When you’re applying for a job, it’s common for employers to request both a resume and a cover letter. In around three paragraphs, your cover letter should highlight what makes you a great fit for the job and motivate the hiring manager to set up an interview.
Related: Q&A: Should I Include a Cover Letter?
Below, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about formatting a winning cover letter—plus a sample cover letter to help you create your own.
Elements of a cover letter
- Date and contact information
- Opening paragraph
- Middle paragraphs
- Closing paragraph
- Complimentary close and signature
Date and contact information
There are two ways to list contact information on your cover letter, depending on whether you’re providing a digital or hard copy.
If you’re submitting a digital copy online, feel free to leave off your specific address and just use your city and state, phone number and email—and leave off the company and hiring manager’s contact information altogether:
Although it’s becoming less common, there may be a time when you’re required to submit a paper copy of your cover letter. In this case, the top left-hand side of your letter should include the following elements:
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
Hiring Manager’s Name
Company City, State, Zip Code
Salutation / greeting
Start your cover letter off on the right foot by addressing the hiring manager. If you can, find out the name of the hiring manager for the role you’re applying for. Reread the job description to see if it’s listed there or check the company website. It’s also an option to call the company and ask for the hiring manager’s name. Explain that you are applying for a job and would like to address your cover letter to the correct person. It’s not necessary to add Mr., Mrs. or Ms. since it may require some guesswork about gender and marital status on your part—just use their first and last name: “Dear Alex Johnson.”
If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, stick with “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid outdated greetings such as “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
Read more: How to Address a Cover Letter (With Examples)
The opening paragraph is your chance to catch the hiring manager’s attention, introduce yourself and enthusiastically tell the employer why you’re applying for the job. You’ll want to make this paragraph specific to each job listing you apply for. Include why you’re excited about the job and the company, and how the job lines up with your career goals. Avoid making this paragraph sound formulaic by including keywords from the job posting and matching your skills to the employer’s requirements.
Read more: 7 Powerful Ways to Start a Cover Letter
Now that you’ve introduced yourself and established your enthusiasm, it’s time to dig into your most relevant experience and talk about the specific qualifications and skills that make you the perfect candidate. In one or two paragraphs, make the connection between your previous accomplishments and your readiness for this new role. Think of these paragraphs as a way to pitch yourself as the ideal match for the role. Employers will likely have read your resume already, so avoid repeating the bullet points. Instead, include details that more deeply illustrate those highlights.
The main goal of your closing paragraph is to thank the employer for their time and consideration. You also have the option of making any clarifications. For example, you can justify any major gaps in your employment history. You can also use this space to sum up your qualifications for the role and express an interest in continuing to the next stage in the hiring process.
Complimentary close and signature
Choose a complimentary closing that is friendly yet formal, followed by your first and last name. Closings you might consider include:
- Thank You
- Thank You for Your Consideration
Avoid closings such as Cheers, Warm Regards, Thanks a Ton, or Yours Truly which may be considered too casual or affectionate.
If you’re providing a hard copy of your cover letter, make sure to handwrite your signature, plus your full typed name.
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 and you’ll leave the hiring manager squinting, anything larger and your letter will look unprofessional. In general, you should use the same font and font size that you used in your resume.
Read more: How to Choose Cover Letter Font and Font Size
Good spacing is essential for your cover letter—whitespace in the right places will make it easier for the hiring manager to read quickly. Follow these guidelines:
- Make your cover letter single-spaced
- Add a space between each section: contact information, salutation, opening paragraph, middle paragraph, closing paragraph and complimentary closing. (There’s no need to indent any of your paragraphs.)
Keep your cover letter to a single page made up of three paragraphs. You can add an extra middle paragraph if absolutely necessary. Before doing this, however, always ask yourself if you can communicate the essential information in fewer words.
Read more: Q&A: What’s the Ideal Cover Letter Length?
Margins and alignment
Align your text to the left and use standard 1-inch margins all the way around. If your letter is spilling off onto a second page, first reread it and see if there’s anything you can cut. If you can’t cut anything, you can consider shrinking the margins to ¾” or ½”, but avoid going smaller than that so your cover letter doesn’t look squished on the page.
Since an applicant tracking system may be parsing your cover letter, make sure you save your document in a compatible file format—either .doc or PDF. It’s also a good idea to rename your file to something specific, especially since hiring managers can see the file name of your online submission. Follow the format of First Name-Last Name-Cover-Letter (e.g. Jade-Young-cover-letter.doc) to make it more convenient for the person downloading it.
Cover letter format example
Finally, here is a cover letter format example.
January 23, 2018
Dear Hiring Manager,
I’m excited to be applying for the Web Developer position at [Company Name]. I’ve been programming websites and using CSS to create user-friendly experiences since I was in middle school, so it’s always been a passion of mine. I’ve also been intrigued by your company ever since it won Most Innovative at the National Web Development Awards two years ago. I strive to stay on the cutting-edge of web design and development, so when I saw this job posting, I knew I had to apply.
During my previous role at [Company Name], I built a website completely from scratch for a recently rebranded business, both ahead of schedule and within budget. I started by gathering requirements from my clients and holding a focus group to perform user research. My favorite part about web design is building a solution that impresses the client and meets the needs of users and customers. My new website was responsive, lightning fast, and included the latest e-commerce features. After launch, I continued to lead optimization efforts. Through A/B testing, I improved the click-through rate by 10% and reduced the bounce rate on the website’s landing page by 35%. As your Web Developer, I would bring these skills to develop websites that exceed the expectations of clients and customers, and drive real business results.
