Learn How to Format a Cover Letter
When you submit your resume, you will typically need to write a cover letter as well. In this letter, you'll make a case for your candidacy, highlighting your relevant skills. Since a cover letter is a formal document, there are set guidelines for what information to include in the letter, as well as how to format it.
Hiring managers read a lot of cover letters, so while their most important goal is to find strong candidates, they will definitely notice if the letter is formatted incorrectly or does not adhere to the usual cover letter style guidelines.
Use the cover letter format below as a guideline when you create customized cover letters to send to employers. It lays out which information to include, and where. Then, review cover letter samples, a cover letter template, and tips for formatting hard copy and email cover letters you can use to write your own letters.
Cover Letter Format
Your Contact Information
City, State, Zip Code
Employer Contact Information (if you have it)
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
- Cover Letter Greeting Examples: Note: If you do not have a contact name, you can skip the salutation entirely. Or, you can use Dear Hiring Manager, To Whom It May Concern, or one of the other examples listed in the link. Ideally, you will be able to address your cover letter to a specific person. Doing research can help you figure out who is the most appropriate person to receive the letter. Note: If you do not know the gender of your contact, you can write out the person's full name, e.g., "Dear Cory Smith"or "Dear Jordan Parish."
Body of Cover Letter
The body of your cover letter lets the employer know what position you are applying for, why the employer should select you for an interview, and how you will follow-up. Organize the body of your cover letter into the following paragraphs:
- First Paragraph
The first paragraph of your letter should include information on why you are writing. Mention the position you are applying for and where you found the job listing. Include the name of a mutual contact, if you have one.
- Middle Paragraph(s)
The next section of your cover letter should describe what you have to offer the employer. Mention specifically how your qualifications match the job you are applying for. Think of this section of the cover letter as where you're making a pitch for your fit as an employee and show makes you a great candidate. Keep in mind that employers will be more interested in what you can do for them, than a list of your background. Make the connection between your qualifications and the job requirements clear. Use this section to interpret your resume—don't repeat from it verbatim.
- Final Paragraph
Conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow-up. Optionally, you can briefly restate why you would be a good fit for the position.
Handwritten Signature (for a hard copy letter)
Email Subject Line
When you're sending an email cover letter, include a subject line that enables the hiring manager to recognize who you are and the job for which you are applying. Here are sample subject lines that are appropriate to use in your emailed job application.
Formatting Tips for Cover Letters
Here are some formatting tips to keep in mind when you are writing your letter:
- Email versus hard copy: The example letter above is formatted for a printed out hard copy. If you are emailing your cover letter, you'll need to pay particular attention to the subject line of your email. See more tips for formatting your email cover letter.
- Font choices: The details count when it comes to cover letters, so choose a professional font in a 10 or 12 point size. This is no time to break out emoticons or emojis!
- Spacing: Your letter should be single-spaced. Include a space between every paragraph, and in general, a space between each section of the letter. (That is, there should be a space between the address and the date, and then again between the date and the salutation.) In an email cover letter, where many sections are left off, you will want to include a space between the salutation and between each paragraph, and another space before your complimentary close.
- Proofreading: Remember that note about details counting in cover letters? Make sure to avoid errors by carefully proofreading your letter. Use your word processor's spell check to catch common errors, and then consider reading your letter aloud—or having a friend review it—to catch additional errors. Here are guidelines for proofreading your cover letter.
Cover Letter Examples
Examples of cover letters for a variety of different types of jobs, types of job seekers, and types of job applications.
Cover Letter FormatsFormatting a cover letter can be frustrating but Jobscan walks you through cover letter formats from A to Z in this complete guide.
Why Your Cover Letter Format is Important
The format you choose for your cover letter determines which information you include as well as the order in which it is distributed. It determines how the hiring manager perceives you and helps develop his or her first impression of you.
Types of Cover Letter Formats
Cover letters are used for many different reasons, so the proper format for each one varies. There are three main types of cover letters: the application cover letter, the prospecting cover letter, and the networking cover letter. Short introductory emails (we call those “Non-Cover Letter Cover Letters”) alongside your resume are also considered cover letters.
Application Cover Letter
This is the standard cover letter used alongside a resume during a job application. The application letter is geared toward a certain job, and it is tailored to the skills and specifications listed in the job posting.
The application cover letter is a tool used to sell yourself as a job candidate. It supplements your resume and expands upon relevant parts of your work history and qualifications.
Prospecting Cover Letter
Like the application cover letter, the prospecting cover letter is written by a job seeker to a company of interest. However, this type of cover letter inquires about open job positions in general. It is not a response to a specific job posting.
Networking Cover Letter
The networking cover letter is the black sheep of the cover letter family. This type of cover letter is the most casual and tends to be the shortest. It still comes from the job seeker, but rather than being sent to a company, it is sent out to former colleagues, mentors, friends and other contacts. It informs the recipient of the person’s status as a job seeker and asks them for help in their job search.
The “Non-Cover Letter” Cover Letter
This cover letter is simply an introduction to your resume. It is professional but very short. This type of cover letter is great to use when a formal cover letter is not requested in the job posting.
