Advice / Job Search / Cover Letters

How to Format a Cover Letter That’ll Get You an Interview

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Do you ever feel like your resume couldn’t possibly tell the whole story of who you are and why a company should hire you? That’s because it doesn’t. But a strong, well-written, and correctly formatted cover letter helps fill in some of the gaps.

“Cover letters are worth the time,” says Muse coach Jennifer Smith. “They provide an opportunity to expand on key points from your resume, show off your personality, and solidify your interest.” Perhaps most importantly, “They show an employer you put the time and energy into applying.” And—luckily—they don’t need to be difficult to write.

Most cover letters have a similar format that make them much easier to write than you might think. And we’ve laid it out exactly—so you can get that application in already.

Read More: Cover Letters Are Hard to Write—But These Templates Make It a Breeze

How to format and organize your cover letter content

Here’s the format most hiring professionals that read your cover letter will be looking for:


Your heading goes at the top of the page and contains your contact info as well as some other basics that a hiring manager or recruiter might use to learn more about you once they’ve read your cover letter.

So this means:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • LinkedIn profile link (if you have one)
  • Pronouns (if you’re comfortable including them)
  • Personal website or portfolio link (optional)
  • Relevant and professional social media profiles (optional)

Nowadays it’s very uncommon, but if you’re asked to mail a paper cover letter, you would also include in your heading the company’s information:

  • Hiring manager’s name (or whomever the letter is addressed to)
  • Company name
  • Company street address
  • Company city, state, zip code

But you’d be more likely to send your cover letter in the body of an email than by snail mail if you’re not applying through an online system. In this case, your heading info would go after your name at the end.


Start your salutation with “Hello,” “Dear,” or “Hi” for more casual companies.

Then, you’ll usually address your cover letter to the hiring manager. Alternatively, Muse coach Leto Papadopoulos recommends job seekers “open the letter with ‘Dear Hiring Team’ because even if you can uncover the name of the hiring manager, they are usually not the first to read the cover letter,” she says, and “I like to acknowledge the recruiting team!”

You can also address your cover letter to the team you’d be joining or “[Position] Hiring Manager.” But you should never start your cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern.”

Read More: The 3 Rules of Addressing Your Cover Letter


Your introduction should be one paragraph long, include the name of the position you’re applying to, and express why you’re applying and what excites you about the opportunity. But most importantly, you want to grab your reader. You can even “kick off with a brief but attention-grabbing anecdote,” Smith says. “Show off your personality.”

Read More: 30 Genius Cover Letter Openers Recruiters Will LOVE

Body paragraphs

Write two to three body paragraphs that sell you as a candidate. “Show, don’t tell,” Smith says. “Craft a narrative about how your experience led you to apply for the job you want.” Instead of regurgitating your resume, look at the job description and pull out a few skills you specialize in that the company is looking for. Then, elaborate on them by bringing up examples of how you’ve used these skills to help your past employers (and by extension will give the reader a preview of how you’ll help them).


Wrap everything up with your conclusion paragraph. Reiterate your interest in the company and your most important qualifications. Then, “Close with a statement about contributing your skills and experiences to the success of the company in the position you’re applying for,” Smith says.


Use a professional sign-off like “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or “Thank you for your consideration,” then add your first and last name.

If you’re sending your cover letter in the body of an email, add any info you would’ve included in your heading below your name.

Example cover letter

Check out this cover letter example, which follows the above cover letter format:

Curtis Chen | 999-999-9999 | he/him | Baltimore, MD

Hello Arianna,

When I saw the posting for the UX designer position at CloudCo, I was immediately drawn to it because of your unique approach to online storage. CloudCo is the only player in the space right now that has promised to keep their personal storage tiers under $10—and instead pass on the cost to the larger clients. I’d love to bring my dual experience as a front-end engineer and a UX researcher to make your interface more intuitive and keep individual customers renewing their contracts.

For the last two years, I’ve worked as a UX researcher for OnlineOffice Inc, where I was part of the team that launched the updated office suite. During the development process, I interviewed more than 50 users of both OOI’s and competitors’ products. I was able to translate their desires into actionable suggestions for the design and product teams, contributing to a product launch that has already grown OOI’s user base by 120% in the first year. Through these experiences, I learned to use both qualitative and quantitative data to advocate for users and make decisions about the most important product features. As your UX designer, I’d apply this knowledge to help boost the user experience for your personal-tier products.

I also spent three years as a front-end developer on a product team at TeckyCompany. In this role, I learned what it’s like for those actually building products, including what kinds of features take the most time and work. As your UX designer, I’d use this experience to weigh design decisions and collaborate with the product team. I’m used to working at startups where, as much as you’d like to, you can’t get everything done at once, so I’ll be able to prioritize features that will help users most while still making reasonable asks of the product team.

Cloud Co’s business model has shown me that not every tech startup prioritizes its larger clients over the individual user. I’d love to bring my development and UX experience to your team to help provide the very best experience for your subscribers.

Curtis Chen

Read More: 4 Cover Letter Examples That’ll Make Writing Yours Way Easier

Tips for formatting your document like a pro

When you’re formatting your cover letter, you want to prioritize readability and professionalism. But you should also keep in mind that many cover letters submitted online will be uploaded to an applicant tracking system or ATS, which is software that employers use to organize and search candidate application materials. ATSs are very advanced but there’s some formatting they have trouble with.

Follow these guidelines to format your cover letter correctly for both human and computer readers:

  • Font: Stick to the default fonts that come with your word processor—classics like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Cambria, Calibri, and Georgia.
  • Font size: The ideal size will vary based on which font you choose, but keep it between 10 and 12 pt. Any smaller and you’ll have recruiters squinting at their screens. Any larger and they’ll be wondering if you’re trying to compensate for not having a lot to write about.
  • Margins: You can’t go wrong with the usual one-inch margins all around, but you can make some slight adjustments if needed. Papadopoulos suggests decreasing the header space first.
  • Alignment: All your text should be left aligned and there’s no need to indent every paragraph.
  • Line spacing: Single space your cover letter (1.15 spacing works if it looks too cramped). Include an extra line between each section and paragraph.
  • Length: “A cover letter should comfortably fit on one page,” Papadopoulos says. Your cover letter should be at least three paragraphs long, but generally no more than five—unless the job description says otherwise. If it’s too long, check out this guide for cutting your cover letter down.
  • File format: You can submit your cover letter within the body of an email or as a separate file. But if it’s a separate file you’re uploading to an online system, stick to docx or pdf only. ATs cannot reliably “read” other file types.
  • File name: Always include your name and the phrase “cover letter,” and you can also include the name of the position. Just make sure it’s easy to read and follow any instructions in the job posting.

Formatted cover letter example

Here’s how the above example looks in a properly formatted cover letter document.