Thank you for your consideration and time. I’m looking forward to learning more details about the position and company!
Thanks for the feedback!
Thanks for the feedback!
Smart tips to help you format and write a cover letter
Struggling to write a cover letter that will catch an employer's attention? We've got tips to help you show your best self—and a sample you can use to get started.
There's nothing scary about writing a cover letter.
You've found the perfect job, hit the "apply" button, and started the process with your engines revved and ready. But wait! Slam the brakes! They want a cover letter. Oh no.
Don't let this request derail you. Here's everything you need to know to write a letter that truly sells your skills. Plus, scroll down to see a sample cover letter you can use to craft your own.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that, along with your resume, is sent with your job application. A cover letter is your chance to tell a potential employer why you’re the perfect person for the position and how your skills and expertise can add value to the company. The letter should be professional but personable, and serve as a sort of introduction.
Do I need to send a cover letter?
A lot of job seekers today wonder if a cover letter is still appropriate to send with your resume—and the answer is yes! Even if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, it couldn’t hurt to send one. In fact, it’s can help you get someone's attention in a different way, and it can be a great way to display your enthusiasm for the job and company.
What are the basic elements of a cover letter?
- Greeting: Address your cover letter to the proper person.
- Opening: Write a personable, inviting opening paragraph that notes how your skills are a perfect fit to the job and displays your enthusiasm.
- Hook: Highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Skills: Emphasize additional relevant skills, such as computer languages or certifications.
- Close: Briefly recap your strengths as a candidate, and include your contact information.
Cover letter tips
1. Parrot the keywords: Just like with your resume, your cover letters should be customized for each job you apply to. Start by reviewing the job description. In it, you will find important keywords that let you know what kind of employee the company is hoping to find. Use these same keywords throughout your cover letter.
2. Adapt for the company: Each version of your cover letter should talk about how your skills will benefit the particular company that you want to work for. You want to target the company’s needs—not your own. Demonstrate how you could help them achieve their goals. Remember: You're selling yourself in a resume and a cover letter, but the employer has to want to buy.
3. Show you "get" them: Your cover letter should demonstrate that you have done some research into what the organization's pain points are. Presenting yourself as a solution to a hiring manager’s problem can help your cover letter take the right tone. If you’re applying to an administrative position, be sure to mention your time-management skills; if you’re an IT professional, include your expertise in improving efficiency. Always ask yourself: How can I help this company?
4. Proofread. Don’t assume spell check will catch every mistake (it won’t). Slowly review your cover letter to make sure everything reads properly. Have someone else read your cover letter for backup.
Need even more confidence before you start your cover letter? Below are some additional cover letter tips you could reference—or keep scrolling for a cover letter sample:
Cover letter mistakes you should avoid: From overusing “I” to being too vague, there are a bunch of pitfalls that can trip you up. Don’t let them!
Cover letter format and advice tips: Learn how to set up your cover letter and what each section should include.
Cover letter tips for new grads: You might lack real-world work experience, but your cover letter can be chock-full of activities that demonstrate your potential to succeed.
Cover letter tips for technology professionals: The ease of applying to online jobs has led many IT professionals to skip sending a cover letter, but that’s a mistake.
Cover letter tips for finance professionals: If you’re searching for a finance job or want to be prepared just in case, you will need a dynamic cover letter to grab the hiring managers’ attention.
Tips for better email cover letters: If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter will deliver the first impression. These eight tips will help you craft a better email cover letter.
Cover letter sample
Check out the sample cover letter below (or download the template as a Word doc) to get some inspiration to craft your own. And we've also got you covered if you're looking for a cover letter in a specific industry.
Once you've finished your cover letter, consider joining Monster—you can upload and store up to five cover letters and resumes, so that you can apply for jobs on our site in a snap!
Ms. Rhonda West
Customer Service Manager
123 Corporate Blvd.
Sometown, CO 50802
Re: Customer Service Representative Opening (Ref. ID: CS300-Denver)
Dear Ms. West:
I was excited to see your opening for a customer service rep, and I hope to be invited for an interview.
My background includes serving as a customer service associate within both call-center and retail environments. Most recently, I worked on the customer service desk for Discount-Mart, where my responsibilities included handling customer merchandise returns, issuing refunds/store credits, flagging damaged merchandise for shipment back to vendors and providing back-up cashiering during busy periods.
Previously, I worked within two high-volume customer-support call centers for a major telecommunications carrier and a satellite television services provider. In these positions, I demonstrated the ability to resolve a variety of issues and complaints (such as billing disputes, service interruptions or cutoffs, repair technician delays/no-shows and equipment malfunctions). I consistently met my call-volume goals, handling an average of 56 to 60 calls per day.
In addition to this experience, I gained considerable customer service skills during my part-time employment as a waitress and restaurant hostess while in high school.
I also bring to the table strong computer proficiencies in MS Word, MS Excel and CRM database applications and a year of college (business major). Please see the accompanying resume for details of my experience and education.
I am confident that I can offer you the customer service, communication and problem-solving skills you are seeking. Feel free to call me at 555-555-5555 (home) or 555-555-5500 (cell) to arrange an interview. Thank you for your time—I look forward to learning more about this opportunity!