The “Non-Cover Letter” cover letter does not follow a specific format. It usually includes a greeting, simple body explaining your experience and your interest in the company and a closing with reference to any attachments such as your resume, portfolio, samples or any other requested documents.
If you are emailing your resume, it is always a good idea to write a quick, professional email to go along with it. It should be short--a couple of paragraphs is sufficient--and the tone should remain casual but professional throughout.
How to Setup Your Cover Letter
Application Cover Letter
The application cover letter should be set up in the same order as a job interview. Think about the flow of conversation in a job interview and use it to format you cover letter.
- Contact Info
- Full name, address (including zip code), phone number and email address
- Always address the hiring manager by name. If you don’t know it, consult the company website or give the office manager a call to find out.
- A simple, “Bill” is all you need in your greeting.
- Who are you?
- What skills and accomplishments best describe you and are also relevant to the job position?
- Body (1-2 paragraphs)
- What do you know about the company already?
- Why are you applying for this specific job?
- What can you bring to the company and job position?
- Refrain from sounding too desperate with phrases like, “I can’t wait to hear more about this position”. A good alternative is “I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m a match for this position”.
- Mention any attachments
- Use “Sincerely”, “Yours” or “Best” before signing your full name.
Example of an application cover letter
Prospecting Cover Letter
The prospecting cover letter is setup much like the application letter. The only differences occur in the opening. The body might change slightly based on the company, but many times it will remain the same.
- Contact Info
- Why are you reaching out?
- What interests you about the company?
- Body (1 paragraph)
- Who are you?
- What skills do you have that could help the company in general?
- What have you accomplished in your career that could be of interest to the company?
Example of an prospecting cover letter
Networking Cover Letter
The networking cover letter, being different in purpose than the first two, keeps only the contact info and closing the same.
- Contact Info
- Can be more casual than the other cover letter greetings if you have a relationship with the person.
- Why are you reaching out? Do you want referrals? Recommendations?
- What kind of job/company interests you?
- What skills and accomplishments should they be aware of in order to help you out?
- What do you hope to accomplish in your next position?
Example of an networking cover letter
Cover Letter Formats by Country
Unlike resumes, for which the guidelines vary extensively by country, cover letters are the same or very similar regardless of the country in which you are applying.
The United States, United Kingdom and Australia all use similar cover letter formats. There are, however, certain adjustments you might have to make.
When applying in other countries, you should be aware of differences in formality of language and ways of speech. For example, phrases that are common in the United States might not be common in places like Australia.
Another aspect to be aware of is pictures. Job seekers in the UK and Europe often add headshots to their resumes or cover letters. However, in the United States, pictures are highly discouraged. Since companies in the U.S. are legally not allowed to hire based on race or gender, hiring managers will often reject applications with pictures in an effort to protect the company.
Cover Letter Formats FAQ
Do I have to include my address on my cover letter?
It is good practice to always include your address on your cover letter. If the hiring manager likes what they read, they will easily be able to locate your information and track you down for an interview.
What if you don’t have a direct contact at the company for which you are applying?
You should always find the name of a contact at the company and direct your cover letter specifically to that person. Check the company website, LinkedIn, or even call the company’s office to find the name of the hiring manager.
How do I write a cover letter without work experience?
If you don’t have work experience, you can still follow the basic cover letter format. In place of experience, expand upon relevant coursework or skills and explain how that experience makes you a good candidate for the job.
Can I include my salary requirements in my cover letter?
While salary expectations are an important conversation during the hiring process, the cover letter is not the place for it. Interviews, whether on the phone or in person, are an appropriate and expected time to discuss salary.
How do I include attachments with my cover letter?
If sending my email, any attachments should be mentioned during the closing of your cover letter. Keep in mind that .docx and PDF files work best to avoid issues.
How do I use a cover letter format?
You can use our cover letter formats (above) as a guideline for your own cover letter. Simply add your own information and experience in the order listed.
Do different jobs require different types of cover letters?
Generally, a basic cover letter format works for any job application. If a job posting requires a different type of cover letter, it should be clear in the description.
Should I always include a cover letter?
No. In fact, you should not include a cover letter unless the job posting specifies.
What if I fax my cover letter?
The format of your cover letter remains the same whether you email, fax or deliver it in person. However, attachments will need to be sent separately if they are not attached in an email.
Do teachers need to include cover letters?
Teachers, and all professionals, should only include a cover letter when it is asked for by the interviewer or specified in the job posting.
Jobscan Learning Center The Jobscan Cover Letter Learning Series
Part 1: Cover Letter Writing Guide
Jobscan’s Guide to Writing an Effective Cover Letter
Part 2: Cover Letter Formats
Formatting a cover letter can be frustrating but Jobscan walks you through cover letter formats from A to Z in this complete guide.
Part 3: Cover Letter Templates
Cover letter templates are a great starting point for writing your cover letter, here is our advice on how to choose and use cover letter templates.
Part 4: Cover Letter Examples
Cover letter examples can be helpful or confusing to a job seeker. Here is Jobscan's top advice on using the best cover letter examples.