Formal Business Cover Letter Format

Learn How to Format a Cover Letter

When you submit your resume, you will typically need to write a cover letter as well. In this letter, you'll make a case for your candidacy, highlighting your relevant skills. Since a cover letter is a formal document, there are set guidelines for what information to include in the letter, as well as how to format it. 

Hiring managers read a lot of cover letters, so while their most important goal is to find strong candidates, they will definitely notice if the letter is formatted incorrectly or does not adhere to the usual cover letter style guidelines.

Use the cover letter format below as a guideline when you create customized cover letters to send to employers. It lays out which information to include, and where. Then, review cover letter samples, a cover letter template, and tips for formatting hard copy and email cover letters you can use to write your own letters.

Cover Letter Format

Your Contact Information
Name
Address
City, State, Zip Code
Phone Number
Email Address

Date

Employer Contact Information (if you have it)
Name
Title
Company
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Salutation
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,

  • Cover Letter Greeting Examples: Note: If you do not have a contact name, you can skip the salutation entirely. Or, you can use Dear Hiring Manager, To Whom It May Concern, or one of the other examples listed in the link. Ideally, you will be able to address your cover letter to a specific person. Doing research can help you figure out who is the most appropriate person to receive the letter. Note: If you do not know the gender of your contact, you can write out the person's full name, e.g., "Dear Cory Smith"or "Dear Jordan Parish."

Body of Cover Letter
The body of your cover letter lets the employer know what position you are applying for, why the employer should select you for an interview, and how you will follow-up. Organize the body of your cover letter into the following paragraphs:

  • First Paragraph
    The first paragraph of your letter should include information on why you are writing. Mention the position you are applying for and where you found the job listing. Include the name of a mutual contact, if you have one.
  • Middle Paragraph(s)
    The next section of your cover letter should describe what you have to offer the employer. Mention specifically how your qualifications match the job you are applying for. Think of this section of the cover letter as where you're making a pitch for your fit as an employee and show makes you a great candidate. Keep in mind that employers will be more interested in what you can do for them, than a list of your background. Make the connection between your qualifications and the job requirements clear. Use this section to interpret your resume—don't repeat from it verbatim.
  • Final Paragraph 
    Conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow-up. Optionally, you can briefly restate why you would be a good fit for the position.

Complimentary Close
Respectfully yours,

Signature

Handwritten Signature (for a hard copy letter)

Typed Signature

Email Subject Line

When you're sending an email cover letter, include a subject line that enables the hiring manager to recognize who you are and the job for which you are applying. Here are sample subject lines that are appropriate to use in your emailed job application.

Formatting Tips for Cover Letters

Here are some formatting tips to keep in mind when you are writing your letter:

  • Email versus hard copy: The example letter above is formatted for a printed out hard copy. If you are emailing your cover letter, you'll need to pay particular attention to the subject line of your email. See more tips for formatting your email cover letter.
  • Font choices: The details count when it comes to cover letters, so choose a professional font in a 10 or 12 point size. This is no time to break out emoticons or emojis!
  • Spacing: Your letter should be single-spaced. Include a space between every paragraph, and in general, a space between each section of the letter. (That is, there should be a space between the address and the date, and then again between the date and the salutation.) In an email cover letter, where many sections are left off, you will want to include a space between the salutation and between each paragraph, and another space before your complimentary close. 
  • Proofreading: Remember that note about details counting in cover letters? Make sure to avoid errors by carefully proofreading your letter. Use your word processor's spell check to catch common errors, and then consider reading your letter aloud — or having a friend review it — to catch additional errors. Here are guidelines for proofreading your cover letter.

Cover Letter Examples
Examples of cover letters for a variety of different types of jobs, types of job seekers, and types of job applications.

Cover Letter Samples for Business and Administration

When you're applying for administrative and business jobs, one of your most important qualifications will be your communication skills. The first time they will be evaluated is when the hiring manager reviews your cover letter and resume. It's important to make a good first impression, in order to increase your chances of landing an interview (and eventually, the job).

Before you start writing a cover letter, take a look at administration and business cover letter examples to get an idea of how to construct a professional and effective letter that is going to sell your credentials to the hiring manager.

What to Include in the Letter

Before you start writing your cover letter, review the job posting. You'll find a list of the job qualifications that the employer is looking for. Use your cover letter to show the hiring manager that you meet those requirements.

Match your qualifications to the job listing by analyzing the ad and making a list of keywords related to the skills and experience sought by the hiring manager. You can also include the general administrative and business skills that employers seek in the candidates they evaluate for employment opportunities, as well as any hard or soft skills related to the role but not specifically included in the ad.

Work these keywords into your cover letter and resume, to ensure that your application materials make it through the applicant tracking system and get to a real person with the ability to call you for an interview.

The letter should include the following:

  • Subject Line, with your name and the job (if you’re sending your cover letter via email)
  • Contact Information (top of letter for printed letter, below signature for email cover letter)
  • Professional Greeting
  • Paragraph 1: A brief introduction and why you are writing
  • Paragraphs 2 and 3: Your qualifications for the job for which you're applying
  • Closing Paragraph: Appreciation for being considered for the job, and how you will follow-up if you have a contact person
  • Professional Closing
  • Signature

If you're not sure what to write, review these tips for how to write a cover letter before you get started, and a list of what to include in a cover letter.

Cover Letter Examples for Administration / Business Jobs

Review cover letter examples and then write a personalized letter that explains how your skills relate to the criteria listed in the job posting.

It's important that your letters are customized for each job you apply for, highlighting your relevant experience.

Sample Cover Letter -  Business / Administration

Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, ZIP Code
Your Phone Number
Your Cell Phone Number
Your Email

Date

Dear Hiring Manager,

I was excited to read about the Administrative Assistant job opening at XYZ company. I have several years of experience in a variety of fields including insurance and finance.

In addition to my extensive office experience, I have strong communication, customer service, and administrative skills. My broad background makes me an excellent candidate for this position.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you to arrange an interview.

Sincerely,

Your Signature (hard copy letter)

Your Typed Name

More Cover Letter Samples:

Cover Letter Templates and Formats

Starting your cover letter from scratch? It’s often easier to start from a template. Staring down that blank page has the effect of making even the most accomplished job seeker momentarily forget all their qualifications and achievements.

These templates can offer a good starting point for your cover letter. Be sure to personalize your cover letters each and every time you apply for a job. It’s essential that your cover letter be targeted to the role you’re applying for; generic cover letters won’t show the hiring manager that you’re serious and enthusiastic about the role.

Again, these templates are just a starting place for your resume, which should be personalized to reflect your unique skillset, and targeted to the job for which you’re applying. 

Administration / Business Resume Examples
When you are preparing to apply for jobs, it's helpful to look at resume examples, as well as cover letters, for your occupation. Review sample administration / business resumes including human resources, consulting, marketing, public relations, management and more resume examples.

More About Cover Letters

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