7 Essential Tips on How to Format a Cover Letter
When you come to writing one of the most important letters in your life, you may need a few ground rules to help you to get started with the format of your cover letter.
That blank page can look awfully daunting otherwise.
Here are some must-follow tips around the structure and content of your cover letter:
The header section of the cover letter should be attractive and space efficient. Graduates might be tempted to select a header design that reduces the amount of space that they need to fill for their cover letter, but you will have more to say than you think.
The header should contain all essential contact details (in addition to those on your resume) – full name, email, and mobile. You don’t have to include your full address and you definitely don’t have to include the “inside address” of your employer.
The intro of a recent grad or early career cover letter should be far more than a “this is what I want out of my career.” The hiring manager understands that you want the job – applicants need to prove to them that they are worthy of it. Make a compelling case.
The cover letter introduction should lead with your most relevant accomplishment for the role in question, with a hint of personality around how you achieved it. Avoid a generic cover letter that you send to everyone – you might not have much experience, but you should still strive to be as selective as possible.
Only relevant career stories with context
The length and content of your cover letter should be dictated by the amount of relevant experience that you have to share. Do not feel that you need to fill a page by parroting the responsibilities of the role or long lists of skills and personality traits without evidence.
Empty space is better than empty words – employers will value quality over quantity for the early career professional. What they want to understand in the cover letter is that you understand the demands of the role and can justify why you think you will do a good job.
Conclusion with call-to-action
End the conclusion of the early-career cover letter with a final detail about your personality and motivation and share your interest in learning more about the role. Saying that you hope to have the opportunity of an interview to learn more about the role is a powerful call-to-action which demonstrates your belief in yourself. Remember to keep the tone hopeful.
After the raw content come the syntax and visual choices:
Powerful action verbs
When you only have a certain number of sentences to create a favorable impression, your choice of verb can have a surprising impact on how your messages are received. Insightful action verbs can add a new level of meaning. Did you “manage” or “orchestrate” a project?
A word of warning: sprinkle action verbs and other buzzwords liberally. The cover letter should read like a conversation starter, so ensure that it sounds natural enough.
Impactful fonts, sensible sizes, and shot paragraphs
Increasingly the font size to take up more space on the page will fool no one. Stick with a standard 10 or 12 size and choose a suitable professional font that is easy to read.
Use short 2-4-line non-indented paragraphs and leave a line between each one. Give the reader a natural break between each of your career stories and consider using bullet points for your greatest accomplishments (the ones that you can ideally quantify with numbers). The cover letter should be strictly no more than one page – ideally aim for 3/4 of a page.
Right choice of template
Finally, very few cover letters or resumes are send as a blank word document these days. There are a wide choice of resume and cover letter templates – it is a great idea to use the same visual look for both your cover letter and resume. When a hiring manager is viewing a large number of candidates, this association will stick in their minds.
There is a subtle art to writing a persuasive cover letter when you do not have experience.
Strike a balance between outlining hopes for the future and sharing the greatest hits from your past. Your future employer will want to understand both.
If you are curious to explore further (you should be), the following article from Resume.io provides substantial further food for thought: “How to Format a Cover Letter in 2022: Examples and Tips”