Formatting Tips for Professional Cover Letters
Along with your resume, a cover letter provides an opportunity to impress a potential employer with both your professionalism and how well you would fit in with the company's mission and culture.
How you format your cover letter, both from a content (the information you include) and a presentation (what your cover letter looks like) perspective is important. Even when applying online or via email, your cover letter needs to be properly formatted, readable, and without any mistakes.
Cover letters for job applications follow the format of a formal business letter. They are written in paragraph form and include a formal salutation, closing, and signature. It's important to write a targeted cover letter that shows how you are qualified for the job for which you're applying. Each cover letter you write should be unique and customized.
What Content to Include in Your Cover Letter
1. First Paragraph - Why you are writing
2. Middle Paragraphs - What you have to offer
3. Concluding Paragraph - How you'll follow-up
Paragraph 1: Why You Are Writing
- If you are writing in response to a job posting (review samples), indicate where you learned of the position and the title of the position. More importantly, express your enthusiasm and the likely match between your credentials and the position's qualifications.
- If you are writing a prospecting letter (review samples) in which you inquire about possible job openings - state your specific job objective. Since this type of letter is unsolicited, it is even more important to capture the reader’s attention.
- If you are writing a networking letter (review samples) to approach an individual for information, make your request clear.
In some cases, you may have been referred to a potential employer by a friend or acquaintance. Be sure to mention this mutual contact by name in your first paragraph to encourage your reader to keep reading!
Paragraph 2: What You Have to Offer
In responding to a job advertisement, refer specifically to the qualifications listed and illustrate how your particular abilities and experiences relate to the position for which you are applying.
In a prospecting letter, express your potential to fulfill the employer's needs rather than focusing on what the employer can offer you. You can do this by giving evidence that you have researched the organization thoroughly and that you possess skills used within that organization.
Emphasize your achievements and problem-solving skills. Show how your education and work skills are transferable, and thus relevant, to the position for which you are applying.
Paragraph 3: How You Will Follow Up
Close by reiterating your interest in the job and letting the employer know how they can reach you. Include your phone number and email address. Or bid directly for the job interview or informational interview and indicate that you will follow-up with a telephone call to set up an appointment at a mutually convenient time. If you mention that you will be in touch, be sure to make the call within the time frame indicated.
In some instances, an employer may explicitly prohibit phone calls, or you may be responding to a “blind want-ad” which precludes you from this follow-up.
Unless this is the case, make your best effort to reach the organization. At the very least, you should confirm that your materials were received and that your application is complete.
If you are applying from outside the employer’s geographic area, you may want to indicate if you’ll be in town during a certain time frame (this makes it easier for the employer to agree to meet with you).
In conclusion, you may indicate that your references are available on request. Also, if you have a portfolio or writing samples to support your qualifications, state their availability.
How to Format Your Cover Letter
A cover letter should be three or four paragraphs at most, and shouldn't be longer than one page. If you need to you can adjust the margins (see below) to fit your letter on a single page.
Pick a Simple Font
Cover letter presentation matters as much as what you include. When writing cover letters, it's important to use a basic font that is easy to read. Depending on the hiring process your cover letter may be viewed in an applicant tracking system or other online hiring system. Those systems work best reading simple text rather than fancy formatting.
Using a basic 12 point font will ensure that your cover letter is easy to read. Basic fonts like Arial, Verdana, Calibri, and Times New Roman work well. Your cover letter font should match the font you use in your resume.
Set Your Margins
The standard margins for a business letter are 1". However, if you are having trouble condensing your letter to fit on a single page you can shorten up the top, bottom and side margins to 3/4" or 1/2" or even a little tighter.
Leave Plenty of White Space
Don't forget to leave space below your greeting, between each paragraph, and after your closing.
Carefully Proofread the Letter
Take the time to proof your letter before you send or upload it. It can be easier to double check if you print out a copy or read it out loud.
Review Cover Letter Samples
Next, take a look at cover letter samples, plus review tips for creating cover letters that will have the maximum positive impact on employers.
Related Articles: Cover Letter Format Examples
More About Cover Letters: What to Include in a Cover Letter | How to Write a Cover Letter
Smart tips to help you format and write a cover letter
Struggling to write a cover letter that will catch an employer's attention? We've got tips to help you show your best self—and a sample you can use to get started.
There's nothing scary about writing a cover letter.
You've found the perfect job, hit the "apply" button, and started the process with your engines revved and ready. But wait! Slam the brakes! They want a cover letter. Oh no.
