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Cover letter format

The perfect cover letter format, with a downloadable template

When applying for work, it is not enough to just have a great resume; you must also have an outstanding cover letter. You’ve only got one shot to score an interview, so you need to make it count. A few simple things to keep in mind can help you craft a truly impressive cover letter format.

Cover letter formats tend to be about 3-4 paragraphs long, but should never exceed a single page. However, a one-sentence cover letter is not going to convince anyone of anything. Catherine Carrigan, Career Advisor at Loyola University Chicago’s Career Development Center, says she’s seen students come in with one-sentence letters that can send employers the wrong message.

“It’s not focused, it’s clear you don’t know anything about the employer,” Carrigan says. “There’s nothing special about that job to you.”

Carrigan also suggests you address a specific person, rather than a generic “To Whom It May Concern” cover letter format. If the name of the person reviewing applicants is not listed, call the company office and try to find out, and don’t be discouraged if you still can’t get a name.“If you call Human Resources and they tell you to write ‘Dear Recruiter,’ that’s what you write,” she says. “That’s a heads-up that you were one of the people who tried to use the exact language they suggested.”

Your cover letter format ought to highlight why you are the person for the job, but should not be an autobiography. Monster.com Resume Expert Kim Isaacs says making it all about you is a common cover letter format mistake. Instead, highlight your experiences and skills within the framework of the goals and needs of the company and the parameters of the job position you are seeking. Research your prospective employer and convince the employers that you know what they need and that you can deliver.

The final part of your cover letter format should be a strong and assertive conclusion. Unless the listing specifically prohibits phone calls or e-mails, you can end by promising to follow up on your application in one or two weeks. Otherwise, invite the recruiter to contact you by providing your phone or e-mail address.

Don’t rush with your application; proofread everything, have another person take a glance, and let it sit overnight so you can look at it again with a fresh eye and make changes to the content and format of your cover letter. You want to make sure you have the best cover letter possible to increase your chances to score an interview.

“An error-free cover letter that also shows some focus beyond just the home page on the company’s website will stand out by that virtue alone,” Carrigan said. “It’s not about bells and whistles. It’s about focus, enthusiasm and showing that you’re ready to start the job and make an impact.”

Here’s a sample cover letter, reviewed by Carrigan. Follow this cover letter format, but make sure to include original content as applicable to your desired profession and company.


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