Cover Letter Format: Best Layout Tips for All Job Seekers

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Cover letter

Cover Letter Format: Best Layout Tips for All Job Seekers

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Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna Ryś

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So you’ve finished your resume or your CV, and let’s be honest, it’s pretty impressive. Great, now take a breather, you’ve earned it.

Ready to nail part two? Part two being the cover letter, of course. Resumes go with cover letters like fine wine and cheese. Like salt and pepper. Like Bert and Ernie. You get the picture.

Sending a good cover letter greatly increases your chances of getting hired — but beware the double-edged sword, because a poorly written one can really sabotage your candidacy.

Luckily, you don’t have to do this alone.

I’ve prepared this guide specifically for people just like you, so read on and let’s knock your cover letter out of the park together.

If I am getting a little ahead of myself and you do not have your resume or CV prepared yet, no worries! I’ve written detailed guides on how to write both a good resume, available here and a good CV here.

Check those out and then come back for the second course!

What is a cover letter?

What is a cover letter?

You probably have a general idea of what a cover letter is, but if you don’t, or if your memory is a bit foggy at the moment because the last job you applied for was 10 years ago, here is a quick reminder.

  • A cover letter is a short letter, about a page long, that you typically attach to your resume or CV when applying for a job.
  • The cover letter complements the resume, which is typically just a list of your previous jobs, skills and education in point form.
  • The cover letter is where you get to introduce yourself more personally, address the recruiter directly and talk to them about why you are the right person for the job.

Unless the job offer explicitly states not to send one, it is advisable to send a cover letter along with every resume.

How to format your cover letter

How to format your cover letter

This entire guide could be boiled down to one golden rule: don’t be sloppy. To be more specific

Use:

  • the same font style you used on your resume. This should be a professional font, such as: Tahoma, Calibri, Cambria, Helvetica, Georgia, Verdana, Lato, Book Antiqua, Times New Roman, Arial or Didot. 
  • the same font size you used on your resume, which usually means 12pt
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • left alignment
  • single or 1.15 spacing
  • double spaces between paragraphs
  • PDF format to keep it looking exactly as you intended regardless of which program is used to open it

As far as basic formatting goes, that’s about it! Following these rules will keep your cover letter looking crisp and organized so the recruiter can focus on what you’re saying.

Cover letter best practices

Getting your cover letter right is crucial. Luckily, it’s enough to follow the steps listed below to craft a cover letter that will grab the recruiter’s attention and keep it focused on exactly what you want to show them.

Let’s take a look at these steps, one by one.

Cover letter best practices

Who to address the cover letter to

There are two options here. You can either go with something basic like:

  • “Dear Hiring Manager” or even
  • “Dear sales Recruitment Team”,

or you can go for a more personal approach, and by this I mean referring to the recruiter by name, e.g.

  • “Dear Ms. Jensen”.

Finding the recruiter’s name might require some extra effort, but what’s the internet for if not for a little cyberstalking? 😄 As with many parts of the recruitment process, sometimes a little effort goes a long way.

If you are having any problems figuring out how to find the right person to address the cover letter to, check out my detailed guide that will help you get that done efficiently and properly.

Addressing the recruiter directly shows them:

  • that you have done a little more research on the company,
  • that you actually care about working at this particular company, not just any company that’s willing to hire you.

If you do decide to address the recruiter directly, however, be sure not to misspell their name or use the wrong title. You can be sure that no doctor went to medical school for all those years for you to refer to them as “Mr” or “Ms” 😄

Also, AVOID antiquated, impersonal expressions such as:

  • “To whom it may concern” and
  • “Dear Sir or Madam”

It’s not the 1900s anymore. Don’t wear a top hat to the interview, either.

The proper cover letter address format

The proper cover letter address format

Start with your personal information.

Your name:
David Manchen
Your position:
Office Manager
Your mailing address:
260 East Avenue
Houston, TX, 71998
Your phone number:
722-557-2277
Your email:
david.manchen@gmail.com

Below this should come the date, say: 19/01/2020

Put the hiring manager’s details next.

Addressee: 
Customer Service Hiring Team Manager OR Mr. Dean Smith
Company name and address: 
Lark Industries
200 Forest Street
Dallas, TX, 78212

Now for the actual greeting.

Dear Customer Service Hiring Team Manager/Ms. Donna Smith,

To sum up, the whole thing should look like this:

David Manchen
Office Manager
260 East Avenue
Houston, TX, 71998
722-557-2277
david.manchen@gmail.com

19/01/2020

Customer Service Hiring Team Manager OR Ms. Donna Smith
Lark Industries
200 Forest Street
Dallas, TX, 78212

Dear Customer Service Hiring Team Manager/Ms. Donna Smith,
Making that first paragraph catchy

Making that first paragraph catchy

The first paragraph is what’s meant to get the recruiter interested — no matter how impressive your achievements, the recruiter may never get around to reading them if you bore them to tears right off the bat.

