A well-structured cover letter is important
A solid cover letter can make or break a job application. It’s what helps a hiring manager understand how the work experience, skills, and personal traits on your resume make you a good fit for the job. In this article, you’ll learn the ins and outs of devising a professional cover letter structure that highlights your strengths and makes you stand out.
First of all, consider the formatting and layout
Although not many cover letter or resume articles online make reference to this fact, the formatting and layout of your cover letter are crucial for a polished appearance. Make it a point to choose professional cover letter examples or designs that are appropriate for the role you’re pursuing.
Additionally, make sure your cover letter structure looks streamlined when saved as a PDF (or whatever file type a potential employer requests). Try emailing the file to yourself before you submit it to the hiring manager so that you know it will look great when the hiring manager opens the file.
If you’re submitting physical copies of your job application materials, use a business letter format. Follow the correct cover letter structure, with the sender and recipient name and information at the top, and don’t forget to use the correct margins (two inches at the top and bottom and one inch on both sides).
What are the key elements of a cover letter?
There’s certainly room for personality and creativity in your cover letter. However, when it comes to your cover letter format, sticking with the standard is key to helping you present a professional image.
Here are the seven crucial cover letter sections you need to craft an application that conveys poise and professionalism.
Unlike your resume, your cover letter should include two headers.
The first header is all about you. It should contain your name and contact details, including your phone number, email address, and general location. The second should list the company’s contact information, including its full name and address.
Don’t forget to note the date you wrote the letter or submitted the application directly below the business’s contact information.
The salutation (also known as the greeting) is a single line that should simply read, “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Hiring Manager’s Name].”
It’s important to avoid using a generic greeting when possible. Instead, search professional networking or social media websites for the hiring manager's name. If you can’t find it, try calling the company to ask.
Your introductory paragraph is one of the most important cover letter sections because it draws the reader in and makes them want to keep reading.
Start the paragraph by stating which job you’re applying for and where you found out about it, as this sets the reader’s expectations for the rest of the letter. Then, express your excitement about applying for the job.
This is your chance to help the reader connect with you as a candidate. You can detail why you love the company, mention a mutual or personal connection, congratulate the business on a recent accomplishment, describe an accomplishment of yours, or even explain why you’re passionate about the industry.
The body paragraphs highlight your work experience, skills, and accomplishments. Start the second paragraph by discussing your responsibilities in your current role. If it’s not immediately clear, tell the reader how they connect to the role you’re applying for.
In subsequent body paragraphs, you can outline your skills, accomplishments, and personal traits. Make sure you write about these things with a sense of passion. Also, connect them back to the job description by showing the hiring manager how you fit their needs and preferences.
As you close out your cover letter, don’t forget to show professional courtesy. You can do so by thanking the hiring manager for their time and for considering you for the position.
In the next few sentences, you’ll also want to put your sense of assertiveness and tenacity on display by directly asking for an interview or follow-up meeting.
You can do this by saying something like, “I would love to set up a meeting or an interview to discuss how my qualifications and experience can help your company reach its strategic goals.”
Just like your opening greeting, the closing salutation is very straightforward. Choose a professional sign-off, such as “best,” “sincerely,” “respectfully yours,” “kind regards,” or “with sincere thanks.” Then, place your full name on the next line, with at least one space in between.
Regardless of how you submit your application, it’s always a good idea to include a line highlighting any additional enclosures you have in your application package. This lets the hiring manager know to be on the lookout for additional items to review.
Your enclosures may include your resume, portfolio of past work, or even special documentation that the company has asked you to include, such as a copy of your professional license.
To indicate your enclosures, all you have to do is put a line at the end of your cover letter that reads: “Attachments: Resume and portfolio enclosed.” Don’t include anything in your application that isn’t relevant to the position.
Keep your cover letter to one well-formatted page, as this shows the hiring manager that you respect their time. A letter that’s too short may signal a lack of effort or enthusiasm, while one that’s too long might lack clarity and focus.
Key tips and advice in creating a structured cover letter
One of the most important cover letter tips you’ll read is to always customize your letter for each role you apply for. Doing so tells the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the industry and the company and allows you to highlight specific parts of your background and accomplishments that make you the best fit for the job.
In addition to tailoring each cover letter for a specific role, you should also modify the layout.
For example, if you’re applying for a job in the arts, adding a splash of color to the top of the page can make your cover letter more eye-catching. You might also consider adding your personal information to a sidebar. If you add stylized cover letter elements, double-check that they match the resume template you used.
It will also be helpful to quantify as many cover letter elements as possible.
Having numbers in your cover letter catches the attention of the person reading it and makes them want to know more. It also helps hiring managers understand the impact you’ve made in your previous roles and leads them to believe you can do the same for them.
“A solid cover letter can make or break a job application. It’s what helps a hiring manager understand how the work experience, skills, and personal traits on your resume make you a good fit for the job.”
Make a good first impression with a professional cover letter structure
While it’s important to think about the words in your cover letter, having a streamlined cover letter structure is of equal importance.
Use a standard cover letter format, starting with your personal details and the business address in the header, followed by a personalized salutation with the hiring manager’s name and an introductory paragraph that conveys your enthusiasm about applying.
As you write about your work experience and skills in the body paragraphs, employ a standard business letter format with correct margins, spacing, and left justification. If you’ve used any online resume examples, your cover letter should display the same style.
If you’re unsure where to begin, resume and cover letter templates can be a big help. They’ll ensure not only that your job application materials look professional but that they’re well-structured and convey key information in a way that helps you stand out in the selection process.