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Cover Letter Format Guidelines - Paper Copy

These guidelines apply similarly to both hard copy correspondence and email.

The main difference between the two is format: your signature block (your address, etc.) goes below your name in email versions, while it goes at the top of the page on hard copy. You won't have a handwritten signature on email, but don't forget this important detail on a hard copy letter.

Your Street Address
City, State Zip Code
Telephone Number
Email Address

Month, Day, Year

Mr./Ms./Dr. FirstName LastName
Name of Organization
Street or P. O. Box Address
City, State Zip Code

Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. LastName:

Opening paragraph: State why you are writing; how you learned of the organization or position, and basic information about yourself.

2nd paragraph: Tell why you are interested in the employer or type of work the employer does (Simply stating that you are interested does not tell why, and can sound like a form letter). Demonstrate that you know enough about the employer or position to relate your background to the employer or position. Mention specific qualifications which make you a good fit for the employer’s needs. This is an opportunity to explain in more detail relevant items in your resume. Refer to the fact that your resume is enclosed. Mention other enclosures if such are required to apply for a position.

3rd paragraph: Indicate that you would like the opportunity to interview for a position or to talk with the employer to learn more about their opportunities or hiring plans. State what you will do to follow up, such as telephone the employer within two weeks. If you will be in the employer’s location and could offer to schedule a visit, indicate when. State that you would be glad to provide the employer with any additional information needed. Thank the employer for her/his consideration.


(Your handwritten signature)

Your name typed

Enclosure(s) (refers to resume, etc.)

(Note: the contents of your letter might best be arranged into four paragraphs. Consider what you need to say and use good writing style. See the following examples for variations in organization and layout.)


If you have to hand-write the cover letter, do so. It might be used for hand-writing analysis. Leave even margins along the page, use lines below your paper as a guide so that you write straight, and don't write too big. Joining up a lot of letters is taken as a sign of intelligence.

Whenever possible, address the cover letter to a specific person by name and title. This requires a minimum of research that will ultimately pay off by getting you more interviews. The only time this may not be possible is when responding to a "blind ad" where there is no way to know the name of the company to research. In this case, send the letter to the title of the appropriate hiring manager, e.g., "Production Manager," "Maintenance Supervisor," "Office Manager," etc. Never use the term, "To Whom It May Concern."

Consider signing the letter in blue ink. It implies the letter is original. The only other color ink to use is black. Black ink gives an impression of intelligence, blue of approachability. Never use any other color on the cover letter.

Structure the cover letter to reflect your individuality, but avoid appearing too familiar, overbearing, humorous, or cute. Keep sentences short and to the point.

Give positive points about yourself, but don't sound arrogant.

Keep the cover letter brief, usually no more than three to five paragraphs on one page.

The paper and style of your cover letter should compliment your resume. You might consider using the same paper stock for both your cover letters and resume, and if you are typing your cover letter use the same font.

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