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Imagine assembling IKEA furniture without instructions. Instead of a matte white Riktig Ögla you’ve just got a useless pile of MDF, screws and one of those free allen key thingies.
The same can happen to your cover letter if you don’t know how to format it. Good formatting is the instruction manual that transforms your cover letter from a disorganised mess into a beautifully assembled job-winning masterpiece.
Keep reading and you’ll learn how to format a cover letter faster than you can say Ödmjuk.
Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your CV. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.
Sample Cover Letter for a CV—See more cover letter templates and create your cover letter here.
Want a complete guide to writing a cover letter? Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter—Step by Step Guide
1. What Is Cover Letter Format & Why Is It Important?
Cover letter format is the appearance or presentation of your cover letter text. Cover letter formatting includes elements such as the font type and size, page margins, spacing, file type, the cover letter’s overall structure, how many paragraphs you should write and what each paragraph contains.
Getting this right is especially important because it’s a practical demonstration of your written communication skills. They consistently rank as one of the most valuable abilities for candidates to have, so you’ll already be ahead of the game.
Now without further ado, let’s see what a perfectly formatted cover letter should look like.
Cover Letter Format Template
That’s an example of a perfectly formatted cover letter. Now you’ll learn how to do it yourself.
2. Cover Letter Format Section by Section
Here’s a section by section breakdown of how to format a cover letter.
Your cover letter header consists of:
- Your contact information. Right justified.
- The date. Day—month—year for UK cover letter format.
- The recipient’s contact information. Left justified.
This example shows you how to address a cover letter.
Cover Letter Address Format Example
17 Kings Ave
28th January 2020
Richardson & Co.
Salutation is just a posh word for the greeting section of your cover letter format. Stick to a simple ‘Dear Mr./Ms. Surname.’ Ideally, you should be able to target your greeting to a specific person. There’s strong evidence that reading your own name powerfully activates your brain, so use this trick to make the hiring manager sit up and pay attention.
If you don’t have a specific name, don’t fret, but avoid “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” These are both so old-fashioned they’re positively Victorian and generic to boot. Go for “Dear Hiring Manager” or even better, “Dear [Team Name] Manager” instead.
Pro Tip: If you’re not sure of the recipient’s gender then write out their full name e.g., “Dear Alex Jones.”
3. Cover Letter Body
This is the meat in the sandwich. It tells the hiring manager what skills and experience you have to offer and why you’re the best candidate. Arrange the body of your cover letter into the following paragraphs.
Introduce yourself and grab the reader’s attention in your. Here’s how to start a cover letter:
- Mention the company and the position you’re applying for.
- Show your passion for the company and the role based on your professional or personal experience.
- Mention a standout achievement that instantly positions you as the best candidate for the job.
- Never be generic. Hiring managers can tell in a flash if it’s a copy-paste job, so always tailor your cover letter to the job you’re applying for.
Example of How to Start a Cover Letter
Dear Ms Jackson,
As a longtime fan of Richardson’s company culture and products, I was excited to see the opening for an administrative assistant. At Royal Oak my attention to detail enabled me to identify invoicing errors that saved £2,00 in overpayments. I know I can use my skill set and knowledge to help achieve similar efficiencies at Richardson.
This section can consist of one or two paragraphs. This is where you show what you have to offer the employer and how they’d benefit from having you on their team. Think of it as a sales pitch for why you’re the perfect candidate for this job. Here’s how to do it:
- Don’t just rehash your CV, use numbered achievements and specific examples to show you’re the best candidate. Back up your claims with evidence. Hiring managers want to see what you can do for them.
- Structure your statements using the PAR formula. Problem—Action—Result. These are also known as accomplishment statements.
- To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what the employer can do for you, show what you can do for the employer.
Example of Cover Letter Middle
In my current position with Royal Oak, I’ve had many responsibilities and achievements that would serve me well in a role at Richardson. Royal Oak has a similar business structure and product lineup to that of Richardson, so I believe I would make a smooth and quick transition. On top of that, my invoice management and directory maintenance were leading performance boosters for the company. Some of my key achievements included:
- Saving £3,000 a year in office supply costs after assisting with negotiating a new deal with the current supplier.
- Helping to increase sales by 7% after suggesting an automatic follow-up approach using a CRM program.
In your cover letter ending, thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration and reiterate your interest in the role. Make sure you finish off with a call to action, a clear indication of interest in reaching the next stage.
Example of How to End a Cover Letter
Obtaining the administrative assistant position at Richardson would be my dream come true. I’ve long been a fan and personal user of several of your products and a great admirer of your company culture. It’s this fantastic reputation that makes me so eager to join your team. Thank you for considering my application and please do contact me on the telephone number above at your convenience so we can discuss further what I can contribute.
This is the section where you sign off your cover letter. Use “Yours Sincerely” if you know the hiring manager’s name, and “Yours Faithfully” if you don’t, followed by your full name. An electronic copy of your signature adds a professional touch, but if you’re sending off a paper copy then sign it by hand.
3. How to Format a Cover Letter
A cover letter for a CV is no different from a standard business letter, so it has to follow the same rules. Here they are:
Formatting tips for your cover letter
- Margins should be set to one inch on all sides.
- Left-align all contents except your own contact info, which should be right-aligned.
- Don’t use justification, it’s against standard business letter formatting rules.
- For spacing, use 1 or 1.5 and double space between paragraphs.
- Use a cover letter font that’s simple and readable and set font size to 11 or 12 point. Don’t use custom fonts and avoid the real howlers like Comic Sans and Papyrus. Some good safe bets are Calibri, Times New Roman and Garamond.
- Save your cover letter in PDF. It's the best file type, because it makes sure your layout stays intact.
- Never exceed one page in length. Between half a page and one page is ideal. That’s about 250–350 words.
Want to know how to write a job-winning CV to accompany your cover letter? Read more: How to Write a CV: Professional Example for the UK
5. Email Cover Letter Format
The vast majority of cover letters are now sent electronically. If you’re sending it as an email attachment or uploading it to a company website then follow the cover letter formatting rules above. However, if you’re sending your letter in the body of an email then you should make a few changes to the format.
How to Format an Email Cover Letter
- Write a clear, and professional subject line: Recruiters receive around 118 applications for every job. They need to see who you are and what you’re applying for at a glance. So state your name and the job you’re applying for e.g. “Application for Staff Accountant Position—Richard Simms.”
- Move your contact info: Starting an email with contact details looks odd. So move your contact details to be in your signature below your complimentary close.
- Remove the recipient’s contact info and the date: This information isn’t necessary for an email. But do still greet the hiring manager by name in your salutation.
- Avoid typos and don’t rely on auto-complete: Take care to proofread your email cover letter before you click send.
- Choose an easy-to-read font: Email cover letters still need clarity and readability.
And that’s it. Now you know how to create a flawlessly formatted cover letter.
Getting your cover letter format right is the perfect way to show off your professionalism and written communication skills.
Here’s how to format your cover letter the right way:
- Use the correct margins, alignment and spacing.
- Choose a clear, readable font and a maximum length of one page.
- Address your cover letter correctly and use a personalised salutation.
- Use the right structure for the body of your cover letter.
- Finish off strongly with a call to action.
- If you’re sending your cover letter as an email then alter your format accordingly.
Thanks for reading. If you’ve got any questions then fire away in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.