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!
You show up for the interview.
It's for that dream job with the stratospheric pay, the flexy schedule, and full benefits.
You're wearing a Ratt t-shirt with ketchup on it and you haven't washed your hair since Michaelmas.
Think you'll get the job?
The wrong cover letter format can have a similar effect.
Your job application letter is a first impression. It must show your NASA-level chops right off the launchpad.
This guide will show you:
- How to format a cover letter so it looks professional.
- The best way to format a cover letter.
- 10 great cover letter format examples.
- How to learn the basics of formatting cover letters quick.
Below, you'll see a cover letter format. It's presented on a cover letter made with our fast online builder. Want to write your letter in 15 minutes? Use our cover letter templates and build your version here.
That cover letter format above will get your resume a careful read. Now let me show you how it works, and how to do it perfectly—
What's the Best Format for a Cover Letter?
The hiring manager – we'll call her Barbara. She just had a nightmare.
In it, you were working for her.
She had to hold your hand a lot. Explain things. Correct all your mistakes.
She has the wrong idea about you. Why?
Because of a sloppy cover letter format.
Your cover letter paints a picture. Make sure it's the right one.
There is no standard, formal, proper cover letter format. That said, the three paragraphs format is best. It's clean, professional, and lets you make an offer they can't refuse.
Cover Letter Format Example and Professional Letter Template
Use this properly-formatted cover letter template to create your own job magnet now.
4710 Oak Way
Omaha, NE 68102
Software Development Team Leader
3509 Hall Valley Drive
Omaha, NE 72662
[First Paragraph – A "Hook" and Why You Fit the Job]
[Second Paragraph – Your Offer]
[Third Paragraph – Call to Action]
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
There's your basic cover letter format. Follow it, and at the very least it won't look like Peter Griffin's hunting a new job.
Next, I'll show you what to put in that professional letter template to make it sizzle.
Pro Tip: Need tips for what to put on a cover letter? Want help with email cover letter formatting, with margins, or "To whom it may concern" letters? You'll find those lower in this article.
Need more salutations than, "Dear Ashley?" Want more on how to format a cover letter address? See our guide: How To Address A Cover Letter [Complete Guide With Examples]
How to Start a Cover Letter Right
Wink. Wink. Wink.
Wait. Did it just giggle at you?
There's nothing worse than trying to start a cover letter and failing. You've chewed your lip so many times you're contemplating putting duck sauce on it.
Once you're past the address and the greeting, what do you write next?
Well, think about the hiring manager.
She's read a lot of cover letters.
You need to shake her. Wake her.
In other words, your cover letter needs a hook.
Cover Letter Format Examples [The Hook]
I'm an enthusiastic digital marketing manager with seven years experience. I'm applying for the position of marketing manager at Avanix, Inc. I think I'd be a great addition to the team because...
Makes your eyes water, doesn't it? One look and the manager will realize she's got better things to do, like get her teeth scraped.
Two months ago, I hit a goal I never thought I'd reach. I pushed SEO traffic to 20 million monthly views.
Bam. The manager just sat bolt upright. She even stopped daydreaming about playing Angry Birds.
Don't have achievements of that magnitude?
Don't nibble off your fingernails just yet. Your hook can be almost anything, including:
- A big accomplishment you're proud of.
- A fact you love about the company.
- A recent award or news item the company was honored by.
- A powerful name to drop.
- An interesting fact that shows your passion, skill, or other great quality.
Pro Tip: Don't go for "zany" with your hook. Get attention with something great you did, even if it's just a glowing compliment from management.
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write your cover letter in our resume builder here. Here's what it may look like:
See more templates and create your resume and cover letter here.
Need more help with how to format a cover letter? Want more tips for how to hook the hiring manager? See this guide: How to Start a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [20+ Examples]
Does Your First Paragraph Make Employers Yawn?
Here's the smell test:
Imagine you're the hiring manager.
You desperately need to fill the job opening.
You've read 200 cover letters. You're bored stiff.
Then you see your cover letter. You read the first paragraph.
Be honest. Does it bore you?
Your first paragraph should tell your story in a way that shows you're perfect for the job.
Cover Letter Format Examples [First Paragraph]
I developed a roadmap for creative development and targeted several audiences through digital creative. I also collaborated with and led XD teams to develop creative ideas that drove business. I facilitated developing and refining strategies and...
What's wrong with that example of formatting a cover letter? It's too scattershot. The customer ordered steak, and you delivered burgers, veal marinara, pumpkin pie, and Fritos.
