How to Format a Cover Letter (with Examples)

You could be the best candidate on Planet Earth. You could even have the best-written cover letter in the universe. If you don't know how to format a cover letter, though, nobody will ever find out either of those things.

 

Here's a guide to the UK cover letter format, including the order of sections, advice on fonts, margins, spacing and length. We cover it all.

 

Use the LiveCareer cover letter builder and your cover letter will write itself. Choose a professional template, answer a few easy questions and the creator will generate a professional cover letter for you with just one click.

 

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Michael Martin

3 Cambridge Road

North Coker

BA22 8AN

michael@martin.com

Greta Smith

Headteacher

Violet Primary School

12 Paramount Road

North Coker

BA22 8 AN

 

May 19, 2020

 

Dear Greta,

 

As a primary school teacher with 4+ years of experience working with children aged 5-11, following the same principles of modern education you base your approach on, I am confident I will be able to make the same impact at Violet Primary School as I did at Tulip Grove Primary, where I reduced disruptions by 35% and boosted test scores 20%.

 

I graduated in Primary Education from Keele University in 2015, before a short internship at the Department of Education. Working at Tulip Grove, I was in charge of daily teaching of 95 KS1 and KS2 pupils, in groups of 12 to 24. Working there, we seldom used textbooks, and introduced solutions that are interesting for children and use available technology to engage them. I secured a £15,000 grant from the government to fund the purchase of tablets and other teaching aids for the children. By using these multimedia aids, the students are more engaged, and they average scores 20% better than in other classes. In their minds, these methods are also closer to play and games than learning, which soothes rebellious attitudes and reduces disruptions 35%. 

 

My experience, excellent relationships with children, and proven track record in innovative methods make me the perfect candidate for a modern school like Violet Primary. In return, I"d like to offer all my knowledge to share with your team, and I am ready to learn from you and work hard.

 

When would be a good time to discuss how interactive methods reduced disruptions at Tulip Grove, and how we could implement it at Violet Primary?

 

Sincerely,

Michael Martin

 

Now you know what to include in a cover letter. Here's how to format your own cover letter step by step:

 

1. Create a professional header, use a proper salutation

 

List your contact information, including physical address, phone number, email, and any LinkedIn/website/portfolio links that you think will help your application in the header. 

 

It is customary in the UK to align your details to the right, drop a space, and align the hiring person's information (name, job title, and address only) to the left.

 

Below the header, drop a space, date, space, “Dear [Hiring Person's name or surname]”, space, and Re: [Position Name]. Address the hiring person by first name if it's appropriate in your industry. Avoid “Dear Sir/Madam”, and definitely do not write “To Whom It May Concern”.

 

Cover letter format—header example

 

Michael Martin

3 Cambridge Road

North Coker

BA22 8AN

michael@martin.com

 

Greta Smith

Headteacher

Violet Primary School

12 Paramount Road

North Coker

BA22 8 AN

 

May 19, 2020

 

RE: Primary Teacher Position

 

Dear Greta,

 

You can adjust every cover letter created in the builder to meet the job requirements. Choose the name of your profession and the company to which you’re applying, and the builder will automatically adapt the content for you. Create a cover letter faster than you ever thought possible and apply for the job in record time.

 

Create your cover letter nowcover letter builder

 

Create your cover letter now

 

2. Open strong

 

Outline what makes you a different, and superior candidate than others, and back that up with your most impressive achievement that is relevant to the employer's needs or requirements. Define what is most important to this company, and use that keyword in there.

 

Keep this within 40-80 words.

 

Cover letter format—opening example

 

As a primary school teacher with 4+ years of experience working with children aged 5-11, following the same principles of modern education you base your approach on, I am confident I will be able to make the same impact at Violet Primary School as I did at Tulip Grove Primary, where I reduced disruptions by 35% and boosted test scores 20%.

 

3. Show achievements in the second paragraph

 

Outline 2-3 most relevant achievements you have that refer to what the employer asked for in the ad, and back them up with achievements and numbers. This is the main body of your cover letter, and could reach somewhere in the region of 120-200 words.

 

Cover letter formatting—main paragraph example

 

I graduated in Primary Education from Keele University in 2015, before a short internship at the Department of Education. Working at Tulip Grove, I was in charge of daily teaching of 95 KS1 and KS2 pupils, in groups of 12 to 24. Working there, we seldom used textbooks, and introduced solutions that are interesting for children and use available technology to engage them. I secured a £15,000 grant from the government to fund the purchase of tablets and other teaching aids for the children. By using these multimedia aids, the students are more engaged, and they average scores 20% better than in other classes. In their minds, these methods are also closer to play and games than learning, which soothes rebellious attitudes and reduces disruptions 35%. 

 

You don’t have to create any content yourself. The LiveCareer cover letter maker will automatically suggest the best content for your cover letter with ready-made examples and expert tips.

 

Create your cover lettercover letter builder

 

Create your cover letter

 

4. Add a call to action to your cover letter ending

 

Make the sale. Keep this paragraph to 60-80 words. Below, in a single sentence, ask for a call or an interview, justifying it with a strong reason. Sign off formally underneath.

 

Cover letter format—closing sample

 

My experience, excellent relationships with children, and proven track record in innovative methods make me the perfect candidate for a modern school like Violet Primary. In return, I'd like to offer all my knowledge to share with your team, and I am ready to learn from you and work hard.

 

When would be a good time to discuss how interactive methods reduced disruptions at Tulip Grove, and how we could implement it at Violet Primary?

