How to Format a Cover Letter
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document you might send to employers with your resume to apply for jobs. Typically, a cover letter’s format is three paragraphs long and includes information like why you are applying for the position, a brief overview of your professional background and what makes you uniquely qualified for the job. While some employers might require a cover letter to apply, others might make it optional or exclude it from your application entirely.
Before you apply for your dream job, check out these tips that will make your cover letter stand out.
Tip #1: Keep it brief. Your letter should not go over one page. Use short paragraphs and bullet points whenever possible. Avoid flowery or excessive words when fewer words will get your point across equally well.
Tip #2: Be assertive and proactive. Explain what special skills and qualities you can bring to the job. Don’t explain what the job will do for you. Avoid empty cliches, such as “I am a self-starter” or “I’m a people person.” Use active words and phrases. Avoid “are” and “is.”
Tip #3: Tailor the cover letter to the specific company. Don’t write generic praise about the company. Be as specific as you can and demonstrate your knowledge of the company. Research the company using its own website, as well as business information sites such as www.hoovers.com and www.fastcompany.com. Check news sources for recent company events that you can reference in your letter.
Tip #4: Revise your cover letter for each application. Different aspects of your background will fit different jobs. Focus on relevant job experiences and skills. For instance, an employer for a research position probably wouldn’t be interested in your creative writing skills.
Tip #5: When writing about non-professional experiences, translate them into “business- speak.” Explain how your class-related, extracurricular or volunteer activities have prepared you for other kinds of work. Compare:
|“I was president of the French club.”||vs.||“In my term as president of the French club, I developed valuable leadership skills as I organized a 10 person team to undertake fundraising activities.”|
Tip #6: Address your letter to an individual rather than a department. Call the company directly to identify the proper addressee. Use formal language (Mr., Ms., Dr.) when addressing them, and never just their first name—even if you know them personally.
Tip #7: Appearances count. Use high-quality white paper; it’s thicker than typewriter or printer paper. Avoid elaborate or colored stationery. Print a clean final copy to send, not a photocopy.
Tip #8: Let the employer be the judge of your skills. State your skills and qualifications, but don’t tell the employer that you are the best person for the job. It can appear arrogant and presumptuous. Impress the employer with your skills, and let them conclude you are the best person for the job.
Tip #9: Proofread! Typos will land your letter in the trash. Check grammar, spelling and especially the spellings of names. Have somebody else read your letter—they can pick up on things missing from your letter. Before mailing, make sure you’ve included your resume and any other requested items.
Tip #10: Follow up with a thank-you note. A thank-you note demonstrates your interest in the job and will help them keep you in mind for the position.
Cover letter font
When it comes to font, keep it simple and professional. Choose a basic, clear font like Arial, Calibri, Verdana or something similar. Avoid using fancy or decorative fonts.
Many employers use applicant tracking systems—software that allows automated sorting of job applications based on specific keywords, skills, job titles or other fields. Complicated fonts can make it harder for the software to read your letter, which might prevent your application from moving forward.
Use 10- and 12-point size for easy reading. Anything smaller will leave the hiring manager squinting, and anything larger will make your letter look unprofessional. In general, you should use the same font and font size that you used in your resume.