Structure of a cover letter
Before we get into formatting specifics, all professional cover letter formats should look like this cover letter format example:
5 tips for formatting a cover letter properly
- 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, if you’re not instructed otherwise, attach your application materials 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. Without specific instructions, a PDF file is your safest bet.
The PDF file format is best 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.
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, dashes or underscores between each part to make it easy to read. Here’s an example: Jane Doe_Medical Assistant_Cover Letter.
- Send your document from a professional email address. 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 for your email. Otherwise, your cover letter may go to the employer’s spam or trash folders without ever being read.
Here’s how to write the email subject line:
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.”
Keep it short. The Nielsen Norman Group recommends limiting your subject line to 40 characters
Proofread it. Even one typo could cost you the interview.
More cover letter format resources
Need more support? We’ve got you covered with guides on how to write cover letters effectively using our library of examples and an appropriate template.
Cover letter examples
These cover letter examples demonstrate how a cover letter should be formatted and what information about you it should include. Pay attention to fonts, space and margins and paragraph treatments within each letter.
Cover letter templates
Formatting comes in different styles depending on your cover letter template. Check out a few of our most popular templates suited for different types of professionals, and select a matching resume template for a cohesive look. Keep an eye on how the format differs based on the template, from the header down to the bullet points.
When you apply for jobs, you should submit a cover letter with your resume. Cover letters give you an opportunity to share your goals, list your most relevant skills and qualifications, and explain why you are interested in the company. Since some job seekers neglect to write a cover letter, submitting one can also make you a more desirable candidate.
Yes, you need a custom, professional cover letter for each job you apply to. You should submit one with your resume even when it isn’t required because cover letters 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 one and making the strongest possible case for your candidacy.
For most applicants, the best cover letter format for a resume would be the standard one-page business letter. Some job seekers with more than 20 years of experience and highly specialized jobs could opt for the T-format cover letter because it clearly displays how their qualifications match the job description on one page.
The best cover letter date format is month, day and year, written in long form. For example: May 14, 2021.
The best cover letter begins with a salutation like “Dear John Smith” or “To Jane Doe.” If you don’t know the recipient’s name, you can use a title such as “Head of Marketing.” Never use the generic “To whom it may concern” if you want to be taken seriously.
Always be professional when writing a cover letter closing. An email cover letter should close with a tasteful line, like “Kind regards,” “Sincerely” or “Thank you for your consideration,” and not informal phrases like “Later” or “Thx.”
That depends on what you mean by “personal.” You should personalize every cover letter to each job. This means including the relevant skills from the job advertisement and explaining why your career achievements make you a good fit for the role. On the other hand, adding irrelevant personal details to your application letter can turn off the employer and make you seem unprofessional. Personal details, such as life history, should only be invoked as it pertains to work.
We offer the best cover letter writing tool available online. You can select from many cover letter templates and easily tailor them. Our Cover Letter Builder abides by cover-letter-writing best practices and helps job seekers create application letters that bypass applicant tracking systems (ATS), which parse resumes and cover letters for relevance. To top it off, our builder helps you proofread your job application letter for formatting, spelling and grammar errors and make edits before downloading it.