Writing Formal Cover Letters – A Guide

An official cover letter is a must for every job application. Nearly half of all employers will refuse a resume without a formal cover letter.

What is a Formal Cover Letter?

two men facing each other while shake hands and smiling
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

A cover letter is a three- to a four-paragraph letter to employers that describes your interest in the job and the company. If you apply for a job, you are most likely to include it in your resume.

The purpose of this document is to introduce you and briefly describe your professional background. The average length of your cover letter should be between 250 and 400 words.

You may be able to get the hiring manager’s attention by writing an excellent cover letter.

But remember that a cover letter complements your resume and does not replace it. Basically, you don’t repeat what’s mentioned in your resume.

A well-crafted cover letter will help you get the job you want alongside your resume. 

Structure of a Cover Letter

We outline a cover letter section by section, so you can see how to write a letter yourself. Remember, if you are having trouble with the formatting, it is best to write the cover letter first and then check the correct formatting. Basically, a cover letter has six sections.

  • Contact Information & Date
  • Greeting
  • First Paragraph
  • Main Body
  • Closing Paragraph
  • Signature

Contact Information and Date

You should include this information at the top of the page, on the left-hand side. Typical contact information includes:

  • Date
  • Full Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address


While this may seem very straightforward, there are a few things to spice it up. The most important is to address the hiring manager directly, by name. You can find most hiring managers’ information on LinkedIn easily.

If you can’t find it, for some reason, go with the classic “Dear Sir/Madam.”

First Paragraph

Your opening paragraph is your chance to catch the hiring manager’s attention, introduce yourself, and express your enthusiasm to the employer. Mention why you’re enthusiastic about the job and how it fits into your career goals. Look up keywords from the job posting and match your skills to the employer’s needs.

Main Body

In the main body, summarize your most relevant experience, highlighting specific qualifications and skills that make you the perfect candidate. Make a connection between your previous accomplishments and your suitability for the position you are applying for in one or two paragraphs.

Closing Paragraph

You should use the final paragraph to thank the employer for their time and consideration. Also, use this paragraph to clarify any information (like employment gaps) from your resume.


Close with a well-known phrase, such as “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or “Thank You.” 


A formal cover letter is usually sent to a company in order to apply for a specific position. For starters, it should include all of your information, and the date you sent the cover letter.

After that, you should use a structured framework in order to effectively communicate your qualifications are and how they align to the position.

Finally, don’t forget to include a closing paragraph and a signature.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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