Formatting is perhaps the most basic concept to grasp in writing a cover letter. Learning how to format a cover letter is a painstaking but rewarding process. You will need to be meticulous and detail-oriented to deliver a clear, gripping message.
Whether it is your first time making a cover letter or you have done it many times, a logical action plan is always helpful. Design a compelling cover letter that will land you that interview by following our step-by-step guide and noting our bonus hacks below.
Step-by-Step Guide to Format a Cover Letter
1. Outline your cover letter
Start with keeping in mind the ideal cover letter length. A cover letter should only be one page long, containing around 300 words. It should also have a maximum of four paragraphs, spaced adequately with lots of white space.
Your cover letter should have the following elements in order:
- Opening paragraph
- Main or middle paragraph
- Closing paragraph
- Complimentary close and signature
2. Make a list of details you want to be included in your cover letter
Drafting your content is a prerequisite to learning how to format a cover letter. Formats enhance the thoughts materialized by the text. Excellent content is,, therefore the building block of an exceptional cover letter format.
Here’s what you should write in every element of your cover letter:
Your personal and contact details make up the header. Each information must be allotted one line each.
The salutation is your personal greeting. It must be prompt but complete with the name and position of the recruiter or hiring manager, if available.
The opening paragraph is your official introduction. Establish that the job opening struck as a personal calling. What is the title of the position you are applying for? Also, what did you feel about the work opportunity? And what about it caught your attention?
List down the skills you possess that are correspondingly what the establishment is looking for. What are your past accomplishments that substantiate these skills? How will the success you’ve attained be helpful to the company? How do you see yourself in the future with the company?
The closing paragraph concludes you are the perfect fit for the role. If you were to be hired, how much of a contribution will you give? What will the company’s achievements be in a set timeframe?
Complimentary Close and Signature
End professionally. The most important detail here is your full name and your signature. Add your inscription digitally if you are sending in an email cover letter. Sign by hand with an ink pen for printed copies.
3. Set a tone for your communication
It may not seem like it, but deciding how you’ll sound is a vital step to format a cover letter.
For one, it will pave the path to your goal. Do you want to convince? To impress? To surprise? All these can efficiently make an unforgettable impression. Plan your attack. The only rule is to maintain professionalism.
So how do you make an impact?
You can be interesting and remain professional in your cover letters by using appropriate tones. Match your style with the company’s character. For instance, businesses in the financial industry prefer a direct approach with a matter-of-fact tone. In contrast, the art industry favors a tone that shows spirit and personality.
In any way, design a character that is articulate and confident.
4. Flesh out
With a now complete outline and a technique in mind, carefully fill in fitting words to give your details form. This will yield your final draft. At this point, you should have a concrete idea of how your cover letter page will ultimately look like.
- Is your text looking overwhelming? Try to rewrite your sentences in fewer words but conserving the same idea. Accuracy is key.
- Do you have too much white space? Rephrase your sentences to add more bulk.
- Use words that intone energy and positivity.
- See if you can use the most effective cover letter opening lines identified by experts.
- Set a strong, decisive vibe by learning how to end a cover letter.
5. Adjust your font according to the length of your text and the amount of white space
It is near impossible to come up with paragraphs of the perfect length. Don’t worry, though — you have the typeface and size of the font to help you fix the gap.
Start with setting up margins at one inch on all sides and line spacing at one. The elements should be distanced with two lines. Insert an extra line between paragraphs as well. All the rest should be single-spaced. Afterward, align the contents of your cover letters on the left.
You can then recalibrate your fonts, so you get a symmetrical appearance.
6. Review and edit
There are many powerful cover letter formats fit for every industry, job position, and strategy you want. Explore them if you feel your cover letter is lacking the oomph factor.
Finally, save and print in PDF or DOCX format to confirm the arrangement of your cover letters’ sections. Name your file with your name, job title, and the words “Cover Letter”.
If you are sending your cover letter as an email body, make sure to format your cover letter as if you are writing on a set page. Imagine the space as an expandable sheet. Follow the same line spacing, font style, and size as you would on a digital document.
Bonus Hacks on How to Format a Cover Letter
1. Cover letters complement the resume, not repeat it
One of the high-priority tips we can give you is this: Surprise the hiring managers with new details that have not been revealed in your resumes.
Format your cover letter on-point like the business letter it is, but pack them with dense information coated in compelling action words. Remember, resumes state, cover letters converse.
Engage your readers. Format your cover letters flawlessly, so your message flows easily and smoothly. Call for the hiring manager to move — to respond to you.
2. Produce a unique cover letter for each job application
When applying for multiple positions or to different companies, you must make one cover letter for each.
Balance is the primary goal of learning how to format a cover letter. When you omit or add sentences or phrases in your cover letter, do not forget to edit the fonts so the bulk of text retains a balanced shape. A well-balanced format is pivotal to producing an effective cover letter.
3. Cover letter font and spacing are critical
It is an absolute must that you use a plain and uncomplicated font. Otherwise, your cover letter will not be read at all — and what a waste of an opportunity will that be!
You have basic fonts to select from — Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, and more. Serif and sans-serif fonts take up different spaces, so use them to either fill up or unburden your page. Just remember to keep your font sizes between 10 to 12 points.
4. Avoid red flags
One of the cover letter red flags you must watch out for is failing to follow instructions.
The above-mentioned steps are standard except for when the hiring managers give particular requirements.
Check for specific formatting instructions from the recruiter. Sometimes, they request uniform formatting from all applicants for easy checking and sifting and compatibility with their Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Pay special attention to this to avoid getting disqualified early on in the application process.
5. Increase white space
White space helps in making your cover letter more readable. Here are some ways to add more white space to your document:
- If you are sending email cover letters, you may omit the specifics in your address. Your city and/or state should be fine.
- You may opt to put your contact details in slightly smaller fonts under the complimentary closing instead of the header. This will remove a huge chunk of text space on top of your document. Ending with your contact details encourages the reader to reach out to you immediately as well.
- Create a stable and visually pleasing document by strategically planning out the layout of your page. Choose a complimentary closing that harmonizes with the proportion of text and white spaces in your cover letters. For example, a short and simple “Sincerely” is fine. But if you need a little more volume, you can use “With sincere thanks” or something similar.
- If you must, you can set your margins to ¾ inch. Don’t go less than that, or your cover letter will look overstuffed.
Format your cover letter the right way
Learning how to format a cover letter may seem a lot of work. Still, the benefits of mastering cover letter formats are beyond fulfilling. It’s truly remarkable how a simple layout technique can spell the difference between dreaming and living the dream.