.

Either way, you’ll need to save the file as a PDF before sending it to the recruiter.

Cover Letter Format Harvard

The recommended cover letter format from Harvard’s career service office follows a block layout. You can check out a cover letter example from Harvard for more formatting details.

Cover Letter Format Google Docs

Google Docs has some sample cover letters that suit different tastes.

On your Drive account, click on “New” and pick the “From Template” option under “Docs.” There, you should find a tab for “Letters” with a selection of free templates.

Cover Letter Format Microsoft Word

If you prefer Microsoft Word over Google Docs, you can download one of the templates on Microsoft’s site and fill it in with your info.

Keep in mind that some of them are premium and require a Microsoft 365 subscription, though.

Cover Letter Format Download

If you find the selections on Google Docs and Microsoft Word limited, you can download a template from third-party sites. Then, you can edit the file in Docs or Word.

Key Takeaways

Block format with left-justified text and no indentation works best for cover letters. You’ll also need to add line spacing between paragraphs to keep things neat.

However, keeping the content brief and highly specific to the job listing is the key!

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