How to Design a Cover Letter with a Template

You've found the job you want. You've got the skills they want. So, now it is time to create a standout cover letter to help seal the deal. Not sure how? Using a cover letter template is a great start because it takes the guesswork out of formatting and spacing. A template also helps you determine what information you need to include and where it should go.

Choose a template

Before you can decide on how you want to present yourself in your application materials, you need to know what kind of company you are applying to. Is it casual and hip, or traditional? Find out by thoroughly investigating all of the company's social platforms. Zero in on the language that is used (is it chatty or formal?) and the visual tone (does it include flashy font styles and colors, or is it more conventional?). Then make your choices accordingly.

 A good rule of thumb: The more creative the field, the bolder you can be with the design of your header and font choices. "Using Palatino or Times Roman font was once the gold standard," explains Stacey Staaterman, a Certified Professional coach who has worked with executives at top companies including Google, American Express and Bloomberg Media. But if you're applying to a tech company or another vanguard brand, Staaterman cautions that something as seemingly inconsequential as using a serif font can make you look like you're stuck in the last century.

Draft your content

The building blocks of most templates are the same: Your contact information, a greeting and one or two paragraphs that drive home why you are qualified and what you can bring to the position. As you start to compose these sections, keep in mind what sort of company it is you are applying to—because the greeting you might use for a fashion house might be different from the best choice for a Wall Street bank.

Another important note: Do not rewrite the job posting in your cover letter, or make it a laundry list of accomplishments. That is what your resume is for! "Use the cover letter to elaborate on the results you've achieved in previous positions and the impact you had," explains Victoria Vitarelli, a career coach and marketing executive who has worked with MasterCard and New York Jets. "Focus on the value you can add to the company, not just what you've done."

Another essential strategy:
Customize your cover letter to each position you are applying for. "Think of it as "starting a conversation" with a company," advises Stacey Staaterman. And each conversation is slightly different.

Double-check your choices

Your cover letter will most likely be the first glimpse a hiring manager will get of who you are and what your experience is, and using a template can help you make sure it's cohesively designed and polished. That's why it's a good idea to send it as a PDF if possible. Otherwise, your design choices and spacing might end up looking nothing like you intended when the recruiter opens your file.

One final tip: Make certain that your design choices do not overshadow your experience. "If a cover letter or resume is too blinged out, it can be distracting," says Victoria Vitarelli. "I'm always looking for a candidate's story—their past experience, their contributions—and the simpler it is to find, the better."

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Audrey Brashich

Audrey Brashich

Career Advice Contributor

Audrey D. Brashich covers lifestyle trends, pop culture, and parenthood for national publications including The Washington Post and Yahoo. She is also the author of "All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty."

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