Understanding the Professional Cover Letter Format

Writing a cover letter requires a lot of thought, and it’s easy to lose direction during the process. This article contains and explains the professional cover letter format. 

But before we delve into the main point, we need to understand the essence and importance of the cover letter we’re trying to write.

Let’s begin.

An anonymous person typing a document on a laptop.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

What Are Cover Letters?

Cover letters are single-page documents that summarize an applicant’s educational background and professional experience. It also allows job applicants to give information on why they qualify for a particular role.

Applicants usually send cover letters with their resume or curriculum vitae in a job application.

Cover Letter Vs. Resume

While both these documents may seem like they serve the same function, a few differences keep them from being interchangeable. They are documents that complement one another. Here’s how they differ.

Function

First and foremost, resumes summarize your work history and credentials. They outline your educational background and achievements relevant to the job you’re applying for. Simply put, resumes give hiring managers facts pertinent to your professional life.

On the other hand, cover letters attempt to sell skills and qualifications to a potential employer. Cover letters express how your professional background allows you to fill the role you are applying for. They explain why hiring managers should hire a particular applicant over others.

Format

Resumes contain different sections that show an overview of those aspects. These parts present information in bulleted lists to aid hiring managers in skimming the information. Resumes provide facts in bullet lists for the sake of brevity. Depending on the role, hiring managers may evaluate hundreds of resumes during the shortlisting process.

In contrast, cover letters contain three to four paragraphs. These sections are:

  • Opening
  • Body
  • Closing

Cover letters are similar to traditional letters. This allows applicants to add a bit of personality to their application. Cover letters also reveal a person’s ability to write and express their ideas clearly. They provide hiring managers insight into an applicant’s speech, ideation, and expression.

Tone

Resumes use a formal tone and refer to the applicant in the third person. For example:

Typical sentence: “I managed a team of 30 people for a construction project.”

Resume tone: “- Managed a team of 30 people for a construction project.”

In contrast, a cover letter allows for a casual, personal tone. It reads and writes like a first-person narrative. Therefore, most sources recommend using “I” in your cover letter.

To summarize:

A resume is objective, and it focuses on stating facts. A cover letter is subjective, and it focuses on presenting facts in a convincing manner.

How Does a Cover Letter Affect Your Application?

A cover letter can transform your resume from a boring page to a memorable piece of work. By putting together a few sentences and attaching them to a resume, your cover letter can make your application stand out. The cover letter functions as an introduction and a means of communication. 

A professionally drafted cover letter is concise, response-focused, and provides an excellent overview of your qualifications.

Cover letters are an opportunity to influence a recruiter’s impression of you and allow you to stand out from your competitors. 

Cover letters don’t always have to be part of an application. However, skipping a cover letter means you forego a chance to add personality and passion to your credentials. You’d usually be better off by including one in your application as a way for recruiters to know you better. 

A cover letter that impresses a recruiter will draw attention to the other credentials it comes with.

Professional Cover Letter Format

A professional cover letter includes these parts:

Date and Contact Information

A digital cover letter should include:

  • Current date
  • Your name
  • City, State
  • Phone Number
  • Email address

This section gives hiring managers multiple ways to reach you. Make sure you include working email addresses and phone numbers. 

Greeting or Salutation

A salutation marks the start of your cover letter. Avoid using dated greetings such as “Dear Mr/Ms.” and “To whom it may concern.”

Instead, use the hiring manager’s first and last name. You can find the hiring manager’s name on the LinkedIn job description. If you’re unable to find a name, you can say “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Opening Paragraph

Your opening paragraph should capture the attention of your reader. Use this paragraph to introduce yourself and express your enthusiasm for the job and company. Use keywords from the job description and match your skills with the employer’s job requirements for the best results. 

Middle Paragraphs or Body

Describe your latest relevant experience in this paragraph. Highlight the credentials and skills that make you perfect for the role. Use this paragraph to show the hiring manager how your skills, experience, and background make you an ideal match for the role.

Closing Paragraph

The closing paragraph should thank the hiring manager for their time. You can also use this paragraph to explain details from your resume. 

For example, if you have an employment gap from studying for the LSAT, mention it here. You can also summarize your skills and express an interest in moving to the next stage.

Complimentary Sign-Off

Cover letter sign-offs need to be formal but friendly. Here are some examples you might want to try:

  • Respectfully
  • Thank you
  • Sincerely
  • Best
  • Regards
  • Thank you for your consideration

The Bottom Line

Cover letters are essential to any aspirant. They are an opportunity to impress potential employers and help hiring managers determine your suitability for the role. A well-written cover letter can get recruiters to notice you among hundreds of candidates.

Writing the perfect cover letter can be challenging. Remember these tips, so you have a guide to help you write better cover letters.

You can also use a cover letter template as your basis for writing your cover letter. There are many templates available online. Just remember to customize your cover letter to match your application.

We hope this simple guide helps you land your next job. Good luck!

Frequently asked questions

What are the 6 parts of a cover letter?

  • Name, title, employer, and address of the contact person.
  • Second Middle Paragraph
  • Contact information and closing.
  • Date
  • Middle Paragraph
  • Opening Paragraph
  • Salutation
  • Information about you

What are the 9 parts of a cover letter?

  • A formal letter greeting (known as a salutation).
  • Include achievements throughout your cover letter.
  • This is proof that you’ve done your research.
  • An excellent cover letter.
  • Contact information for the hiring manager.
  • Name, address, and contact information.
  • What makes you a good fit.

What is the most important component in your cover letter?

Cover letters or emails are the most important part of a cover letter or email message. A cover letter includes paragraphs where you describe why you are interested in and qualified for the posted job: Why you are writing.

What are the 4 elements of a cover letter?

  • Provide a cover letter introduction.
  • Closing statement for a cover letter.
  • Body paragraphs (usually 2) describe why you’re ideal for the company.
  • your contact information

What do employers look for in a cover letter?

Recruiters recommend you write a succinct cover letter with a description of your achievements and the role. An employer ought to know that your skills and work experience are important. Show real enthusiasm for the role.

What are the 7 parts of a cover letter?

  • Signature
  • Greeting
  • Introduction
  • Header. A header for cover letters is a section with your contact information.
  • Values and goals
  • Qualifications
  • Call to action

What are the 5 components of a cover letter?

  • The Second Paragraph (The Hook).
  • (The Close), The Fourth Paragraph.
  • Salutation (Hello) Find a name, any name.
  • Opening (The Grab)
  • Related Posts
  • ‘Knowledge’ is the third paragraph.

What are 3 reasons a cover letter is important?

  • This shows your commitment to the opportunity.
  • Your employer knows who you are and why they want you.
  • Your writing is showcased.
  • Besides making up for a resume that can’t stand alone, it also makes up for it.
  • You can highlight your strengths through this tool.

What are the 3 basic structure of a cover letter?

The cover letter should contain three paragraphs – Introduction, Sales pitch, and Conclusion.

What makes a strong cover letter?

Cover Letter Format and Structure. Keep your tone professional and positive while using an active voice. Ensure not to begin too many sentences with “I”. Have a look at your cover letter aloud to catch repetitive words and typos.

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