When writing a cover letter (as you should do each time you submit a resume as part of a job application), the layout of your letter is very important. Layout refers to the way the words are set up on the page, including headings, spacing, and font. You want to use a layout that makes your letter both easy to read and professional.
Read below for advice about how to lay out your letter, as well as a template for a cover letter.
Cover Letter Layout Tips
When laying out a cover letter, you want to follow the layout of a typical business letter.
A business letter begins with your contact information, and then the employer’s contact information.
It's important to properly space the layout of the cover letters you send, with space between the heading, the greeting, each paragraph, the closing, and your signature. Single space your letter and leave a space between each paragraph. Also, remember to left-justify your entire letter.
When selecting a font, use a simple font like Arial, Verdana, Courier New, or Times New Roman. Your font size should be no smaller than 10-pt. but no larger than 12-pt. In choosing your font size, 12 pt. is probably the best – you don’t want to irritate a hiring manager by making him or her have to squint to read your font.
How to Use a Cover Letter Template
The cover letter template below shows the layout for a typical cover letter.
Use the template to structure your own cover letter. It will give you advice on how to space your letter, what font to use, and how to justify your page.
The template also briefly describes what kind of content should go in each paragraph. Use this information to help you begin writing your own letter, tailored to reflect your own career history, professional qualifications, hard and soft skills, and your knowledge about the job and employer to which you are applying.
You can also review examples of cover letters for advice on how to word your cover letter.
When using a format or a sample letter, remember to be flexible. You can add or remove paragraphs to fit the needs of the particular job description. Also, keep in mind that your best strategy is to write a customized cover letter for each job to which you are applying. Hiring managers can tell when they’ve been sent a generic cover letter; they are more likely to be interested in candidates who have taken the time to write unique letters that specifically address the job opening they are offering.
Cover Letter Template with Layout
The first section of your cover letter should include information on how the employer can contact you.
If you have contact information for the employer, include that. Otherwise, just list your information.
This section should be single-spaced and left-justified, with a space between your contact information and your employer’s contact information.
Your Contact Information
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
Employer Contact Information
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Each of your body paragraphs should be single-spaced, with a space between each paragraph. The first paragraph of your cover letter should include information on the position you are applying for, including the job title. You should state how you heard about the job, and (briefly) explain why you think you are an ideal candidate for the position.
(space between paragraphs)
The next section of your cover letter should describe what you have to offer the employer. Mention why you are qualified for the job and how your skills and experience are a match for the position for which you are applying. Provide specific examples to prove your skills and experience; these examples will “pop” on the page if you provide them in a bulleted format.
(space between paragraphs)
Conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow up with them regarding the status of your application.
Handwritten Signature (for a mailed letter)
More on Writing Cover Letters:
How to Write a Successful Cover Letter
What to Include in a Cover Letter
Sample Cover Letters
Writing Cover Letters
What is a cover letter?
To be considered for almost any position, you will need to write a letter of application. Such a letter introduces you, explains your purpose for writing, highlights a few of your experiences or skills, and requests an opportunity to meet personally with the potential employer.
Precisely because this letter is your introduction to an employer and because first impressions count, you should take great care to write an impressive and effective letter. Remember that the letter not only tells of your accomplishments but also reveals how effectively you can communicate.
The appropriate content, format, and tone for application letters vary according to the position and the personality of the applicant. Thus you will want to ask several people (if possible) who have had experience in obtaining jobs or in hiring in your field to critique a draft of your letter and to offer suggestions for revision.
Despite the differences in what constitutes a good application letter, the suggestions on these pages apply generally.
What to include in a cover letter
Try to limit your letter to a single page. Be succinct.
Assess the employer's needs and your skills. Then try to match them in the letter in a way that will appeal to the employer's self-interest.
As much as possible, tailor your letter to each job opportunity. Demonstrate, if possible, some knowledge of the organization to which you are applying.
Write in a style that is mature but clear; avoid long and intricate sentences and paragraphs; avoid jargon. Use action verbs and the active voice; convey confidence, optimism, and enthusiasm coupled with respect and professionalism.
Show some personality, but avoid hard-sell, gimmicky, or unorthodox letters. Start fast; attract interest immediately. For more information see Business Letter Format.
Arrange the points in a logical sequence; organize each paragraph around a main point.
How to organize a cover letter
Below is one possible way to arrange the content of your cover letter.
State why you are writing.
Establish a point of contact (advertisement in a specific place for a specific position; a particular person's suggestion that you write): give some brief idea of who you are (a Senior engineering student at UW; a recent Ph.D. in History).
Highlight a few of the most salient points from your enclosed resume.
Arouse your reader's curiosity by mentioning points that are likely to be important for the position you are seeking.
Show how your education and experience suit the requirements of the position, and, by elaborating on a few points from your resume, explain what you could contribute to the organization.
(Your letter should complement, not restate, your resume.)
Stress action. Politely request an interview at the employer's convenience.
Indicate what supplementary material is being sent under separate cover and offer to provide additional information (a portfolio, a writing sample, a sample publication, a dossier, an audition tape), and explain how it can be obtained.
Thank the reader for his/her consideration and indicate that you are looking forward to hearing from him/her.
Questions to guide your writing
Who is my audience?
What is my objective?
What are the objectives and needs of my audience?
How can I best express my objective in relationship to my audience's objectives and needs?
What specific benefits can I offer to my audience and how can I best express them?
What opening sentence and paragraph will grab the attention of my audience in a positive manner and invite them to read further?
How can I maintain and heighten the interest and desire of the reader throughout the letter?
What evidence can I present of my value to my audience?
If a resume is enclosed with the letter, how can I best make the letter advertise the resume?
What closing sentence or paragraph will best assure the reader of my capabilities and persuade him or her to contact me for further information?
Is the letter my best professional effort?
Have I spent sufficient time drafting, revising, and proofreading the letter?
*From Ronald L. Kraunich, William J. Bauis. High Impact Resumes & Letters. Virginia Beach, VA: Impact Publications, 1982.
How to format a cover letter
Type each letter individually, or use a word processor.
Use good quality bond paper.
Whenever possible, address each employer by name and title.
Each letter should be grammatically correct, properly punctuated, and perfectly spelled. It also should be immaculately clean and free of errors. Proofread carefully!
Use conventional business correspondence form. If you are not certain of how to do this, ask for help at the Writing Center.
For further information on cover letters contact the Career Advising and Planning Services and take a look at our workshp on Writing Resumes and Cover Letters (NB: this course not offered during the summer).