How to Format a Cover Letter
The content of your cover letter proves your credentials for the position you're applying for, but the structure of the letter affects its readability. The way you format the information also allows you to highlight your most impressive qualifications, while showing that you understand how to construct this type of correspondence. Emailed cover letters follow the same general format as traditional, mailed cover letters, with a few minor differences.
The header contains contact information for you and the recipient, the date and the greeting. Start with your address aligned to the left and single spaced. If you email the cover letter, this information should go at the end below your name, according to Virginia Tech Career Services. Line one is your street address; line two has the city, state and zip code; line three is your phone number; and line four contains your email address. Double space and type the date. Double space again and type the name, title and address of the recipient. Look on the company's website or call the company to find the name of the hiring manager so you can list a specific person. Double space again and type the greeting, such as "Dear Dr. Thomas."
The body of the cover letter contains all of your qualifications. An easy-to-read format allows the hiring manager or recruiter to scan the information quickly. If you use long paragraphs or jumble the information together, he may skip your cover letter completely. Break the body into two or three paragraphs aligned to the left margin. Double space between the paragraphs, but do not indent the paragraphs. Format the body so the first paragraph is an introduction, where you express your interest in the position and company. The second paragraph usually covers your skills and education as they relate to the position. You can include a third paragraph with professional accomplishments that highlight your value to the company.
The closing portion of the cover letter layout includes a final paragraph to summarize the cover letter's contents. It should restate the position you are applying for and include any final thoughts on why you are a qualified candidate. Double space after the last paragraph in the body to start your closing paragraph. Double space again after the closing paragraph to put your closing, which is most commonly, "Sincerely," followed by your name. If you mail the cover letter, space three to four times to leave room for your signature. Type your name after the space. For an emailed cover letter, you can just type your name without the space, as you won't sign the letter.
Font and Layout
Cover letters are usually only one page long. That doesn't mean you should shrink the margins and pack the page from top to bottom with words. Balance the text with white space so the cover letter is visually appealing and easy to read. An overload of text overwhelms the eyes and may decrease the chances of your cover letter being read. Leave a 1 to 1.5 inch margin on the letter. A font between 10 and 12 points makes your cover letter easy to read. Stick with common fonts, such as Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri. Flowery or swirly fonts don't look professional and are more difficult to read. Matching font size and style between your cover letter and resume creates a polished, professional look.
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.