One year ago, traffic for our four sites -- all of which I manage through a team of 25 employees -- rested at just 4 million per month. Upper management challenged me to lead the team toward doubling our traffic. We hit that goal in just six months, blowing away our sales revenue forecasts in the process.
See that? The hiring manager's pulse just quickened.
Pro Tip: To personalize this cover letter format, pull the best achievement from your resume. Tell the story of it briefly in a way that sells your power.
Want to move past cover letter formatting? Need more cover letter help? See our guide: How To Write A Cover Letter [Complete Guide With Examples]
Here's What to Put in Your Second Paragraph
Meet two kids, Ted and Anne.
Ted is always asking you for something. Candy. Soda. A ride somewhere.
Anne helps out constantly. She does the dishes. Sweeps the floor.
Which one is more fun to have around?
Your professional letter needs to make an offer.
That happens in the second paragraph of your perfect cover letter format.
Cover Letter Format Examples [Paragraph #2]
Check out these two cover letter formatting examples:
In my last job, I used insights from creative experiments to identify and inform opportunities that improved performance. I worked directly with our Analytics partners to drive understanding of performance. I also...
Like a homework assignment, right? The hiring manager has to read it, but what's in it for her?
With over seven years experience in internet and social media marketing, and as someone who is passionate about staying on the leading edge of tech, I'm confident I can repeat the growth I created for Ladd & Leadbetter as your new Marketing Manager.
Now that's more like it. That example fills our cover letter format with goodies the manager actually needs.
Pro Tip: Not sure what to offer in your cover letter? Search the job description. Zero in on the most important thing it calls for. Offer to deliver that.
Figured out how to format a cover letter? Just need to wrap it up? See this guide: How To End A Cover Letter [Complete Guide With Examples]
How to Spice Up Your Format with Bullet Points
There's mustard on your cover letter.
It's there because it's in the trash.
You fit the job like Isotoners, but the manager doesn't know it.
You buried the one thing that would've wowed her in a word pile and she missed it.
Bullet points add zing to your accomplishments.
They draw the eye, and slow the reader down. If you use them, add them to your second paragraph, like this:
- Skyrocketed Inbound Marketing ROI by 43%.
- Reduced Cost Per Lead by 35%.
- Boosted Landing Page Conversion Rates by 55%.
Those bullet points stand out like neon on a darkened street.
Compare them to this alternate cover letter formatting choice:
I developed processes and procedures to ensure ROI growth for Inbound Marketing, growing ROI by 43%. I also worked to drive down Cost Per Lead through innovative idea generation and implementation, ultimately achieving a 35% cost decrease. I also drove internal and XD team creative processes to increase Landing Page Conversion Rates by 55%.
Now your great accomplishments are camouflaged like in that movie Predator. The hiring manager might stroll right past and never notice them.
Pro Tip: Some "experts" say to format your entire cover letter with bullet points. That's lazy. It looks like a sloppy resume.
Want more great cover letter tips and ideas? Want to know how to set up a letter? See this guide: Cover Letter - Guide, Tips and Free Examples. Read More!
Should You Use a Table Format?
One risky cover letter formatting choice can pay off big.
It uses tables.
A table in a cover letter can cut straight to the important things.
Someone who can grow SEO Traffic
Pushed SEO traffic from 4 million to 20 million in one year.
Someone who can grow Marketing ROI.
Grew Inbound Marketing ROI by 43%.
Someone who can increase Landing Page Conversion Rates.
Boosted Landing Page Conversion Rates by 55%.
Here are three big reasons why the table cover letter format works:
First, it shows you know exactly what the manager is looking for. You understand the needs. That's huge.
Second, it shows you've got the goods to make it work.
Third, it shows this information fast.
Here's one big, hairy reason why the table format can fail:
Some managers absolutely hate it.
So, should you use table formatting for a cover letter? Some job seekers swear by it. If you're interested, try testing it first with a few job offers your entire future isn't riding on.
Pro Tip: You can use your table just like bullet points. Put it after the second paragraph in your cover letter format. We don't sanction the "entire cover letter is a table" format.
Do you even need a cover letter? See this guide: Is a Cover Letter Necessary For a Resume in 2018?
How to Format a Cover Letter CTA
You wrote a great cover letter.
It's got a great format, hook, and first two paragraphs.
The recruiter loved it. Then she clicked delete.
You failed to ask for a next step.
Here's how to format the third paragraph of your cover letter so it gets the interview.
