How to Format a Cover Letter: All That You Need To Know

Author —
Astley
April 24, 2021
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If your cover letter format is wrong, it could ruin your entire job application. 

Imagine sending your cover letter through email but when the hiring manager opens up that document, it doesn’t look quite the same...

In fact, it’s a disaster. 

Compared to how it looked when you were done writing it up, it’s drastically different. The spacing is wrong, it’s hard to read and your prospective employer can’t find what they need.

Unless you’re already using a cover letter template, it’s important to make sure your cover letter meets all the format requirements. Otherwise, it can affect your whole application and abolish all chances of employment. 

As well as the format of your cover letter, the type of cover letter you go for is just as important. In this guide, we’ll be covering all that you need to know about cover letter formats. 

Towards the end of this, I’ve also included a cover letter format example with Rezi and how our cover letters help you avoid these technical factors. If you don’t want to worry about the formatting requirements and only focus on the writing aspect, you can start by using our cover letter writer below!

What is the format for a cover letter?

There are multiple things to consider. Aside from some of those technical factors, the basic sections of what a cover letter should include are:

  • The header
  • Opening paragraph
  • Main body
  • Close

The Header

Your cover letter needs a header that contains your contact information. It’s the first thing anyone should see and usually, this is located on the top left corner. Right after the header of your cover letter, you’ll have your opening salutation which is how you greet your hiring manager.

Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph is where you introduce yourself. You start strong by either focusing on your objectives and goals, or on your work experience, skills and achievements. What’s more important is that you show your enthusiasm in wanting to work for them. 

However, this can vary depending on the type of cover letter you’re writing, which is something we’ll cover later on in this article.

Main Body

The main body can contain 2-3 paragraphs, or just one. Again, it depends on the type of cover letter you’re going for. 

Your first paragraph in the main body should focus on your intentions, motivations or interests into why you’re so keen to work for the company you’re applying for. Fundamentally, you’re focusing on why you’re invested into their company specifically.

The second paragraph in the main body will focus on your skills, achievements or work experience. These should all be relevant and aligned with the job description.

Close

The close is where you summarize why you’re the best person for both the company and job you’re applying for. Next, you set the tone for the future and what happens afterwards. For example, scheduling an interview or requesting a follow up date. 

After you’ve made your closing paragraph, you’ll have your closing salutation. Don’t forget to include your name, job title and signature (optional) after you sign off.

Feel free to read our full guide here that goes more in-depth on how to write a cover letter! 

Cover Letter Formatting: What You Should Also Know

It’s important to know how to format a cover letter, especially when you’re creating one completely by yourself. 

You should be aware of the following:

  • File type & format
  • Margins
  • Spacing
  • Font type
  • Font size
  • Length
  • Bullet points

If you’re using any cover letter template like Rezi, you won’t have to worry about those technical aspects since they’re taken care of for you. 

So, you can focus purely on writing a cover letter. 

However, if you’re creating a cover letter yourself on Google Docs or a Microsoft Word document, it’s good practise to double check the formatting. Otherwise, it can affect the way it looks once it’s sent to the hiring manager.

File Type & Format

Sometimes, you’ll be requested to send your cover letter electronically via email. 

If that’s the case and you’re sending your cover letter digitally, it should always be sent as a PDF file. Aside from the type of file format, check the name of it too. It should also have an appropriate file name.

You can simply use your name and clearly state it as your cover letter. 

For example, “jacob-jacquet-cover-letter”.

The PDF format works best for both the ATS and employers. Even if you’re not sending it electronically, it’s always good to keep a PDF copy just in case.

Margins

The ideal cover letter should have margins around 1 inches all around. 

1.2 inches is okay - the general guidelines should be kept between 1 inch to 1.2 inches. Anywhere lower than that makes your cover letter too thin. On the other hand, anywhere higher than that makes your cover letter too thick. 

Spacing

It’s important you’re making the most of the white space on your cover letter to improve your application by making it more readable and well-structured. If the spacing is off, it won’t look as clean and professional as it could’ve been. 

For example, after:

  • Your salutation;
  • A new paragraph;
  • Your closing paragraph and signoff

Between them, you should leave a 1 line space. On your cover letter, there should be space between your contact information and the other details on there. 

Font Type

Like your resume, you should be using a professional font that’s either a serif or sans serif style. Good examples include:

  • Arial
  • Helvetica
  • Verdana
  • Calibri
  • Georgia

Anything too difficult or fancy like it’s a signature, only makes it difficult to read for the recruiters. Not just that, but it won’t beat the applicant tracking systems.

Font Size

For the best readability, your font size should be no more higher than 12 and no more lower than 10.5. It can’t be too big or too small - both will have an impact on the reader experience.

Our recommendation is sticking to either size 11 or size 12. 

Length

All cover letters in general should be one-page long. 

It’s best for passing the resume scanners and it makes it easier for your hiring manager. You’re respecting their time by making it as concise as possible since you’re showing everything you need to on a single page. 

