Job Application Letter Format and Writing Tips

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A job application letter (also known as a cover letter) is a letter you send with your resume to provide information on your skills and experience. This letter is your chance to “sell” yourself to an employer, explaining why you are an ideal candidate for a position.

It's important that your application letter is formatted properly and free from errors. Recruiters and hiring managers will notice if you do not follow the standard guidelines for writing the letter - or if it's full of typos and mistakes. 

Tips for Writing a Job Application Letter

Melissa Ling. © The Balance 2018
  • Do not copy your resume. The purpose of this letter is to show that you are a strong candidate and to highlight your relevant experience and abilities. Your resume is a general record of your experience, education, and accomplishments. In contrast, your application letter should show how exactly your background makes you a good fit for a particular position.

Since your application letter will be accompanied by your resume, make sure the letter does not duplicate your resume exactly.

  • Tailor each application letter to the job. As mentioned above, emphasize in your letter why you are an ideal candidate for the specific job. This requires that you personalize each letter to fit the specific company and position. Here's information on how you can closely match your qualifications to the job posting
  • Be professional. Application letters have a fairly rigid format — as hiring managers read your letter, they will expect to see certain information included in set areas. You have freedom within the structure to be personable, but it is important to stick to a certain level of formality. Pay particular attention to the professionalism of your salutation and what you call the employer. You wouldn't, for instance, want to refer to the letter's recipient by the first name unless specifically requested.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Employers are likely to overlook an application with a lot of errors. Therefore, read through your cover letter, and even consider asking a friend or career counselor to read the letter. Proofread any grammar or spelling errors. Be particularly mindful to spell the letter recipient's name correctly, as well as the company name. 

Follow the Proper Business Letter Format

Use the official business letter format when writing your letter. This varies slightly depending on how you are sending your letter - through email or as a hard copy. 

Hard Copy Letter vs. Email

The formatting information below is for a hard copy, printed out letter. If you are sending an email application letter, the structure is quite similar, although there are a few important differences. 

The main difference in an email is that you need to include a subject line that clearly lays out your purpose for writing. And, instead of placing your contact information at the top of the letter, as you would in a hard copy, you'll include it below your signature. Get more tips on how to format an email application letter.

Job Application Letter Format

Use this formatting information as a guideline when writing your customized application letters, so you know what information goes where. 

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, (leave out if you don't have a contact)

Body of Application Letter
The body of your application 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. See below for a paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown of the body of the letter. 

First Paragraph
The first paragraph of your letter should include information on why you are writing. Mention the job you are applying for and where you found the job listing. Include the name of a mutual contact, if you have one. You might conclude by briefly and concisely saying why you think you are an ideal candidate for the job.

Middle Paragraph(s)
The next section of your application letter should describe what you have to offer the employer.

It can be a single paragraph, or you can break it up into a couple of paragraphs. If the section gets lengthy, you may use bullet points to break up the text. Remember, you are interpreting your resume, not repeating it. 

Mention specifically how your qualifications match the job you are applying for. In this portion of the letter, make your case for your candidacy.

It can be helpful to spend some time researching the company — this knowledge and insight helps you make an informed and persuasive argument for your candidacy. 

Use specific examples whenever possible. For example, if you say that you have lots of experience working successfully on team projects, provide an example of a time you worked in a group and achieved success.

Final Paragraph 
Conclude your application letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow up.

Complimentary Close (examples)

Sincerely,

Signature (for a hard copy letter)

Typed Signature

Letter Example

This is a job application letter example. Download the job application letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Screenshot of a job application letter sample
©TheBalance 2018
Download the Word Template


Letter Example (Text Version)

Melissa Brown
11 South Street
Harbor View, Maine 04005
555-555-5555
melissa.brown@email.com

April 28, 2018

Jason Rivera
Human Resources Director
Avery Solutions, Inc.
700 Commerce Way
Harbor View, Maine 04005

Dear Mr. Rivera,

I was excited when my former colleague, Stephanie Taylor, told me that you were hiring for a Human Resources Specialist at Avery Solutions.

Stephanie has told me how important teamwork is to your group at Avery, and how much you need an HR Specialist who can fit in with the department and hit the ground running on day one. I believe that I am the ideal candidate for your team.

In my current job at Smith Group, I created and run our onboarding program, including organizing background checks and new hire orientation. I also have extensive experience in:

  • Data reporting/data entry on HRIS software
  • Recruiting and hiring processes, including creating job descriptions and postings, screening resumes, and scheduling interviews
  • Producing company events, such as the annual company-wide picnic (100+ employees from across the country)

I’d love to speak with you about my qualifications and what I can do for your team. I’ve attached my resume for your consideration. Please don’t hesitate to contact me on my cell at 555-555-5555 with questions or to arrange an interview.

Best regards,

Melissa Brown