So start on a high note.
Mention an impressive achievement or, if you don’t have one just yet, ‘hook’ the reader by bringing up a recent accomplishment of the company itself and say how that motivated you to apply for a position with them.

This could sound something like:

As a lifelong client of Kruger’s, I am thrilled to see you are hiring for the position of office manager. As an office manager with 5+ years of experience, I am convinced I would be a valuable addition to your company. Last year while working for Smith’s Department Store, I balanced a $100,000 office budget, while reducing employee costs by 10%. I would love to bring my skills to the open office manager position at Kruger’s, with the hopes of enhancing my skills and performance further while under your employment.
Paragraph two — the meat and potatoes of your cover letter

Paragraph two — the meat and potatoes of your cover letter

Ok, you’ve got the recruiter’s attention. Now what?

It’s time to really drive home how much of an accomplished professional you are in your field. You can do this by fleshing out what you started in the first paragraph.

Some of the most crucial aspects of being a successful office manager are anticipating the needs of the team and handling sensitive situations with tact and discretion. I have been commended by my manager as well as my employees multiple times for my unique ability to read and appropriately respond to issues raised by both colleagues and clients. As a result of this talent, I was invited to serve as a part-time personal assistant to two of our firm's senior executives.
The call to action

The call to action

All that’s left now is to let the recruiter know you are down to talk anytime, and that’s what we’re going to do. This part of your cover letter should be short and sweet so as not to water down the impression you just made.

Something as simple as:

“I’d be happy to schedule a call to discuss plans for your expansion in 2020”

works. It’s short, polite yet to the point, and it shows you have something to offer.

Cover Letter Format - Do’s and don’ts

Do’s and don’ts

When reviewing your cover letter, make sure you keep the list of do’s and don’ts below in mind to make the best impression possible.

Do:

  • Pay attention to detail
    You should be using the same font style, font size and margins as you did on your resume. Take advantage of the human brain’s natural preference for symmetry and consistency and use it to your advantage.
  • Run a spellcheck
    This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many hiring managers get resumes and cover letters riddled with typos that could have easily been avoided by just turning on the spellcheck. Having proper spelling and grammar is one of the easiest ways to make a good impression.
  • Remember the cover letter is more about the company than about you
    Resist the urge to go full me-me-me and concentrate on how your skills and experience can benefit the company. At the end of the day, that is what the recruiter really wants to know.

Don’t:

  • Copy-paste the same cover letter over and over
    Better you don’t send a cover letter at all than send one that has been shamelessly copy-pasted and sent off with every resume. Every cover letter you send should be tailored to the company you are applying at, which includes referring to the hiring manager by name when possible and also bringing up specific aspects of what the company does in the body of the letter. Sending the exact same, one-size-fits-all cover letter to everyone shows that either you are very lazy or you just don’t care much about getting the job, maybe both. And neither is a good look.
  • Include information irrelevant to the position
    As I mentioned agt the very beginning, a cover letter is generally supposed to be about 1 page long. This means there is no room to spare, especially not for irrelevant information from long ago. Stick the point and you will keep the recruiter’s attention.
  • Brag too much
    Sure, your cover letter is supposed to let you show the recruiter who you are, and of course you’ll be wanting to showcase your best qualities. But thin as it may seem at times, the line between confidence and arrogance is an important one. Stay on the right side of it.

And that’s it, that’s all there is to formatting your cover letter just right.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but your cover letter is not a book, and the recruiter reading it isn’t likely curled up on the sofa with their cat and a cup of tea — they will be going through hundreds of them.

Making your cover letter aesthetically pleasing and well-organized will help you stand out and make the recruiter’s job that much more pleasant. Win-win!

Now, time to get down to writing!
Good luck 😄

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Joanna Ryś

Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna has 8 years of experience in the recruitment industry, and currently works as the Chief Strategist for Sourcing in the EMEA area at HAYS. Microsoft, Rolls Royce Aerospace, Abbott, AB Inbev are several companies from the...portfolio of clients with whom it has cooperated, and its tasks include defining strategies for obtaining candidates in Europe, independent management of recruitment tools, monitoring the rate of return on investment, implementing initiatives from the area of Employer Branding into processes recruitment and data analysis. Sharing knowledge and discussions about working with candidates is her passion, which is why she eagerly creates new training programs, conducts postgraduate classes, organizes workshops with students of Krakow universities, employees of her company and free students from various social organizations. Passionate about computer games and socioeconomic issues.