When you go over that, it’s inefficient and can indicate that some things aren’t necessary. 

If your cover letter does exceed a page, go back to proofread and edit it. Avoid the common mistakes by checking to see if anything can be said in less words and if there’s anything irrelevant to get rid of it.

Bullet Points

This is good for whenever you’re listing things out. For instance, you might want to talk about a list of achievements or results. When you use bullet points, it improves the readability by making it more visually appealing as well as highlighting and emphasizing that information to the hiring manager.

What Is The Best Cover Letter Format?

The best cover letter format depends on your current circumstances.

So far, we’ve gone through all the main elements on how to format a cover letter. But, we’re not quite there yet. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the type of cover letter format you decide to use is just as important.

There are five main types of cover letters:

  • Application cover letter
  • Referral cover letter
  • Networking cover letter
  • Situational cover letter
  • Prospecting cover letter

While the purposes are the same, each of these will take a different approach. Whatever type of cover letter you go for will affect how you should be writing it, what you should be focusing on, and how you should be structuring it. 

Application Cover Letter

Out of all types of cover letters, this one is the most commonly used. 

In the application cover letter, you’ll be sending it along with your ATS resume to apply for a specific job position you want to fulfill. To put simply, this needs to be tailored and personalized towards that one job opening within the company you’re applying to.

With this approach, it’s good to expand on some of the points you might’ve mentioned on your resume.

Referral Cover Letter

Has someone referred you to the job posting you’re currently looking to apply for?

If so, it’s best to use the referral cover letter. As the name suggests, this type of cover letter format is designed for applicants who have been referred to by someone who already works for that company. When the hiring manager can see you’ve been directly referred, it automatically establishes trust and credibility. 

To them, you’re not just any job seeker. You’ve been recommended by someone they’ve already deemed a good fit. It suggests you have similar values. 

The hiring manager also gets something to anticipate. It gives them something to look forward to when seeing you in person, and having that conversation to get to know more about you and how you’ve been referred. 

Networking Cover Letter

The networking cover letter tends to be the shortest cover letter. That’s because it’s not sent directly to the hiring manager or higher authorities in a specific company. With this type of cover letter, it’s sent to your network instead. E.g. colleagues, professionals or employers you’ve worked with in the past.

As you’re already familiar with them, this cover letter can get away with being more casual than the others. 

The main purpose of this approach is to use your network by getting them to help you, as a candidate, find a suitable job that’s most appropriate for you. Similar to the referral cover letter, it’s a good example of using your connections to your advantage.

Situational Cover Letter

The situational cover letter is one that depends on your situation as a job seeker and where you’re currently at in your professional journey or career. 

  • If you have a tonne of work experience, you’ll focus on your work history and use it to your advantage. 
  • If you have less work experience, you’ll focus more on your goals and objectives and use it to your advantage.

One of the best approaches is the hybrid approach where you combine the two. 

However, it depends on the candidate and where you’re applying to. The key thing to notice is making the most of what you’ve got.

Prospecting Cover Letter

The prospecting cover letter means you’re not applying for one specific job. You’re inquiring for open job roles that you can fulfill for that same company. 

When you want to work for a company no matter what job you’re taking, it’s best to use a prospecting cover letter format. This approach is designed for you to land any job opening or posting that’s available for the company you want to work for.

Cover Letter Format Example With Rezi 

It’s a simple yet effective cover letter format for job applications that you’re signing up to. This is what covers letters should look like and how they should be formatted. You can also use this same IT cover letter template here!

Summary

Here’s a quick recap of all the technical things your cover letter needs to take into account:

  • File type & format
  • Margins
  • Spacing
  • Font type
  • Font size
  • Length
  • Bullet points

In terms of the five main types of cover letter formats, these are:

  • Application cover letter
  • Referral cover letter
  • Networking cover letter
  • Situational cover letter
  • Prospecting cover letter

With all of that covered, you now have all the knowledge you need on how to format a cover letter. The only thing left is to go out there and implement what we’ve discussed and ensure you’re using the best approach for the best chances of acquiring a new career.

If you’re using Rezi, you won’t need to think about the cover letter formats at all. 

That’s all taken care of for you. The only thing you need to focus on is editing your cover letter using the job description of the company you want to apply for and ensuring they correspond to one another.

How exactly can you do this?

It’s simple. Copy and paste the job description into our AI cover letter writer feature, then we’ll generate a tailored cover letter for you as well as provide feedback for the keywords to use. It becomes easier to write your cover letter using this strategy since you can get ideas on what to put and the cover letter format will already be sorted out. 

Easy enough, right? 

Rezi doesn’t only increase your chances of getting hired. We’ve helped over 120,000 job seekers save the time, hustle and stress of having to perfect a cover letter. Instead, you can get a solution in less than five minutes.

If you haven’t already, you can get started now for free by clicking below!


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