Every resume you send out to a potential employer should be accompanied by a tailored, well-crafted cover letter. Most hiring managers will review cover letters to decide whether it’s worth their time to read the attached resumes. Thus, your cover letter is your “teaser,” the all-important first introduction that explains why you are the right candidate for the job.
When writing cover letters, your paragraphs should be concise, grammatically flawless, and should focus on your qualifications for the job. Ideally, they should also convey an impression of your own unique personality.
Cover Letter Paragraph Guidelines
A cover letter should include three paragraphs:
- Body/selling pitch
The first paragraph explains why you are writing. It is your first impression and should contain a basic explanation of who you are and why you are writing. It is also acceptable to describe how you found the position, such as through an online job listing or a recommendation from a professional contact, and why you are interested in the job.
Use the qualifications on the job announcement as a guide for explaining how your past experience makes you a suitable candidate for the job.
The second paragraph, known as the body, explains why you are qualified for the position. It is the part of the letter where it is most appropriate to highlight your experience, skills, and attributes that make you a perfect candidate for the job. Don’t restate your entire resume; rather, focus on the most important factors that make you desirable.
Because you don’t have a lot of space for elaboration in your cover letter, the best way to choose which qualifications and experience to highlight is to use the employer’s job announcement as your guide. Take note of the top attributes they list in their advertisement's “Qualifications Section,” and make sure you mention examples that demonstrate how your knowledge, experience, or training has prepared you to fulfill these requirements.
As an eye-catcher, incorporate a list within this second paragraph that provides examples that quantify, through the use of percentages, numbers or dollar figures, the contributions you’ve made in this job role for previous employers.
The third paragraph is a brief conclusion, thanking the employer for their time and consideration. This is where you should enthusiastically reiterate your interest in the position and describe how you will next follow up. Be sure to leave a space between each paragraph in your cover letter.
Cover Letter Margin Settings
When writing a cover letter for a job, the ideal margins should be approximately 1 inch all around. The left and right margin should be set at 1 inch and the top and bottom margins should also be set at 1 inch. This gives your cover letter an uncluttered look and provides plenty of white space, which helps with readability.
You should align your text to the left; this is how most documents are aligned, so it will make your letter readable.
When You Need More Space for the Letter
If you have more text than fits on a single page, you can tighten up the margins slightly rather than writing a two-page letter. Keep the margins consistent, so your letter is balanced on the page. For example, if you adjust your margins to .70 inches, it will give you more lines and space for the letter content.
Another option is to reduce the left and right margin to .70 inches and leave the top at 1 inch. Try several options to see which looks best.
When You Need Less Space for the Letter
If your letter is short, you can make the margins larger, so the letter looks balanced on the page without too much white space. In that case, try 1.5 inches for each of the margins.
How to Adjust Page Margin Settings in Microsoft Word
To adjust the margins in Microsoft Word:
- Select Page Layout > Margins > Normal (for 1-inch margins).
- There are a variety of other selections, or you can set your own margins by selecting Page Layout > Margins Custom.
How to Adjust Page Margin Settings in Google Docs
To adjust the margins in Google Docs:
- Select File > Page Set Up.
- You can adjust all the margins—left, right, top and bottom—from this window.
Use Your Cover Letter to Make the Best Impression
A cover letter is extremely important in the hiring process, as it's your initial introduction to a prospective employer. It determines the employer's next move in either reading about you further or moving on to the next candidate.
Therefore, make sure your cover letter clearly and succinctly explains why you are right for the job. This will increase your chances of a callback and perhaps an interview.