What Is the Standard Format of a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is an important part of any job application, and one that candidates should not neglect. A job seeker should write an individual cover letter for every job he applies to, although these all will likely have the same basic format, saving some time. Every cover letter should have an introduction, a body and a closing.


Cover letters should always list a candidate's address, phone number and email address at the top, whether the candidate uses a personal letterhead or includes it at the top of the typed text per business letter style. A letter writer should also include the date, as well as an introduction that addresses a specific person in the organization. This is much more likely to get a recruiter's attention than a simple "To Whom It May Concern."


A cover letter's introduction should be original and direct so that the recruiter will be hooked and want to read the rest. It should mention what job a candidate is applying for as well as how he came to find out about the listing--for example, on an Internet forum, or a referral from a friend. If a job seeker does not know whether there is a specific position available but hopes to work at a company, he should stress his knowledge of the business and how his skills would be an asset.


The body of the cover letter should emphasize a job seeker's strengths and abilities. This is his chance to more fully explain the experiences he lists in his resume and how his abilities would relate to the job opening specifically. A candidate can also talk about his personal traits, such as his willingness to take responsibility and initiative.


The close of the cover letter should confidently request an interview and avoid weak phrases such as "I hope." The letter writer should also include his contact information again as well so that the recruiter will know the best way to get in touch. It can also include a brief summary of some of the cover letter's most salient points to remind the recruiter why the job seeker should have an interview.


Experts disagree on how long a cover letter should be. Most prefer cover letters to be about three paragraphs or so, but some prefer a longer letter that is more informative. Often it depends on the industry, so job seekers should use their discretion when writing their cover letters.

Also, a cover letter should not lose its structure if a job seeker sends it by email; it should still include a formal salutation, ordered paragraphs and contact information. Email is not an excuse for sloppy, unprofessional form in a cover letter.

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