You know cover letters are important to getting a job. But you likely don't know the opening and closing format of a cover letter is a critical part of it. A bad format, by which we mean the design of the letter including its technical elements, can totally ruin any stated career successes, the accumulation of marketable skills and even beautifully-written body narratives.
Below are the correct formats you should use when building structure to the opening and closing of this document.
Opening of the cover letter
While there are a few ways you can start your cover letter, especially depending on your profession, there are main opening format features we recommend for the most job seekers. You can see the list of six steps below.
- Your physical address and contact details. At the top-right-hand corner of the letter, write down your legal birth name in one line followed in successive lines by your home address, including its extended ZIP code. For consistency and accuracy, it should match the name on your resume. Under the physical address on another line, add your cellphone number and a personal email address for employers to contact you. Because they convey simplicity, also remember to only use sans-serif fonts. In fact, you should only use one simple, easy-to read font throughout the letter. A cover letter, remember, is about communicating your interest in the job and not about showing off your enjoyment of typeface design.
- The date you submit the application. Writing site Grammarly recommends using the long month-day-year format for most writing in the United States and we agree with them, especially when it comes to cover letters. Commas should come "after the day and year," as they say. "In the day-month-year format (used in the UK and other countries)," the site says, "do not use commas at all." This is how dates should look: January 18, 2021 for U.S. letters and 18 January 2121 for UK ones.
- The physical address and contact details of the employer. On the next line after the application date, write in the name of the person you will be addressing, including her/his/their job title, followed by that person's job title in one line, and then the physical address of the employer in the next few. Write all of this employer information on the left-hand side of the page. If the company has multiple addresses, choose the one you are most likely to work at. If you don't know that particular address, find the publicly available one of the company headquarters. And if you don't know who will be reading your letter exactly, try to find out or add a gender- and position-neutral to their title.
- Your starting personal greeting. You need to add a personal greeting at the top of the written portion of the letter by filling in the correct honorific based on the person you will be addressing. This is done in one line. There are several options, including using "Dear," to start, or "To," but there are other ways to write it that could mess you up.
- A specific job reference. Right before you start writing your first introductory paragraph, you should add the specific reference number or title of the job application. They could look like either "Re: Associate Editor," or "CC: Store Manager II 435." Not all hiring officers expect to see a specific job reference inside a cover letter, but most appreciate it. It makes you look formidably prepared and detail-oriented.
- The first paragraph. You should do two things in the first written part of the cover letter: Introduce yourself clearly and concisely in the first sentence and, in the second, show excitement for the available position. Really, that's all you need to do here. If you want to know more about how to do this, then on this exact ideology.
Closing of the cover letter
Closing a letter seems like it might be easy. You simply expect hiring officers to concentrate their application assessment on what you say at the top of it. But that's not true — cover letters are supposed to be short and sweet. Plus, any letter reader worth their salt will fully evaluate it as a whole. If you end a cover letter without a proper structure, you ruin the risk of contradicting any gains or goodwill you've built with the reader at the top of the letter. In fact, you probably won't be getting any interview-scheduling calls. Follow the process below:
- The last narrative paragraph. Since a cover letter is short, you don't have to summarize anything you've written up to this point. But what you do say has to be compelling enough to make the reader want to talk to you in person. It needs to read like a call to action (CTA). How do you do that? According to staffing firm Robert Half International, the format is to request an interview with confidence and to mention your contact info once more. Here are two of their examples:
"I would love the chance to further discuss the position and what skills I'd bring to the job. Thank you for considering my application."
"Thank you for your time. I look forward to speaking to you further about my in-depth experience and passion for all aspects of web development. You can reach me at [phone number and email]."
- Sign off in the farewell. Just like with the greeting at the top of the letter, you need to be professional right at the end. So in a one-sentence line, use either "Sincerely," or "Best," and that's it. Avoid using anything that is too informal. "Thanks," "See you," or "Later," are no good.
- The optional signature. Experts in cover letter format design say your personal cursive signature is not needed at the end. But if you have space to add one, it wouldn't hurt. If you do decide to add one, we recommend using a program like Adobe PDF maker to create a good signature that actually matches your real-life ink. Do not use a lower-rent option like Microsoft paint or Word or you will once again appear unprepared and unprofessional.