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How to Format a Cover Letter - Outlines & Examples

Follow our professional cover letter formats outline samples to learn everything about font type, font size, margins and more.

Ho Lin Profile
By Ho Lin 3 minute read

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Cover letter formats

Cover Letter Formats Infographic

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Professional cover letter templates that help you find the right look

Our professional cover letter templates provide exactly the right layout for the cover letter you’re writing. With our professional templates, you don’t have to worry about following the correct cover letter formats or guidelines, as they’re already preformatted using industry standards.

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Cover letter format examples

Follow the cover letter formats of the samples below and spruce up a cover letter for your job application that perfectly matches your resume.

General cover letter example

Career change cover letter example

Letter of interest sample

Sample of networking cover letter

Reference request cover letter sample

Internship cover letter example

Military transition cover letter example

Recruiter contact cover letter sample

Returning to workforce cover letter example

How to format your cover letter

Using the correct cover letter format will ensure that your professional cover letter reads and looks great to a potential employer. Here you’ll find all the formatting tips and cover letter format examples you need to create an eye-catching letter.

The best way to make sure your cover letter is readable to recruiters and hiring managers is by using the appropriate cover letter formatting. Follow the guidelines below and create a perfect cover letter that hits the mark:

Page margins:

As our cover letter format examples show, the margins of your document should be one inch all the way around.

Font type:

A proper cover letter format uses professional fonts like Arial, Verdana or Georgia — they are also among the best resume fonts. Extravagant fonts, like Comic Sans, are unprofessional and can confuse the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that employers use to filter resumes and cover letters.

Font size:

Your cover letter should be written in 12-point size with the exception of the header, which can be 14- or 16-point size.

Paragraph spacing:

Follow the lead of our cover letter format samples and keep the layout single-spaced with a double space between paragraphs.


Your text should be left-justified. The only area that can be centered, depending on the cover letter template you choose, is the header.

File format:

Download your cover letter as a PDF or Word document unless the job description specifies a preferred format.

Showcase the best you with a cover letter

Your cover letter should draw attention to the best parts of your resume, while also providing more information about how you can fill the job’s requirements. Your resume will contain basic facts about your past work experiences, while a cover letter allows you to elaborate on your strengths.

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Cover letter formats and examples for any industry

Our cover letter examples are a great source of inspiration and a visual guide to understanding cover letter formats better. They make cover letter writing easier, especially if you don’t write very much.

Our examples will show you everything we’ve explained about cover letter formats, give you an idea of what you can write and also show you how to insert your own unique flair to really make your cover letter your own. At the end of the day, your personality will be what sells your skills and expertise to the hiring managers.

Follow the lead of ResumeHelp’s cover letter samples to make a perfect cover letter that’s ready for every job application.

FAQ: Cover letter formats

Have questions? We’re here to help.

Typically, your cover letter should only be a few paragraphs long filled with details your resume didn’t cover, arranged like this:

  • Your information, including contact information like a phone number
  • The recipient’s information
  • Salutation to the recipient
  • Explanation of why you’re interested in the position
  • A rundown of the skills and experience you have that are relevant to this position
  • A request for an interview and closing statement

Usually, people include their full name, address, email and phone number in the header and links to any job networking profiles, such as LinkedIn or a portfolio.

One of the best ways that a hiring manager can tell when a cover letter is “copied-and-pasted” is when the letter isn’t actually personalized to the job. Starting a letter with “To whom it may concern,” “Dear sir” or “Dear hiring manager” isn’t a good move, and using generated phrasing without proofreading creates an impersonal letter. You should make your cover letter unique for every single job application as the cover letter is what gives potential employers an idea of who you are. You need to tailor your cover letter to every workplace, every job and every hiring manager or you’ll find that the number of callbacks you get goes down dramatically.

However, personalizing a cover letter for every job you apply for doesn’t mean you need to start completely from scratch on each one. Start with a cover letter template and fill out the key points for each specific job. This will be your guideline for how to write the letter, making it much easier for you to adapt and update every time you need to create another cover letter.

A cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself and show off who you really are to your potential employer. While the resume lists all of your important skills and achievements, cover letters provide more detail about how you could benefit a company. Too many people don’t submit their resumes with a cover letter because they don’t feel like it’s really necessary. But in the current job market, a good cover letter can set you apart from the competition and get you a response from a potential employer.

This is true even if the job listing doesn’t state that you need a cover letter. Plus, it’s your opportunity to forge a connection with an employer and make a formal request for an interview. You should expect to write a cover letter, especially if you’re going through a career change, have employment gaps or don’t have a lot of work experience under your belt.

Yes! Cover letter samples are a great way to make your cover letter look better and be more effective in your given industry. A cover letter sample will typically either be from a professional writer who has experience in the field of writing cover letters or will be an actual cover letter that someone has used to get a job.

Remember, even the most simple cover letter samples aren’t just letters that you take and reuse wholesale, same with using a cover letter builder, you should use these tools as a guide for making your letter more professional while remaining personalized to your career needs.

There are very few situations where you may be able to utilize a cover letter that’s longer than a single page. Employers usually want a cover letter as a companion to your resume so it should be as easy to read and scannable as your other documents. Your hiring manager doesn’t want to read a significant amount of content, all they need is to get a good picture of your top talents and why they should choose you.

When crafting your letter you should work from a standard three-sectioned format, with a single opening paragraph introducing yourself and indicating why you’re writing to this particular company. Body paragraphs give information about your history and skills. Your closing paragraph should request an interview and express your excitement to work with the employer.

The best practice for writing a cover letter is understanding that your letter needs to reflect your best, most professional self. That means emphasizing skills and experiences that apply to the job and giving employers an understanding of why you’re interested in the position by using relevant metrics and giving narrative examples of real-world challenges you overcame.

If you’re looking for an easier way to write your cover letter, ResumeHelp has your back. Find out more about formatting your cover letter, look through our cover letter tips and utilize our variety of cover letter templates to get a feel for how to do so.

A strong, well-written cover letter is composed of these five key sections:

  • The header: This section contains your most recent contact information. Include your telephone number, professional email address and links to your LinkedIn profile, personal website or online portfolio, if applicable.
  • Professional greeting: Research to find the hiring manager or recruiter’s name and address your cover letter to that person. If it is not listed in the job ad, look at LinkedIn or the company website to identify the right person or department. Avoid generic greetings, such as “To Whom It May Concern.”
  • Opening paragraph: The opening paragraph of your letter should mention the name of the company and the job title to which you are applying. It should also briefly mention why you are interested in the role.
  • Body paragraph(s): The body of your cover letter is the longest section. Expand on the most relevant parts of your experience, skills or education in one or two paragraphs. If you have relevant work experience, use data and metrics in this section to show recruiters the impact your work has had and what you will bring to the table if hired.
  • Closing paragraph: Your closing paragraph should briefly summarize the contents of your letter and reiterate your enthusiasm for the role. In this section before the sign-off, you should have a compelling call to action that reiterates why you’re a good fit and invites the hiring manager to schedule an interview with you.

Much like a resume, a curriculum vitae or CV, provides an overview of your skills and work history. Unlike a resume or cover letter, a CV goes more in-depth with sections like publications and affiliations to give employers the full scope of your career history and not just a standard snapshot. In contrast, a cover letter has a narrative structure and is customized around the details in your resume and the company’s specific needs.

Most cover letters follow the same business formatting standards falling between 250 and 400 words, point size of 12, easy-to-read font and margins of about one inch all the way around. A standard CV is a minimum of two pages and a maximum of 10, with its use not being standardized in the US. Be sure to read the job description carefully to see if you need to submit a CV over a resume and what sections are required.

Your cover letter is formatted correctly if you have crafted it following the standard business letter formatting of readable font size, one-inch margins all the way around and one double-spaced page. Keep in mind that your resume and cover letter should work together without repeating information so make your fonts and margins the same in both documents.

Formatting and readability have become even more important now as employers want more background information to help them decide between qualified candidates. They use ATS software on resumes and cover letters to ensure that a candidate meets the qualifications of the job description.

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Ho Lin Profile

Ho Lin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and editor with two decades of experience in content strategy, creation, and development. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and his background includes experience aiding military veterans as they transition to civilian careers.

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