 

Sincerely,

Michael Martin

 

6. Make sure it looks like a business letter

 

A cover letter for a CV is a standard business letter, so it has to follow the same rules. Here they are:

 

Obey cover letter length rules

 

Your cover letter has to obey some conventions. Here are the rules on cover letter length:

  • No more than one page of A4, no less than half a page of A4
  • Word count wise, that’s between 200 and 350 words
  • 1st paragraph should be between 60 and 80 words
  • 2nd paragraph should be between 120 and 200 words
  • 3rd paragraph should be between 40 and 60 words
  • The call-to-action should be a single sentence

 

Choose an easy-to-read font

 

You stand out by using convincing, confident language, providing achievements and numbers—not by using Comic Sans. Opt for a classic font like Calibri, Arial, Tahoma—no bigger than a size 12. Remember, you have to fit on one page, but not smaller than a size 10.

 

Use even margins

 

Something as seemingly insignificant as margins can make all the difference to the readability and elegance of your cover letter. The standard cover letter format commands 1-inch even margins all around, but if your cover letter is relatively short, you could try increasing them to 1.5-inch to help it look better.

 

Use white space 

 

Breaking up your sections and paragraphs with a line of white space neatens everything up, and is easier on the eyes and the aesthetic sense. If your paragraphs are still too blocky, consider using bullet points to list some of your achievements.

 

Match the CV style

 

Your cover letter format and CV format should match, so that those documents form a cohesive document together. It shows attention to detail and professionalism. For easy template matching, just use our CV Builder.

 

7. Email cover letter format tips

 

Many cover letters these days will be sent and received by email. This requires you to make a few adjustments before sending it off. First, there’s a choice you have to make: whether to attach your cover letter as a PDF, or whether you want to paste it into the email body. Choose wisely, because:

  • If you choose the attachment—You risk them never clicking it. If something distracts them when they open your email, they may never come back to it, the email is marked as "Read", but nothing relevant has been read. They have a longer journey to reading your cover letter.
  • If you paste your cover letter in the body—They are "“forced” to read your cover letter upon opening the email, but here’s the thing, people skim emails. You're going to have to work a little bit harder to capture and hold their attention.

 

The advantage of the attachment is that it looks neater, and will command a little more focus. The advantage of the body is that they are more likely to read it, but perhaps with less focus. 

 

Here are some more email cover letter format tips for both situations:

  • If you choose the email body, do not paste the header, date, etc. Start from "Dear…" 
  • If you are sending an attachment, save it as a *.PDF unless specified otherwise. This is best for protecting your cover letter format. 
  • Name the attachment with your surname, something like: "Smith_coverletter". That will allow them to easily pull it up in the future.
  • If you attach, drop a line like "Please find my CV and cover letter attached." Remember, people skim.
  • The subject of your email should be "[Position Title] Application". If there’s a job number in the ad, include it in brackets.

 

8. What else to remember about when formatting your cover letter?

 

The cover letter is often the first element of your job application that your prospective employer will read, often ahead of your CV. For that reason, it's vital that you remember about the following:

 

Make your cover letter work together with your CV, not copy it

 

Your cover letter should be an extension and an advert of your CV, not a direct copy. It allows you to show some personality and a personal touch, so don’t just copy your CV. Make your cover letter a reason to dive into your CV.

 

The cover letter should provide more information about you, your personality, and give a feeling of who you are than the CV, and the CV should provide more hard, cold facts on your work experience, education, and skills. They should work in unison to create a cohesive document. 

 

The cover letter is also a place to show that you understand the company you are applying to and their needs, which brings us to the next point.

 

Target each cover letter specifically to one job

 

CV as well. Two positions with the same title could be vastly different at two different companies. For this reason, scan the job ad for the specific most important skills that each particular position requires, and make a list of them.

 

Then, take the list of your experience, skills and achievements, and compare them. The main two to five points (depending on the level of detail you can go into) where they cross over should be the focus of your cover letter. This will show that you can handle exactly what about to throw at you.

 

Pick the points where you have achievements, stats and metrics to back up your performance. All the points where your experience and the requirements cross over should be contained in your CV. The cover letter is about the main ones.

 

Show a culture fit

 

"Culture fit" is a big buzzword. Companies finally turned onto the fact that it's easier to work and achieve things when the values and principles of the employer and employee overlap. Every company has a slightly different approach, culture and mission.

 

Study it. Not only will it equip you to write a more effective cover letter, it will also make sure you don't end up in a place where you'd hate it! This could save you months, or even years of your life, stress, unhappiness. It's worth the time.

 

The more time you spend studying the company, the better cover letter you will write. Once you understand what they expect from their employees, and where they want to go together, you will be better able to show exactly why you are the best candidate they could wish for.

 

Provide examples of your personality, values, principles or work ethic suiting the approach of the company. Back it up with specific evidence to show you have the skills or experience that will help this company tackle the challenges they are facing.

 

A cover letter alone simply won’t be enough—you need an impactful CV, too. Create your CV in minutes. Choose a professional CV template and quickly fill in every CV section using ready-made content and expert advice.

 

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Does this answer how to format a cover letter? Got any more questions on the UK cover letter format? Let us know in a comment!

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LiveCareer Editorial Team
LiveCareer Editorial Team

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Since 2005, the LiveCareer Team has been helping job seekers advance their careers. In our in-depth guides, we share insider tips and the most effective CV and cover letter writing techniques so that you can beat recruiters in the hiring game and land your next job fast. Also, make sure to check out our state-of-the-art CV and cover letter builder—professional, intuitive, and fully in line with modern HR standards. Trusted by 10 million users worldwide.

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