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A Simple Cover Letter Format
Formatting means making your cover letter clean and readable — from the way it is organized to its line spaces, margins, font type and font size. It should look professional and no longer than one page in length.
Your cover letter is a standard business letter and, therefore, it should follow the standard business letter structure. Be sure to include the following:
- Your contact information
- Current date
- Recipient’s address
- Salutation (greeting)
- Your signature
Layout and Line Spacing
Standard business letters are always left-aligned, meaning all sections should line up from the left side of the page, rather than the center or to the right, with one space in between lines of text. As a general rule, margins should be 1 inch. Most word processing software is set up so that text is aligned to the left of a document with proper margins, and some software provides tools to help you find the right layout. When separating paragraphs, always use double space to make the letter easy to read.
Your cover letter has to be easy for most people to read, so always use one of the standard business-style fonts. Purdue University recommends using Times New Roman, especially if you are applying to a more conservative company, but Calibri or Arial are also acceptable. Size matters, too! Most business writing experts recommend between 10-12 points.
Keep it simple! Frills and colors should be kept for personal, not business purposes. Photos, graphics, colors and fancy fonts do not look professional and will therefore turn off a prospective employer.
A Slight Variation: The T-Format Cover Letter
If you have over 20 years of experience or if you work in a highly specialized field, 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. This is usually done using a T-format, which makes it very clear which of your skills matches each requirement for the job.
Create a T-format by dividing the page into a header with an introduction followed by two columns — one with a bullet list of the job requirements and the other listing your matching qualifications — then a paragraph that wraps up your qualifications with confidence and earnest interest in the job, and concluding with an invitation to connect with the hiring manager.
Selecting the Correct File
There are three standard file format types for saving your resume: Word document (.doc), rich text format (RTF) or Adobe Portable Document (PDF). Sometimes employers give instructions for which file type to use, but when they don’t, you have to guess.
How to pick? Job coach Theresa Merrill says there are pros and cons to each, but it largely depends on how you send your cover letter. PDF is a good bet if you are sending your resume directly to an employer because it is generally safe from viruses and retains the format of the document. The Word document format, on the other hand, is advised for sending resumes through employer application systems because ATS programs can scan it more easily than other formats. The RTF format is a good choice because it is generally virus-proof and many programs can read it, but it’s difficult to format properly.
Oh, and since we’re covering how to save your cover letter, make sure you name the file professionally. Best practice is “Your Name-Job Title-Cover Letter.”
Formatting Cover Letter Checklist
The font is between 10-12 points and in a recommended typeface.
The hiring manager’s name is spelled correctly.
Contact information is correct: your own and the hiring manager’s.
Line spacing and margins are correct.
Your cover letter is no more than one page.
You’ve chosen the right file format (PDF, RTF or .doc).
Your file is named professionally.
Cover Letter Format FAQs
How do I write a cover letter format?
When I apply for a job online, should my cover letter be different?Your online cover letter should not look much different than the one you submit offline. That said, if you are able, input a "handwritten" signature into the document, which many PDFs and Word documents allow.
What is the proper layout for a cover letter?Though the layout varies depending on the cover letter format you choose, your cover letter should contain five essential elements: a salutation, introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion, and sign off. Our cover letter templates contain each of these sections. All you have to do is fill them in. If you use our cover letter builder, you get an instant layout.
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, opt to use a title, such as "Head of Marketing." Never use the generic “To Whom it May Concern.” If you were concerned, you would have taken time to address your letter properly.
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 now that bypass ATS with ease. To top it off, it edits your document for spelling and grammar errors before you download.
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