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.

When you write your job application letter, it’s essential to pay close attention to formatting. There’s a right way to format a cover letter; deviate from the standard guidelines and hiring managers may drop you from consideration.

In fact, anything that makes your job application letter appear less than professional can prevent hiring managers from taking you seriously as a candidate. Make sure your cover letter is formatted properly and is free from errors before you send. 

Melissa Ling. © The Balance 2018

Tips for Writing a Job Application Letter

Do not copy your resume. A cover letter is a sales pitch. The purpose of this letter is to convince the hiring manager that you’re a strong candidate and to highlight your relevant experience and abilities. Your application letter should show how exactly your background makes you a good fit for a particular position. In contrast, your resume is a general record of your experience, education, and accomplishments.

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 company and position. Match your qualifications to the job posting by highlighting the skills, experience, and requirements listed in the description.

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. You wouldn't, for instance, want to refer to the letter's recipient by their first name unless specifically requested.

Carefully proofread. 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 for grammar and spelling errors. Be particularly mindful to spell the letter recipient's name correctly, as well as the company name.

Follow business letter format. Use business letter format when writing your letter. If you’re sending a typed hard-copy letter, be sure to lead with a paragraph containing your address, followed by the date, followed by the address of the recipient. If you’re sending an email, you can omit the address and date sections. 

Decide whether to send a hard copy or email. The main difference in formatting an email application letter is that you need to include a subject line that clearly lays out your purpose for writing, e.g. “Graphic Designer—Joe Smith.” 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.

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

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

Job Application Letter Template

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

Job Application Letter Example

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

March 5, 2020

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

Job Application Email Example 

Subject Line: George Woo – Editorial Assistant

Dear Ms. Cortez,

I was excited when Ada Wilson told me that you were looking for an editorial assistant with a background in rights and research and a passion for digital media. She suggested that I throw my hat in the ring, and I’d love the opportunity to tell you more about what I can offer your team.

I’ve interned for Ada’s team for the past three summers, developing extensive experience with the rights and research process. Last year, I was instrumental in securing the rights to include Sara Frey’s poems in our digital anthology – a first for an online publisher, according to Ms. Frey’s estate.

I also have:

  • Expertise with most popular content management systems, including WordPress
  • Analytics knowledge, including expert-level facility with Google Analytics
  • A strong work ethic and commitment to meeting deadlines

I hope you’ll reach out at your convenience to tell me more about your team’s goals and needs for the coming year. You can reach me on my cell at 555-123-4567 or via email at George.Woo@email.com.

Best regards,

George Woo

How to Get Your Application Noticed

Don’t copy your resume: Your job application letter is a sales pitch. Don’t regurgitate your resume; instead, use this document to sell the hiring manager on your skills.

Tailor your application letter to the job: Match your skills and qualifications to the job description, highlighting those that make you an ideal candidate.

Be professional: Use business letter format and be sure to proofread your letter before you send.

Article Sources

  1. CareerOneStop. "Write Effective Cover Letters." Accessed March 5, 2020.

  2. Purdue University. "Writing the Basic Business Letter." Accessed Mar. 5, 2020.

  3. CareerOneStop. "How Do I Write a Cover Letter?" Accessed March 5, 2020.