What is the format for a cover letter?

Cover letters are an essential part of your job application as it allows you to provide a deeper insight into your career trajectory to the recruiters.

It allows you to showcase how your skills and experiences are aligned with the recruiters’ requirements, thereby increasing your chances of getting shortlisted.

Surveys show that 83% of recruiters agree that a well-written cover letter can influence their hiring decision and keep a candidate in the running for the position.

However, to ensure that the recruiters read your cover letter, it has to appeal to them at first glance.

Your cover letter format needs to be on point and has to make your letter look professional and crisp.

Read on to learn more about cover letter format and related FAQs like the following:

When to Write a Cover Letter?


As stated earlier, cover letters can play a vital role in determining your chances of getting shortlisted for a job.

Thus, the only time you must skip sending a cover letter is when the recruiters have specified the same in the job listing.

If you are switching careers or have career gaps and layoffs in your professional history, cover letters also allow you to explain the same.

Unless you don’t have an intention to stand out to the employers by putting in the extra effort of writing a thoughtful cover letter, you can skip writing a cover letter and be one of the average candidates.

Also read: What are the factors you must consider before choosing a cover letter design?

What is a cover letter format?


A cover letter format refers to the structural and visual elements of your cover letter.

An incorrect cover letter format will impact the readability & appeal of your letter while increasing the chances of it ending up in the trash can.

For instance, if you write lengthy paragraphs and choose a cover letter format with a font style that has special characters, the recruiters will not bother reading it.

With that being said, given below are the elements of a cover letter format:

  • Margins and spacing
  • Font size and style
  • Header
  • Salutation
  • Body
  • CTA
  • Closing

Also read: How do I write a simple cover letter?

Cover Letter Format for Job Application


The optimum length of a cover letter must never exceed more than a page and must be between 200-300 words.

Additionally, given below are some guidelines that you must follow for a cover letter format that looks professional:

Margin and Spacing


Your cover letter format must have a 1” margin on all sides to maintain uniformity and give your letter a clean look.

And do not shy away from white spaces, as it will enhance the readability of your cover letter. Use 1 or 1.5 line spacing which is the standard business letter format spacing.

Also, leave a single space between the address, salutation, and paragraphs in your cover letter.

Font Size and Style


The most common font size used by candidates in a cover letter is 12 points.

However, your cover letter format can have font sizes ranging from 10-12 points, depending on the font you choose.

Going below or above the suggested font size can either make your letter difficult to read or make the contents exceed a single page.

Also, choose a professional cover letter font style like Calibri, Helvetica, Cambria, and Times New Roman that doesn’t have special characters or look unprofessional.

Also read: How to choose a cover letter font?

Template and File Format


Your cover letter format template must be minimal and simple. Its design should not have loud or bold colors that can distract the recruiters from the content of your letter.

Besides, a colorful and fancy design will make your cover letter look childish and unprofessional.

Choose a cover letter template that has a simple design and ensure that you save your letter in a PDF format rather than a docx. format so that your cover letter format remains intact.

Also read: How to write an email cover letter in 2022?

Cover Letter Structure


The structure of your cover letter format refers to the different sections that you must create in your letter.

A proper cover letter structure gives your letter a polished look and will enhance its readability.

Here’s the breakdown of a cover letter format and its structure:

Cover Letter Header


Similar to your resume, the following details make up the header of your cover letter:

  • Your full name
  • Profile title
  • A reachable phone number
  • A professional email address
  • Your current location (city & state)
  • A link to your LinkedIn profile or an online portfolio

Providing personal details in the header of your cover letter makes it easy for the recruiters to contact you. They won’t have to look at your resume or wonder who is the writer of the cover letter.

Also read: What are the dos and don'ts of a cover letter heading?

Date, Address and Salutation


Right after the header, mention the current date, followed by the personalized address and salutation.

Ensure to leave a single space between each of the said details.

You must address your cover letter with the hiring manager’s name to grab the recruiters’ attention and increase the chances of them reading your cover letter.

And instead of a generic salutation like to whom it may concern, greet the hiring manager with their last name.

For instance, if the hiring manager’s name is Bella Swan, personalize your cover letter salutation by writing Dear Ms. Swan.

Cover Letter Body


The cover letter format of your letter’s body must be divided into three paragraphs.

Each paragraph must contain not more than 3-4 lines or sentences.

The first paragraph must serve as a catchy introduction that hooks the recruiter and entices them to read your letter in its entirety.

The second paragraph must highlight your most notable accomplishments in terms of the job description while aligning your skills with their requirements.

And lastly, in the third paragraph, you must tell the recruiters why you want to work for them and how you can contribute to the company.

Call To Action


To wrap up, close your cover letter with a strong call to action.

Instead of writing thank you for your time or any other generic closing line, urge the recruiters to give you a callback.

Your call to action must be limited to a single line.

Ending Salutation


To sign off your cover letter, end it with an appropriate salutation.

You can use any of the following ending salutations:

  • Thank you
  • Sincerely
  • Respectfully
  • Regards

And avoid using causal greetings such as cheers, thanks a ton, or yours truly.

Also read: How long should a cover letter be?

Cover Letter Email Format


The fundamental guidelines for formating an email cover letter remains the same as that of a paper cover letter.

However, there are a few points of differences in the format between the two.

For instance, paper cover letters require you to provide a header with your contact information and recruiter's address while you can skip mentioning these details in your cover letter email.

But, you must write a simple subject line for your cover letter email which is not required in paper cover letters.

Also, recruiters are more likely to read your cover letter before your resume if you've send through an email and vice versa.

As for the body of your cover letter email, ensure to keep it concise and crisp with 2-3 paragraphs at the most.

email cover letter format

Concluding Points


  • A cover letter format refers to the structural and visual elements of your cover letter.
  • An incorrect cover letter format will impact the readability & appeal of your letter to the recruiters.
  • The optimum length of a cover letter must never exceed a page and must be between 200-300 words.
  • Your cover letter format must have 1” margin on all sides to maintain uniformity and must have single spacing between paragraphs.
  • Depending on the font style, your cover letter format can have font sizes ranging between 10-12 points.
  • The cover letter format template should not have loud or bold colors that can distract the recruiters from the content of your letter.
  • To ensure that your cover letter format remains intact, save your letter in a PDF format.
  • Your cover letter format must have clear sections such as the header, address, salutation, body, and signature.

If you want a professional cover letter format and template, use Hiration’s Cover Letter Builder which will also help you write a compelling cover letter. You can also send us your queries at support@hiration.com.