Your cover letter’s format includes everything from the number of paragraphs you write to minor details like the margin sizes.

Read on to learn how to structure a cover letter from beginning to end:

Follow this basic structure

Cover letters follow a predictable structure, giving employers a broad overview of your accomplishments and career goals while keeping everything concise.

Here’s an example of how to format a standard cover letter:

An infographic that shows what how to format a cover letter in the UK

1. Contact information

At the top of the page, add the following contact information:

  • Name – Include your first and last name at the top in a large font
  • Phone number
  • Location – You no longer need to include a full address, so just your city is okay
  • Email address – Use a professional email address like firstnamelastname@gmail.com
  • LinkedIn (optional)

Underneath this information, add the date and the recipient’s information, like so:

Today’s date
Hiring manager’s name (if known)
Company name
Company address

Here’s an example of a properly formatted cover letter header:

How to format your cover letter header

Samuel Johns
01234 567 891
sam.johns@email.com
London, UK
https://www.linkedin.com/in/sam-johns/

May 20th, 20xx
Mrs. Smith
Big Corp
123 Westminster Ave.
London, E99 9ZZ

2. Salutation

Address your cover letter to the hiring manager by name, like this:

“Dear Mrs. Smith,”

If you weren’t given the hiring manager’s name during the application process, try to find it on the company’s About page, or by searching LinkedIn.

However, if you’re unable to find the hiring manager’s name, don’t worry. You can also start your cover letter off with a generic salutation to the relevant department (e.g. “Dear Accounting Department”), or to the reader’s title (e.g. “Dear Hiring Manager”).

Avoid overly formal salutations like Dear Sir or Madam, or To Whom It May Concern, because these come across as impersonal and stiff.

3. Introductory paragraph

Your cover letter’s opening paragraph is your opportunity to grab the attention of employers and explain why you’re interested in the job.

To start, specify the job you’re applying for and explain where you found it. Then, give a very brief recap of your experience and express your enthusiasm for the job.

If you have a referral at the company, mention them in your introductory paragraph as well.

Example of a cover letter introduction

I am writing to express my interest in the Business Analyst position at Reed, as advertised. With over eight years of experience in business analysis and a proven track record of delivering data-driven insights and solutions, I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute to your esteemed company.

4. Body paragraphs

Once you’ve introduced yourself, it’s time to elaborate on why you’re the right person for the job.

Your second and third paragraphs should provide examples of your:

  • Past relevant experience
  • Skills
  • Achievements

Most importantly, your cover letter should explain how these past experiences qualify you for the future role you want to fill.

Example of cover letter body paragraphs

In my previous role at Flexer, I was responsible for conducting comprehensive business analysis to support strategic decision-making. I led a variety of projects that involved analysing complex datasets, identifying key performance indicators, and implementing process improvements. My efforts resulted in a 20% increase in operational efficiency and a significant reduction in costs.

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and have completed several professional certifications, including the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) designation. My strong analytical skills, combined with my ability to communicate effectively with stakeholders at all levels, have enabled me to bridge the gap between technical teams and business units.

At Reed, I am particularly drawn to your commitment to innovation and continuous improvement. I am confident that my expertise in data analysis, project management, and strategic planning will allow me to make a valuable contribution to your team. I am adept at using a range of analytical tools and software, including SQL, Tableau, and Excel, to drive actionable insights and support business objectives.

5. Closing paragraph

Close out your cover letter by restating your interest in the position, thanking the hiring manager for their time, and politely noting your availability for an interview.

Additionally, you can use this paragraph to explain any concerns you think the hiring manager might have. For example, if you have gaps in your employment, you could address that issue in your concluding paragraph.

Example of cover letter closing paragraph

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how my skills and experiences align with the needs of your team. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [Phone Number] or [Email Address] to schedule an interview.

6. Sign off

End your cover letter with a polite sign-off. For example, any of the following are acceptable:

  • Sincerely,
  • Thank you again,
  • Yours faithfully,
  • Warm regards,

Example of a cover letter sign-off

Warm regards,
Sam Johns

Additional formatting rules

Now that you’ve learned how to structure your cover letter, you need to make sure it looks good on the page too.

