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Writing your CV is bad enough without even having to write a cover letter. For most of us, it’s hard to know where to begin. And that’s completely understandable. You’re expected to write a formal document proving you’re the stand-out candidate for the job, and that’s a big ask.
Unless you have an easy-to-follow cover letter structure, that is.
This guide will show you how to structure a cover letter and all the essential sections you need to include.
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Here’s what a cover letter structure includes:
Now, let’s talk about how to create such a cover letter structure in more detail:
1. Begin With a Cover Letter Header
This part is easy. Just remember to stick to the rules for the UK cover letter structure, and you’ll be set:
- Use the right alignment to include your contact information, which is first and last name, address, phone number, and e-mail address.
- Leave a space and write the date, making sure you use the correct format for the date, too, e.g., 3rd April 2022.
- Switch to the left alignment and include the recipient’s contact information.
Here’s a cover letter header template:
Cover Letter Structure—Header Example
79 Baldock Street
077 6641 8725
7th July 2019
Head of Operations
58 Park Road
Feeling a bit lost? Maybe you need a reminder of what a cover letter is. Check here: The Purpose of a Cover Letter
2. Add a Cover Letter Salutation
You’re probably tempted to skip over this section. But don’t be. The worst thing you can do is just write To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir or Madam and hope for the best. You have to personalise.
Use LinkedIn, phone the company, do whatever it takes to find out the hiring manager’s name and use it. That’s because using a person’s name has a powerful effect on their brain, instantly boosting their attention.
Check these examples of a cover letter salutation:
Cover Letter Structure: Salutation Examples
- Dear Alexander Jones,
- Dear Ms Jessica Abercrombie,
- Dear Mr Bernard Whitehead,
And if you really can’t find a name? Stick to Dear Hiring Manager. It’s the greeting most preferred by employers when you don’t know to who you’re sending your letter.
Still not sure how to address your cover letter? Read more: Address the Cover Letter Correctly
3. Format the Cover Letter Body Correctly
Now we’ve got to the main part of your cover letter structure. This is where you knock the socks off the recruiter and win that interview. Let’s break it down.
First Paragraph (The Hook)
It’s essential that you start off strong. Just like the title says, you’ve got to hook the reader and grab their attention. You can do that by showing off some compelling achievements or experience that prove you’re an ideal candidate. Here’s how:
- Make your intent obvious: Always mention the role and the company by name.
- Convey passion: Show energy and enthusiasm for the role. This isn’t the time for a stiff upper lip.
- Mention being referred for the role: Contacts and connections are a powerful form of social proof that’s highly persuasive.
- Showcase an impressive professional achievement using an accomplishment statement.
- Write a belief statement: Demonstrate that you mirror the values and goals of the role or organisation. This is an especially popular strategy for the education sector.
- Show off some knowledge of news and current events relating to the employer. Check out their website and use Google’s news aggregator.
Check the example below to see how it’s done:
Cover Letter Structure in the UK—First Paragraph Example
I was pleased to learn about the opening for the position of Marketing Manager at Blue Raccoon. I’ve been following the growth of your company over the years, and I’m truly impressed with the buzz it made among creative industries with its latest campaign. I believe that my expertise in viral marketing could be a great asset to your business.
If you need more examples for inspiration, check here: How to Start a Cover Letter
The key here is not to just rehash your CV. Your cover letter should complement your CV with additional information, not just repeat what’s already been said. Show that you’re the best candidate for the job. And the critical word here is show, not just tell.
The best way to do that is by using numbered achievements and expressing your content as PAR statements. And remember to keep it short and punchy. Bullet points are a great way of emphasising your achievements, and you should bold any impressive figures to make them jump off the page. E.g., Increased sales pipeline by 250% quarter on quarter.
Check the sample second paragraph below:
Cover Letter Structure in the UK—Second Paragraph Example
In the past 10 years, I've led over 20 successful marketing campaigns involving traditional and digital media, influencers, and viral marketing. Among my proudest achievements is the advertising campaign for Your Home Away hotel chain, which was awarded the Ads Excellence Prize in 2020. Your job advertisement calls for creativity, relationship-building, and leadership skills, so let me show how I exemplify these traits:
- Creativity: I’ve invented 50+ creative slogans, designed 10 social media campaigns, and collaborated with graphic designers, copywriters, and filmmakers to develop unique visions for campaigns targeted at modern audiences.
- Relationship Building: I’ve maintained business relationships with clients and stakeholders, as well as contractors from creative agencies. I’ve also built a database of over 100 influencers from various niches.
- Leadership: I’ve successfully managed cross-functional teams to deliver results within deadlines and budgets and supported my subordinates to design personal development plans for themselves.
I believe these factors make me a great fit for your company.
Nailing the contents in the middle part of the cover letter is crucial. Read more: What to Include in a Cover Letter
Third Paragraph (The Call to Action)
According to the old saying, first impressions last. But evidence shows that it’s actually the last impressions that are more powerful. So your closing paragraph is a vital part of your cover letter structure. Here’s how to nail it:
- Always say thank you: Gratitude isn’t just good manners, it’s a powerful motivator.
- Target yourself to the job: Use this opportunity to draw connections between your own skills and the job requirements in the advert.
- Make a promise: Offer to show the recruiter how you can make a saving or increase profits. Provide a juicy titbit that’ll make them want to know more.
- Show your goals for growth: Explain why you care about this company and this job and that you plan to develop your skills and grow within the role.
- Finish up with a call to action: Actively encourage the recruiter to contact you and continue the conversation.
Check an example below:
Cover Letter Structure in the UK—Third Paragraph Example
I’m eager to discuss with you how I could boost Blue Raccoon’s recognition among teenage audiences using digital marketing strategies. How about a call next week?
Checking other examples can help you write an effective cover letter ending. See here: How to End a Cover Letter
4. Finish With a Cover Letter Sign-Off
The structure of a cover letter isn’t complete without a cover letter sign-off. It’s generally best to stick to the standard UK business letter format. Use Yours sincerely if you addressed the letter to a named person and Yours faithfully if you didn’t, e.g. Dear Hiring Manager.
Then last of all, include your full name and, for an extra professional flourish, a scanned copy of your handwritten signature.
Structure of a Cover Letter—Sign-Off Example
We’re almost done, but there’s one more thing you need in order to get the basic structure of a cover letter right.
Looking for more advice about cover letters? Check here: 14 of the Best Cover Letter Tips
5. Use the Best Cover Letter Layout
A good layout is integral to creating an effective cover letter structure. Think of it as the frame that completes the picture.
You have two choices here. You can either use a template that will handle all layout matters for you or set up the cover letter layout by yourself. If you prefer the latter, this is what you need to do:
- Choose a clear, professional font set to 11–12 pt. Good CV fonts are perfect for cover letters.
- Set your line spacing to 1 or 1.15.
- Make your page margins one inch on each side to maximise white space and improve readability.
- Be short and sweet. Your cover letter length should never be more than one page.
Not sure how to format your cover letter? Check here: Step-by-Step Guide to Formatting a Cover Letter
By now, you’ll be a master of how to structure a cover letter. But here’s a reminder to make sure.
Good cover letter structure includes:
- Cover letter header
- Cover letter salutation
- Cover letter body with three paragraphs
- Cover letter sign-off
Thanks for reading. What else would you like to know about the UK cover letter structure? Are there any specific cover letter structure examples you’d like to see? Ask away in the comments section, and I’ll be happy to help.