Don't let this request derail you. Here's everything you need to know to write a letter that truly sells your skills. Plus, scroll down to see a sample cover letter you can use to craft your own.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that, along with your resume, is sent with your job application. A cover letter is your chance to tell a potential employer why you’re the perfect person for the position and how your skills and expertise can add value to the company. The letter should be professional but personable, and serve as a sort of introduction.
Do I need to send a cover letter?
A lot of job seekers today wonder if a cover letter is still appropriate to send with your resume—and the answer is yes! Even if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, it couldn’t hurt to send one. In fact, it’s can help you get someone's attention in a different way, and it can be a great way to display your enthusiasm for the job and company.
What are the basic elements of a cover letter?
- Greeting: Address your cover letter to the proper person.
- Opening: Write a personable, inviting opening paragraph that notes how your skills are a perfect fit to the job and displays your enthusiasm.
- Hook: Highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Skills: Emphasize additional relevant skills, such as computer languages or certifications.
- Close: Briefly recap your strengths as a candidate, and include your contact information.
Cover letter tips
1. Parrot the keywords: Just like with your resume, your cover letters should be customized for each job you apply to. Start by reviewing the job description. In it, you will find important keywords that let you know what kind of employee the company is hoping to find. Use these same keywords throughout your cover letter.
2. Adapt for the company: Each version of your cover letter should talk about how your skills will benefit the particular company that you want to work for. You want to target the company’s needs—not your own. Demonstrate how you could help them achieve their goals. Remember: You're selling yourself in a resume and a cover letter, but the employer has to want to buy.
3. Show you "get" them: Your cover letter should demonstrate that you have done some research into what the organization's pain points are. Presenting yourself as a solution to a hiring manager’s problem can help your cover letter take the right tone. If you’re applying to an administrative position, be sure to mention your time-management skills; if you’re an IT professional, include your expertise in improving efficiency. Always ask yourself: How can I help this company?
4. Proofread. Don’t assume spell check will catch every mistake (it won’t). Slowly review your cover letter to make sure everything reads properly. Have someone else read your cover letter for backup.
Need even more confidence before you start your cover letter? Below are some additional cover letter tips you could reference—or keep scrolling for a cover letter sample:
Cover letter mistakes you should avoid: From overusing “I” to being too vague, there are a bunch of pitfalls that can trip you up. Don’t let them!
Cover letter format and advice tips: Learn how to set up your cover letter and what each section should include.
Cover letter tips for new grads: You might lack real-world work experience, but your cover letter can be chock-full of activities that demonstrate your potential to succeed.
Cover letter tips for technology professionals: The ease of applying to online jobs has led many IT professionals to skip sending a cover letter, but that’s a mistake.
Cover letter tips for finance professionals: If you’re searching for a finance job or want to be prepared just in case, you will need a dynamic cover letter to grab the hiring managers’ attention.
Tips for better email cover letters: If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter will deliver the first impression. These eight tips will help you craft a better email cover letter.
Cover letter sample
Check out the sample cover letter below (or download the template as a Word doc) to get some inspiration to craft your own. And we've also got you covered if you're looking for a cover letter in a specific industry.
Once you've finished your cover letter, consider joining Monster—you can upload and store up to five cover letters and resumes, so that you can apply for jobs on our site in a snap!
Ms. Rhonda West
Customer Service Manager
123 Corporate Blvd.
Sometown, CO 50802
Re: Customer Service Representative Opening (Ref. ID: CS300-Denver)
Dear Ms. West:
I was excited to see your opening for a customer service rep, and I hope to be invited for an interview.
My background includes serving as a customer service associate within both call-center and retail environments. Most recently, I worked on the customer service desk for Discount-Mart, where my responsibilities included handling customer merchandise returns, issuing refunds/store credits, flagging damaged merchandise for shipment back to vendors and providing back-up cashiering during busy periods.
Previously, I worked within two high-volume customer-support call centers for a major telecommunications carrier and a satellite television services provider. In these positions, I demonstrated the ability to resolve a variety of issues and complaints (such as billing disputes, service interruptions or cutoffs, repair technician delays/no-shows and equipment malfunctions). I consistently met my call-volume goals, handling an average of 56 to 60 calls per day.
In addition to this experience, I gained considerable customer service skills during my part-time employment as a waitress and restaurant hostess while in high school.
I also bring to the table strong computer proficiencies in MS Word, MS Excel and CRM database applications and a year of college (business major). Please see the accompanying resume for details of my experience and education.
I am confident that I can offer you the customer service, communication and problem-solving skills you are seeking. Feel free to call me at 555-555-5555 (home) or 555-555-5500 (cell) to arrange an interview. Thank you for your time—I look forward to learning more about this opportunity!