How to use the best cover letter format (with examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 12 January 2023

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you apply for a job, it's common practice to include your CV and a cover letter. Your cover letter highlights why you're a good fit for the job and encourages the hiring manager to ask you for an interview. Knowing how to format a cover letter can help you write an effective cover letter. In this article, we consider professional tips for formatting your cover letter and how to structure your letter using an appropriate cover letter format, including email cover letters.

How to structure your cover letter using an appropriate cover letter format

An effective cover letter format contains specific elements. Be sure to format your cover letter correctly by including the following sections:

1. Contact details

At the top of your cover letter page, you can include the following information:

  • Name: Ensure that your full name is the focal point of the cover letter's header. Use a large font size and bold the text to let it stand out.

  • Phone number: Always include your phone number with your area code and country code if you apply for a job in a different country.

  • Email address: Email has become a standard communication method. You can include your email address on your cover letter in the following way: Name.Surname@email.com.

  • Online profile: You can include a link to work-related online networking profiles. If you have a personal website to display more information about your or your portfolio, include a link to it.

Related: How to Write a Sales Cover Letter (With Examples)

2. The hiring manager's address and date

The next section of your cover letter contains the letter's date, followed by the hiring manager's contact information. Add a space after the date and before the name of the hiring manager. You can use this structure:

  • the letter's date

  • the hiring manager's name

  • the company's name

  • the company's street address

  • the company's city and postal code

Related: How to write an open cover letter (with a template)

3. Greeting

This section of your cover letter addresses the hiring manager. You can find their name in the job advertisement or on the company's website. If you cannot find it here, you can call the company to ask for the hiring manager's name and explain that you're applying for a job there and would like to address your letter to the correct person.

If you still cannot find the hiring manager's name, it's critical not to use an outdated generic greeting like 'To Whom It May Concern'. Instead, customise the greeting to the department with the position for which you're applying. You can do this by using 'Dear Marketing Manager' or 'Dear Hiring Manager'.

Related: Application letter: definition, tips and a sample you can use to craft one

4. Introductory paragraph

Your introductory paragraph fulfils several functions. You can use it to get the hiring manager's attention immediately and provide a self-introduction. You can mention the position you're applying for and describe where you saw the job advertisement. If a mutual contact of the hiring manager referred you to the role, you can mention that in your introductory paragraph. Use this paragraph to express your excitement about the role.

Example: I'm applying for the role of senior marketing manager at [Company Name]. I noticed the job advertisement on [job board name or company website]. I feel confident that my ten years of experience as a junior marketing manager perfectly can assist with your company's needs.

Related: How to write a speculative cover letter for an unlisted job

5. Middle paragraph

After introducing yourself, highlight your achievements and work experience to impress the hiring manager. Provide details of your skills, knowledge and qualifications that match those listed in the job advertisement to show how well you fit the position's requirements. You may connect your accomplishments, as detailed in your CV, to your prospective employer's goals in your cover letter.

To leave an even better impression on the hiring manager, research your potential employer. You can analyse the current state of the industry it operates in, the company's position in this industry and its plans and prospects. You can write a paragraph to explain how you can assist the company in achieving its future goals.

Example: I noticed in the job description that you're seeking a candidate who requires little supervision and training. With my six years of experience as a junior marketing manager, I'm comfortable managing teams, marketing deliverables and clients on my own.

6. Last paragraph and a call to action

You can end your cover letter with a strong concluding paragraph. This paragraph fulfils several functions, including thanking the hiring manager for considering your application. You can also restate your contact details, including your email address and phone number here. The best way to end your last paragraph is to finish with a call-to-action to prompt the hiring manager to invite you for an interview.

Example: Thank you for taking the time to consider my application. I'd love to join your team at [Company Name] and I'm looking forward to having a more in-depth discussion with you about how I can join the team to help them achieve their goals. Please get in touch with me at 07911 123456 or John.Smith@email.com.

Related: Why is a CV important? Everything you need to know

7. Signature

Before you sign your cover letter, end it by writing 'Sincerely' or 'Regards'. Then leave a space of three to four lines before you type out your name. You can then print the letter and sign it in the gap. Alternatively, use an electronic signature to sign the letter.

Related: Writing a short cover letter: examples and helpful tips

Professional tips for your cover letter format

Use these tips to ensure you've formatted your cover letter appropriately:

Font style

Ensure you use a professional font for your cover letter. Traditional fonts such as Helvetica, Arial, Times New Roman or Verdana work well. Don't use decorative fonts as they may appear unprofessional to the hiring manager. The company's tracking system may not be able to read keywords you've used in your letter if you've used decorative fonts.

Related: What is a cover letter?: a vital document for successful job searching

Font size

Make sure that the font size you choose is easy to read. Keep the font size between a 10.5-point and 12-point size. If you choose a font size that's too big, it may make your letter look unprofessional, while a too-small font may be difficult to read.

Margins

Keep your cover letter's margins between 1" and 0.5". If your letter is too long, you can adjust the margins to make everything fit on one page. Avoid significant adjustments that make your letter look too full or too thin.

Spacing

Proper spacing can make your cover letter easier to read. To ensure there's enough white space, leave spaces between the different sections of your letter. You can format your cover letter using single spacing.

Length

Try to keep your cover letter between 250–400 words. Make sure your cover letter is one page long. Once you've completed your cover letter, review it to see if you can use fewer words to deliver the same message.

File format and name

If you're submitting a copy of your cover letter digitally, provide it in a PDF or DOCX format. Using a PDF format is best since others cannot change it, applicant tracking systems can read it and it poses no compatibility issues. For digital submissions of your cover letter, name your file appropriately using this format: your-name-and-surname-job-title-cover-letter.PDF.

Related: CV format guide: examples and tips

The proper cover letter format for email cover letters

The job advertisement may ask you to send your cover letter by email. Then, you include the letter in the email's body instead of as an attachment. You may structure an email cover letter as follows:

  • Subject line: Ensure your subject line is professional and clearly state your name and the position you're applying for.

  • Salutation: You can start your cover letter email by politely greeting the hiring manager. Use their name and use the following format: 'Dear Ms Smith'.

  • The introductory paragraph: After the salutation, introduce yourself and mention your interest in the role.

  • The 'hard sell' paragraph: Here, you can motivate how qualified you're for the position by referring to the job advertisement's requirements.

  • The 'action' paragraph: Thank the hiring manager and state your interest in an interview.

  • Sign-off: You can use 'Sincerely', 'Best wishes', or 'Best regards' for an email cover letter.

  • Contact information: Include your contact information at the end of your email.

Related: 

  • How To Write a Security Officer Cover Letter (With a Template and an Example)

  • How to Address a Cover Letter (With Examples)


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