Cover Letter Format

It’s always a good idea to include some type of formal communication with your resume, and knowing proper cover letter format will help you make a good impression. What’s the best cover letter template to use? How should you address a potential employer? What kind of information should you include in your cover letter? We’ll provide the answers to these questions and others here.

What is the purpose of a cover letter?

A cover letter helps you by giving you the opportunity to make a positive impression on a potential employer. It allows you to show that you are a good fit for the company, and it gives you a chance to display your professionalism. Cover letters help employers make decisions about how to proceed with the hiring process, providing them with insight that helps them determine which applicants are the best candidates for the job in question.

Proper Cover Letter Format

While it might be tempting to skip cover letter format altogether and simply enclose a personal note with your resume, it really is important to use a cover letter template. So, what’s the best course of action to take?

Always use a cover letter format that follows one of the basic business letter outline. Use the first paragraph to introduce yourself and state why you are writing. In the middle paragraphs, explain what you have to offer the company. In the final paragraph, tell the reader how you plan to follow up.

Filling Out the Cover Letter Template: The First Paragraph

While cover letter format rarely changes, the information you’ll want to include when filling in the cover letter template needs to be tailored to the specific situation at hand. The first paragraph, which details why you are writing, should be interesting and encourage the recipient to keep reading the letter. Some examples include:

  • You are responding to a job posting: If you’re sending a resume in response to a job posting, use the first paragraph of your cover letter to say where you learned about the position. Express enthusiasm and make a statement about the way your credentials are likely to be a good match for the position’s qualifications.
  • You were referred by a friend or acquaintance: If a friend or acquaintance referred you to a potential employer, mention this mutual contact up front, by name. This is not inappropriate; in fact, it is likely to inspire interest.
  • You are writing a prospecting letter: If you are sending a resume along with an inquiry about potential job openings, state your job objective clearly in the opening paragraph.

The Second Paragraph: What You Have to Offer

When following standard cover letter format, the second paragraph (and perhaps the third one, too) is used to tell the employer what you have to offer. Some people err by discussing what the employer offers them instead of what they offer the employer. Don’t make the same mistake! Instead, consider the following scenarios:

  • You are responding to a job posting: Refer to the specific qualifications listed in the posting. Illustrate how your experiences and abilities relate to the job for which you are applying.
  • You are writing a prospecting letter: Use the second paragraph to express your potential to fulfill specific company needs. Provide some evidence that shows that you have researched the company thoroughly. Concisely demonstrate that you possess skills the organization will find useful.
    Always emphasize your problem solving skills and achievements. Use this part of the cover letter template to demonstrate ways in which your education and work skills are relevant to the job for which you are applying.

The Final Paragraph: How You Will Follow Up

Use the last paragraph of the cover letter template to thank the employer and let them know how you can be reached. Reiterate your interest in the position and company. You can format this portion of the cover letter in a way that invites an informational interview by indicating that you will follow up with a telephone call. If you like, you can also mention your willingness to set a meeting at a time that’s mutually convenient for you and the potential employer.

Indicate that references are available upon request, and if applicable, mention the availability of a portfolio or other items that support your statements of qualification. Finally, if you say that you plan to call, be sure that you make the call sometime within the specific time frame you indicated. While cover letter format is important, it is just the first part of making a good impression.

Basic Cover Letter Format

Ready to format your cover letter? Use this template to get started. View a sample cover letter here.

Your Name

Address

Address

Phone

Today’s Date

Employer’s Name

Company

Address

Address

Address

Dear (Recipient’s Name),

This cover letter format example is quick and easy to type. Remember that you need to use the first paragraph to introduce yourself and grab the reader’s attention.

Use the second paragraph to talk about what you have to offer the company. Be concise, be factual, and be specific. Use action verbs to keep the reader interested. You can use another paragraph for additional details if needed, but don’t add more than will fit on one page.

In the final paragraph, re-state your interest in the company. State how you can be reached and mention how you will follow up. Be sure to say thank you.

Sincerely,

Your First name, Last name, and Title, if applicable

Be sure to take a look at our cover letter examples before setting out to write your own cover letter. And, remember to take your time! A well-written, carefully considered cover letter increases your chance of connecting with a future employer, making an outstanding first impression, and landing an interview.