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5 key formats for a cover letter

Kelly Lee
Digital Content Specialist

Although your CV plays the largest part in getting yourself noticed during the job hunt, it?s important to ensure that you aren?t cutting corners with your cover letter. You can use this to go into a bit more detail than your CV allows, and to really sell yourself to the hiring manager. But if you don?t format your cover letter correctly, this can ruin your application.  

A cover letter is not always necessary for an application. Some job listings even specify that they only want CVs submitted as part of the application process. However, it?s important to check whether the vacancy you?re applying for requires or even accepts cover letters. After all, failing to tailor your application and formatting your cover letter properly is a sure-fire way to be binned at the earliest opportunity! 

We go into the ways you can set out your cover letter for success, you might want to give these tips a read if your applications aren?t getting any hits. 

Specific?to the job?

You really can?t underestimate the impact a strong cover letter can have on your application. While your CV details all your relevant experience, your cover letter should be specific to the job itself. 

This is your chance to present the human side of your application. It?s also an opportunity to complement the facts and figures mentioned on your CV.

Shorter than a CV

When you?format your cover letter, it needs to be?shorter than a CV,?so?aim for one A4 page broken into several easily readable paragraphs.?

It may sound obvious, but readability is key for a good cover letter. This covers everything from font choice and spacing, to sentence structure and tone of voice. Understanding how to maximise the readability of your cover letter is crucial to its success in getting you on that shortlist! 

Use a sensible font 

Let?s be real; we all know that nobody is going to take anything written in Comic Sans seriously! 

However, there are a whole lot of other fonts out there that could also harm your chances. Unless your job is in the fashion or design sectors, it?s best not to get too creative with the style of your cover letter. After all, it?s the content that you want the recruiter to be focusing on, not how fancy or flamboyant your text looks.  

When you format your cover letter, it?s advisable to stick to a font that does not have any unnecessary extensions to the characters. Many hiring managers rank Arial and Calibri highly. In fact, Calibri also has the added advantage of being the default Microsoft Word font, meaning minimal effort for the less design-savvy among us.

Be consistent with your spacing 

Whether your cover letter is digital or a hard copy, the advice for spacing remains the same. Your cover letter should be single spaced, with white space used effectively throughout the page. 

You should leave a single line?s space between each paragraph of your cover letter. As well as between your contact details and introductory paragraph and between your closing remarks and name or signature. If you are submitting a printed cover letter, you should leave enough space between your closing remarks and typed name to include a handwritten signature. 

Assuming your signature is larger than the average 12-point font, it?s advisable to leave three to four single line spaces to sign off with a handwritten flourish that still appears to be well-spaced and avoids looking cramped or hasty. However, when you?format your cover letter, make sure you don?t leave half a page for a signature!?

Summary of the key formats of a cover letter

  • Specific?to the job
  • Shorter than a CV
  • Use a sensible font?
  • Be consistent with your spacing
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