Here are five minor rules to follow when formatting your cover letter document:

Use standard margins

A standard UK cover letter uses 2.5 cm margins (1 inch). Here’s how to set that up in Microsoft Word and Google Docs:

Microsoft Word

  1. Click ‘Layout’ from the ‘ribbon’ bar at the top
  2. Press on the ‘Margins’ click-down option
  3. Select ‘Normal’

Google Docs

  1. Click ‘File’
  2. Choose ‘Page Setup’ from the menu
  3. Alter the numbers under ‘Margins’

If you’re really struggling to fit your content onto your page, it’s possible to lower your margins down to 1.25 cm (½ inch). But margins smaller than 1.25 cm will make your cover letter look too cramped.

Keep your cover letter to one page

A standard cover letter should fit onto one page. Most hiring managers are busy, and won’t want to read more than one page of your cover letter.

If you’re struggling to get your cover letter to fit on one page, consider adjusting the language to be more concise.

Apply 1–1.5 line spacing

Line spacing refers to how much white space there is between each line of text. Some spacing ensures that your sentences aren’t too close together, but too much white space between each line will look silly and take up space.

Standard cover letter line spacing is between 1 and 1.5. Here’s how to change your line spacing in Microsoft Word and Google Docs:

Microsoft Word

  1. Highlight the text you want to change the line spacing for
  2. Click the ‘Home’ option on the ‘ribbon’ bar
  3. Choose the icon that looks like lines of text with two arrows next to it (it says ‘Line and paragraph spacing’ when you hover over it)
  4. Pick ‘1’, ‘1.15’, or ‘1.5’

Google Docs

  1. Highlight the text you want to alter spacing for
  2. Click the icon on the toolbar that looks like lines of text with an up and down arrow
  3. Choose ‘Single’, ‘1.15’, or ‘1.5’ from the dropdown

Use a professional font

Choosing a good cover letter font is important so that employers can easily read your letter. Pick a classic like Times New Roman, Garamond, or Helvetica. Or opt for a modern style like Lato, Calibri, or Noto Sans.

Your text should be between 10.5 and 12 points in size for good readability. However, your name can be bigger.

Frequently asked questions about cover letter formatting

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about formatting your cover letter:

1. Should I include a photo in my UK cover letter?

No, you shouldn’t include a photo in your cover letter if you’re applying for jobs in the UK.

Employers don’t like to see photos on a job application because it’s illegal in the UK to discriminate against someone because of their appearance. So employers will directly discard all job applications with photos.

The only exceptions are jobs like acting and modelling. But you should put your photo on your CV (not your cover letter) or attach a full-sized headshot if you’re writing a modelling or acting CV. Reserve the space on your cover letter for your self-introduction.

2. Can a cover letter be short?

Yes, a cover letter can be short. The ideal cover letter length is a half-page to 1 page long (12 to 25 sentences). In half a page you can still:

  • expand on your relevant qualifications (e.g., mentioning 3 achievements instead of just one)
  • explain why you’re a good fit for the position, which requires using 1 or 2 sentences to first show you know what the company is looking for

A short cover letter can look good and also be effective. Why? Because shorter cover letters tend to focus on the top 1–2 reasons you should be hired — which may be enough to convince recruiting managers!

3. Does a cover letter need a template?

You don’t need to use a downloadable cover letter template to make a cover letter, but a good one ensures you already have the proper cover letter structure.

Using a cover letter template also lets you get your application ready quickly. Creating your own cover letter design takes lots of time.

4. Should I left-align or justify my cover letter?

El-Fuelle asked this question. Here’s how to align your cover letter, section by section:

    • your name: left or centre-aligned
    • your address and phone number: centre-aligned or right-aligned
    • the date: right-aligned
    • the company’s address: left-aligned
    • your cover letter greeting: left-aligned
    • your cover letter’s body text: left-aligned or justified
    • the signoff and your name at the bottom: left-aligned
Sam Johns headshot
Written by

Samuel Johns

Samuel Johns is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), recruiting manager, and lead career counsellor on the CV Genius team, with almost 5 years of experience in the career space. He has helped countless job hunters craft high-quality CVs and cover letters, exceed expectations at interviews, and obtain their dream jobs. Born and raised in County Durham in the beautiful North East of England, he graduated with a BA (Hons) in French Language and Literature from the University of Bristol in 2013 and has worked in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, London, Paris, and Taipei as a French–English translator. He’s determined to use his native English and fluent French skills to help UK and French candidates get the jobs they deserve. In addition to the British and French versions of CV Genius, Samuel’s job-hunt advice has been published on numerous websites, including Careers.org, the University of Warwick, the Enterprisers Project, and HR.com. If you’d like to collaborate, please reach out to Samuel through LinkedIn. Please note, we don’t accept guest posts and won’t reply to such requests.