When you apply for a job, employers may ask for a cover letter. A cover letter provides detailed information on why you're qualified for the role you're applying for. That is why it's important to format it properly. Even when you're applying via email or an online portal, your cover letter needs to be well-formatted, well-written and easy to read. In this article, we discuss how to format a cover letter and provide a template and an example to help you get started.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter, also known as an application letter, is a one-page document that states why you're a great fit for the job you are applying for. Recruiters and hiring managers use cover letters to screen job candidates and shortlist them. If an employer requires a cover letter, it will be stated in the job posting. However, it is usually best to include a cover letter any time you send your CV to an employer.
How to write a cover letter
A convincing cover letter can help impress hiring managers. Here are the steps to write a great cover letter for a job application:
- Include a proper heading
- Write a salutation
- Write a compelling introduction
- Write the body paragraphs
- Include a strong closing paragraph
- Use a professional closing phrase and add your signature
- Use appropriate font style and size
- Format the spacing properly
- Format the margins properly
- Follow the recommended length limit
1. Include a proper heading
As a formal letter, your cover letter should include a formal heading. Begin with your own contact information, and include:
- Your full name
- Your address
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- A link to your online profile
After writing your contact information, write the date followed by the contact information of the company or your recipient. Make sure there's a space between the date and the recipient's name.
Here's a good example of a cover letter heading:
21 Spring St.
Hougang, Singapore 12000
March 30, 2020
ABC Technologies, Inc.
56 Valley Road
Yishun, Singapore 12000
2. Write a salutation
Begin your cover letter with a personable and polite salutation. Make sure to address it to the company's hiring manager. If the job description doesn't list the name of the hiring manager, use a generic greeting like 'Dear Hiring Manager'. If you would like to make it more personal, customise your greeting to the department you are applying to, such as 'Dear Accounting Department'.
3. Write a compelling introduction
To make the first paragraph of your cover letter compelling, take note of these tips:
- Capture the attention of the recipient or hiring manager.
- Provide a self-introduction.
- Mention the position you are applying for.
- Discuss where you read the job posting.
- Provide a brief explanation about why you are the best candidate for the job.
Show your personality and express your enthusiasm for the role and company. Here's an example of a cover letter introduction:
Please accept my enclosed application for the role of a teacher at Hougang Science High School. I found your job posting on Indeed and am pleased to say that my four years of teaching experience matches your school's needs perfectly.
4. Write the body paragraphs
Middle paragraphs provide you an opportunity to promote yourself based on the employer's qualifications. Review the experience, skills and qualifications stated in the job posting, and explain how you fit in or exceed those parameters. Research to determine the company's position in the market, the current state of the industry and its future plans, if possible. Then, create a paragraph that explains how you can help the company achieve its goals.
Here's an example middle paragraph:
I noticed in your job posting that you are seeking a candidate who will require minimal supervision and training. After working as a dental assistant for five years, I can guarantee that I am completely familiar with the routines associated with performing dental work, record keeping, patient care, handling insurance, billing, scheduling and even performing inventory maintenance.
5. Include a strong closing paragraph
To end your cover letter effectively, reiterate your interest in the position and thank the employer for their time. For example:
I would love to have an opportunity to join Stars Company. I am looking forward to having a more in-depth discussion with you at any time that's convenient for you about how I can join the company and help achieve its goals. I am available by email or phone. Thank you for your time and consideration.
6. Use a professional closing phrase and add your signature
It's important to close your cover letter in a professional manner. Here's a list of letter closing examples that are suitable for cover letters:
- Respectfully yours
- Sincerely yours
- Most sincerely
- Kind regards
- Best regards
- With best regards
After the closing phrase, include several lines of space before your signature.
7. Use appropriate font style and size
Use a font that is clean, professional and readable. The most common professional fonts are Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri.
When it comes to font size, you have three options: 10 point, 11 point or 12 point. It's important that your cover letter fits on one page, so choose a 10-point or 11-point font if it is spilling onto a second page. If you notice that your cover letter has plenty of spaces, choose a 12-point font. To make your cover letter easy to read, make sure that the font size is not too small.
8. Format the spacing properly
Here are some guidelines on the proper spacing of a cover letter:
- Add space between your address and the date.
- Separate the heading and salutation with space.
- Add a single-line space between your paragraphs.
- Add a space between your final paragraph and closing statement.
9. Format the margins properly
The ideal margin size for a cover letter is 1 inch all around. Set the right and left margins at 1 inch and the top and bottom margins at 1 inch as well. This makes your cover letter look clean and uncluttered. It also provides lots of white space, which helps increase readability.
If your cover letter has more text than fits on one page, you can reduce the size of your margins rather than writing a two-page cover letter. Keep the size of the margins consistent to make your cover letter look balanced on the page.
If the content of your cover letter is short, you can increase your margins. This makes your letter look balanced on the page without plenty of white spaces. In that case, try 1.5 inches for each of the margins.
10. Follow the recommended length limit
The recommended length of a cover letter is between half a page to one full page. Limit your cover letter length to four paragraphs, opening each with a concise topic sentence and closing with a compelling final thought. Also, keep the word count of your cover letter between 250 and 400 words.
Sometimes, employers may indicate specific directions for your cover letter in the job description. They may provide you with a word limit or give writing questions for you to answer. Follow any instructions they provide, including length or word count directions.
Cover letter format example
Here's an example of a cover letter that you can use for inspiration:
21 Spring St.
Hougang, Singapore 12000
March 21, 2020
Ngorong Elementary School
56 Valley Road
Yishun, Singapore 12000
Dear Ms. Lim,
As a passionate early education teacher with over six years of experience teaching fourth and fifth-grade students, I was excited to see your opening for an elementary teaching position. I love the modern teaching strategies you implemented at Ngorong Elementary School and I believe that my expertise in context-based teaching may contribute to your school.
In my previous position, I developed a course of weekly extra lessons that took place in museums and other scientific and cultural institutions. During the classes, children had an opportunity to talk to journalists, artists and scientists.
At Shinhwa Elementary School, I developed comprehensive lesson plans that incorporated various curriculum elements and combined several technological novelties. I know that what your school values the most is a modern approach, versatility and teaching based on real-life examples. I used all these ideas when preparing children for class examinations—which resulted in a 50% improvement in test scores within six months.
What I also love about teaching children is that you can support their natural development every day. It would be my pleasure and honour to use my knowledge about positive reinforcement strategies to create a conducive and encouraging learning environment and help students achieve learning goals at their own pace. It would be my pleasure to come in for an interview at any time that is convenient for you. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I look forward to hearing from you.