It's called the Call to Action (CTA).
First, reiterate your offer very briefly.
Then, in the same paragraph, ask for the interview.
How to Format a Cover Letter Examples [The CTA]
I would love to talk further with you about your needs.
Hmm. What's in that for the manager?
I'm adept at reading Google and user search intent, then translating that to measurable returns. Can we schedule a call to discuss ideas for growing your revenue by 25% in 2018?
Wow, right? You went from irritating telemarketer to someone bearing tantalizing gifts. The hiring manager just cleaned her glasses for a good look at your resume.
Pro Tip: The best call to action for your cover letter format should be something you can actually deliver. Pie in the sky smells fishy.
Not sure what to offer in your Call to Action? See this guide: How to Answer the "What Are Your Strengths?” Interview Question (Examples)
How to End Your Cover Letter
Don't leave the manager hanging.
The last part of how to format a cover letter is the ending.
Close with a thank you, a space, and then your name.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Do you have to say, "Thank you for your time?"
Absolutely not. There are a dozen ways to close a cover letter. Choose from:
- Best regards,
- Thank you for your time,
- Kind regards,
Have some other great cover letter endings? Tell us in the comments section.
Pro Tip: Steer clear of Cheers, Affectionately, and Take it Easy. Th ey're all a little too familiar. Likewise F ondly, Yours Faithfully, a nd Warmest Regards.
Need more help with selling yourself in a cover letter? See this guide: Why Should We Hire You? Best Answers (6 Proven Examples)
Cover Letter Formatting Tips
You were this close.
You almost got the interview.
Your cover letter had a great hook. Perfect three paragraphs format. Excellent sales pitch.
The trouble? On a grammar level, it looked like finely polished mud.
Make sure not to blow it on the small details. Follow these basic cover letter guidelines:
Match to Win
Match your cover letter format to your resume. They should both look similar. Go with the same margin width and general feel on your resume and cover letter.
Look at this cover letter vs. resume pairing:
What if You Don't Know the Manager's Name?
Can't write "Dear Alice" because you don't know the recruiter's name? Use these:
- Dear Software Team Hiring Manager,
- Dear Project Manager Hiring Team,
- Customer Service Search Committee,
- Computer Science Recruitment Team,
"Team Hiring Manager," "Hiring Team," "Search Committee" and "Recruitment Team" all keep it generic, but not too generic.
Grammar Level Cover Letter Formatting Tips
Need the nitty gritty details for how to format a cover letter? Here they are:
Best Font for a Cover Letter. Choose a 10-12 point professional font like Arial, Times New Roman, Cambria, or Calibri. Read What is the Best Font for a Resume (+10 Examples & Tips) to find out more.
Cover Letter Spacing. Single-space your cover letter format for a job application. Leave a line space after each paragraph, and between each different section.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? A cover letter shouldn't be more than 200 words long to deliver a great sales pitch. If it's longer, it lacks focus.
Proofreading. Use a spell checker on your cover letter. Nothing says, "I'm not detail-oriented" like simple grammar errors. Let it sit for a day, then be like Santa. Check it twice. You can even have a friend give it the eyeball test.
Formatting an Email Cover Letter
Most modern cover letters are digital. The email cover letter format is the same as paper formatting with one big difference.
Leave the address section off the top, and add your contact info to the bottom.
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- LinkedIn Profile
- Personal Website (If You Have One)
Dear Software Team Hiring Manager,
[First Paragraph – Hook and Why You Fit the Job]
[Second Paragraph – Your Offer]
[Third Paragraph – Call to Action]
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Pro Tip: Use your PDF cover letter text in the email message body too. Recruiters will immediately know why you’re contacting them. Plus, they'll find you a lot easier if they search their email later.
Need to know the best cover letter format for an internship? See this guide: How To Write A Cover Letter for an Internship [Complete Guide With Examples]
Knowing how to format a cover letter is crucial to create a good first impression. Follow these cover letter best practices for maximum effect:
Start with a hook. The best cover letter format in the world will fail if no one reads it.
In your first two paragraphs, show why you fit the job and what you're offering. Everyone's more welcome when they bring something to trade.
Make your CTA stand out like a firework by making it specific. "Can we set up a call to discuss how we can improve your [Key Company Metric] by [XYZ]%?" works great.
Don’t use copy and paste cover letter templates. Recruiters can tell you didn’t customize your application.
Want to know more about how to format a cover letter? Maybe you found the best way to format a cover letter? Give us a shout in the comments! We love to help!