Learn How to Format a Cover Letter
When you submit your resume, you will typically need to write a cover letter as well. In this letter, you'll make a case for your candidacy, highlighting your relevant skills. Since a cover letter is a formal document, there are set guidelines for what information to include in the letter, as well as how to format it.
Hiring managers read a lot of cover letters, so while their most important goal is to find strong candidates, they will definitely notice if the letter is formatted incorrectly or does not adhere to the usual cover letter style guidelines.
Use the cover letter format below as a guideline when you create customized cover letters to send to employers. It lays out which information to include, and where. Then, review cover letter samples, a cover letter template, and tips for formatting hard copy and email cover letters you can use to write your own letters.
Cover Letter Format
Your Contact Information
City, State, Zip Code
Employer Contact Information (if you have it)
City, State, Zip Code
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 makes you a great candidate. Keep in mind that employers will be more interested in what you can do for them, than a list of your background. 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.
Handwritten Signature (for a hard copy letter)
Email Subject Line
When you're sending an email cover letter, include a subject line that enables the hiring manager to recognize who you are and the job for which you are applying. Here are sample subject lines that are appropriate to use in your emailed job application.
Formatting Tips 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.
Cover Letter Examples
Examples of cover letters for a variety of different types of jobs, types of job seekers, and types of job applications.
How to Address an Email Cover Letter
Hiring managers get a lot of emails each day. Make it easy for them to scan your email and follow-up by including a clear subject line and a signature with your contact information. It's important to address the email cover letter correctly, including the name of the person hiring for the position if you have a contact, to ensure that your letter gets noticed.
When you're sending an email, it's important to make sure that your cover letter and resume are written as well as any other business correspondence.
If you can, have a friend proofread before you hit send, to pick up any typos or grammatical errors.
How to Address an Email Cover Letter
When you are applying for jobs, you will often need to send your cover letter by email. Read the directions in the job posting carefully, and include the required materials in the requested format. Make sure you pay careful attention to what they ask for, when. Hiring managers have specific practices to follow regarding how they evaluate candidates.
Don’t get yourself knocked out of contention by not including something like a cover letter with your application materials if they ask for one. Here are tips on how to address an email cover letter, including what to do when you don't have the name of a contact, or if you have a contact's name, but are uncertain of person's gender.
Subject Line of Email Message
Never leave the subject line blank. There is a good chance that if a hiring manager receives an email with no subject line, they’ll delete it without even bothering to open it.
Instead, write a clear subject indicating your intentions.
List the job you are applying for in the subject line of your email message, so the employer knows what job you are interested in as well. They may be hiring for multiple positions, and you will want them to identify the position you’re interested in easily.
Addressing the Contact Person
There are a variety of cover letter salutations you can use to address your email message. If you have a contact person at the company, address the letter to Ms. or Mr. Lastname. If you aren’t given a contact person, check to see if you can determine the email recipient's name.
If you can’t find a contact person at the company, you can either leave off the salutation from your cover letter and start with the first paragraph of your letter or use a general salutation.
Employers who responded to a recent employer survey conducted by Saddleback College preferred:
- Dear Hiring Manager (27%)
- To Whom It May Concern (17%)
- Dear Sir/Madam (17%)
- Dear Human Resources Director (6%)
- Leave it blank (8%)
Follow the salutation with a colon or comma, and then on the next line start the first paragraph of your letter.
How to Address a Cover Letter for a Non-Gender Specific Name
If you do have a name but aren't sure of the person's gender, an option is to include both the first name and the last name in your salutation:
- Dear Sydney Smith
- Dear Taylor Dolan
If possible, it’s a good idea to check LinkedIn, other career networking sites, and the company website to see if you can determine the gender of the contact.
As always, the extra effort is worth it to make your cover letter stand out among the many that the hiring manager will see.
Body of Email Cover Letter
The body of your cover letter lets the employer know what position you are applying for, and why the employer should select you for an interview. This is where you'll sell yourself as a candidate. Review the job posting and include examples of your attributes that closely match the ones they are looking for. When you're sending an email cover letter, it's important to follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your cover letter and resume. Make sure that your email cover letters are written as well as any other correspondence you send.
If you have attached your resume, mention it as part of your conclusion. Then finish your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position.
Include information on how you will follow-up.
Include a closing, then list your name and your email signature.
Your email signature should include your name, full address, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn Profile URL (if you have one) so it is easy for hiring managers to get in touch.
City, State, Zip