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Cover Letter Format: The What, Why and How of Writing One that Gets You the Interview

  • A cover letter is simply a letter you send along with your resume when applying for a job
  • It’s an important part of almost any job application that you send to a prospective employer
  • A cover letter is a concise summary of who you are and what makes you a good fit for the job
  • Use the cover letter format guide below to create a cover letter that works for you
  • Do make a note of what to avoid when writing a cover letter

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is simply a letter you send along with your resume when applying for a job. When you apply, the cover letter is your very first contact with your potential employer, and the very first impression of you, in the entire process of job application.

How does a cover letter help you land a job interview?

You might have written an impressive resume, but if you send it out without a cover letter to complement it, you might just end up in the hoard of other applicants. This is where a cover letter format proves to be useful. It helps you manage the flow of information and maintain coherence. You must always include a cover letter with your job application unless the job posting has specifically asked you not to send one. 

Still looking for reasons to include a cover letter? Here you go: Top Ten Reasons Why You Need a Cover Letter 

What are some cover letter format essentials?

So, here we have broken down a cover letter format into section-specific information.

1. Salutation

2. Introduction

3. Body

4. Conclusion

5. Signature

6. Text format

7. Length

8. File format

Now, let’s get into each section of the cover letter format in detail: 

1. Salutation of your cover letter – How you greet them is important 

Whether it is a face-to-face interaction, written or non-verbal communication, the way you greet your cover letter audience plays an important role in the exchange that would follow. ‘Dear HR’ or ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ is an option only when you do not have the name of your cover letter’s recipient. It is always better to address them with their name. 

2. Introduction of your cover letter – Tell them about yourself and your motive 

Now you enter the actual cover letter itself. Remember the reader is now looking to know who you are and why you are writing this letter. So, begin your cover letter with an introductory paragraph where you introduce yourself and tell them your purpose of writing the cover letter. Your cover letter could either be in response to a job posting, or simply looking for possible openings. 

3. Body of your cover letter – Where you sell your candidature 

Your cover letter’s second paragraph should talk about your suitability for the job role you seek. This is where you pitch yourself to the company, possibly aligning your ideals with the company’s. Since your resume would already mention any awards or recognitions you might have received, here is where you can talk about specific incidents or stories which compliment your achievements, and ultimately how this would make you a great addition to the prospective company.

Eliminate unnecessary information in your cover letter format with these tips: Avoid These 8 Common Cover Letter Mistakes When Applying via Email 

4. Conclusion of your cover letter – End by prompting them for a response

As you move onto your third and (ideally) last paragraph of the cover letter format, include your action statements here. Let them know your complete details are available in the resume you have attached with the email. Mention how you would be eagerly awaiting for a fast response, or that you are excitedly looking forward to a face-to-face interaction. 

5. Signature of your cover letter – Sign off on the right note

Just as your greeting, it is important to sign off from your cover letter on the right note. It should not come across as too informal nor should it seem like you are trying too hard. Some neutral examples you could use are:

  • Thanks and regards
  • Best regards
  • Sincerely
  • Respectfully
  • Thanking you 

6. Text format of your cover letter – Simple is readable 

Even if the contents of your cover letter format are perfect, something as simple as the font could change everything. The same message displayed in Comic Sans and Arial would receive very different reactions. Similarly, when writing formal letters, it is important to choose the right font style and size.

Some harmless cover letter font options are:

  • Helvetica,
  • Calibri
  • Verdana
  • Arial

Make sure the font size is between 10 and 12 points, as this bracket offers maximum legibility. 

7. Length of your cover letter – Keep it to the point

The purpose of a cover letter is to let the employer know about you and your motive in applying, thus, adding more value to your job application as opposed to just sending your resume. Having said that, remember that there are hundred others like you applying for the same post or other posts, which all have to be screened by the same recruiting team. Therefore, say as much as you can in as few words as possible.

Speaking of effective communication, here is a great read on the same: The Art of Superior Communication 

8. File format of your cover letter – Be compatible 

Most recruiters prefer a PDF format for resumes and cover letters. This is because PDF is unalterable and is recognised by all applicant tracking systems too. The next most preferred format is MS Word. You may also choose to write your cover letter in the body of the mail and send only your resume as an attachment. 

What should you avoid in your cover letter?

  • Poor grammar

Nothing reflects as badly on your candidature as a poorly written cover letter. If you are unsure about your grammar and syntax, seek help from someone you think is reliable. Run your cover letter as well as resume by them and make them error-free before sending them across.

  • Repeating your resume

Now, it is very easy to end up writing the same information as in your resume. Remember, your cover letter is where you talk about yourself and your accomplishments in brief, unlike the bullet points in your resume.

  • Mentioning other job applications

While employers know that you would be applying to multiple job openings, it is best not to mention them in your cover letter or anywhere else. 

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