How to Format a Cover Letter With Examples

man holding cover letter
••• Ilyabolotov/istock

When you are applying for a job, how you format your cover letter is important because the letter is one of the first impressions you'll make on an employer. In fact, how you format your letter is almost as important as what you write in it. A cover letter that is formatted incorrectly, or is difficult to read, can quickly eliminate you from the pool of candidates, so it's critical to pay just as much attention to the formatting of your letter as to its content.

Remember, "formatting" includes factors such as page margins, font type and size, line, paragraph and section spacing, and document type. For example, a letter without the correct spacing between paragraphs, or with too much text on a page, is going to look cluttered, or a letter saved as a file type that is not meant for a text document (such as a .jpg or a .png) may prevent the reader from opening and viewing it. 

Adhering to typical standards in formatting is especially important considering that communication skills are important in nearly every field, and failing to compose a readable cover letter will certainly not inspire confidence in your abilities. On the other hand, a cover letter that is saved correctly and uses sufficient white space, a simple, reasonably sized font, and an appropriate salutation and closing will make a positive impression on your potential employers.

Here's information on cover letter formatting guidelines including setting page margins, choosing a font style and size, paragraph and section spacing, and more tips on how to format cover letters for employment.

Cover Letter Format Example

Your Contact Information
Name
Address
City, State Zip Code
Phone Number
Email Address

Date

Employer Contact Information (if you have it)
Name
Title
Company
Address
City, State Zip Code

Salutation
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 what makes you a great candidate.

      Keep in mind that employers will be more interested in what you can do for them over a list of your work experience.

      • 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.

      Complimentary Close
      Respectfully yours,

      Signature

      Handwritten Signature (for a hard copy letter)

      Typed Signature

      The Easiest Way to Format a Cover Letter

      The easiest way to format a letter is to write the letter first, then format it. Once you have all the content (contact information, why you are applying and qualified, signature, etc.) on the page, you can then easily adjust the margins, font, and alignment. Here's an overview of each section.

      Melissa Ling. © The Balance 2018
      • Contact SectionHow you include your contact information will vary based on how you are sending your cover letter. If you are uploading or mailing a letter, put the information at the top of the page. With an email cover letter, your contact information should be below your signature.
      • Employer Address: How you address the cover letter will depend on how much information you have about the employer. 
      • SalutationA salutation is the greeting you include at the beginning of a cover letter. Here's how to write a salutation, including what to use if you don't have the name of a contact person to list.
      • BodyThe body of a cover letter includes the sections where you explain why you are interested in and qualified for the job for which you are applying. Here's what to include in each section or your letter.
      • Paragraphs and Bulleted ListsA more traditional cover letter contains written paragraphs describing your qualifications.

      Of course, if you have worked in a service industry, it’s best to recount a personal time when you were able to provide service above and beyond what the customer expected.

      • ClosingsWhen you're writing a cover letter or sending an email message to apply for a job it's important to close your cover letter in a professional manner. Here's how to close your letter with class.

      Formatting Options 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.

      Sample Cover Letter

      This is a cover letter sample. Download the cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs or Word Online) or read the example below.

      Screenshot of a review cover letter sample
       © The Balance 2018
      Download the Word Template

      Sample Cover Letter (Text Version)

      Molly Smith
      21 Spring Street
      Anycity, NY 12000
      555-122-3333
      msmith@email.com 

      August 1, 2018

      John Brown
      Sales Manager
      Acme Corp.
      321 Main Street
      Anycity, NY 12000

      Dear Mr. Brown,

      I wish to apply for the sales position advertised on Monster.com. Terry Johnson suggested that I contact you directly, as we have worked together, and he felt that I would be a good fit with your team.

      For the past two years I have been working in sales for Goodman & Co.. I have consistently exceeded my targets and I was recognized last quarter for outstanding service. As an avid cyclist and user of many of your products, I'm aware that Acme Corp. is a company with tremendous potential. I am confident that my experience, communication skills, and ability to convey product benefits effectively would enable me to excel in the sales role.

      I would be delighted to discuss with you how I might be an asset to the Acme Corp. sales team. Thank you for your consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.

      Respectfully yours,

      Molly Smith

      Also review examples of cover letters for a variety of different types of jobs, types of job seekers, and types of job applications. Then get started writing your cover letter in five easy steps.