Cover Letter Structure: Main Parts and Key Elements

A cover (or covering) letter is not an optional extra to send along with your CV, it’s fully half of your job application. It’s true that some employers will ask you not to send a cover letter. But if you were applying to one of those you probably wouldn’t be looking up how to structure a cover letter.

 

Like any piece of formal writing, getting the structure of a cover letter right is half the battle. Knowing what to write isn’t enough—how you write it is also critical. Luckily, these two aspects of writing—the what and the how—are linked in such a way that knowing the how makes sorting out the what easier.

 

This article is here to make getting the structure of your cover letter right as simple as possible. Follow along with clear instructions, nuts-and-bolts breakdowns, and UK-specific cover letter structure examples to have your cover letter mapped out and ready to write in no time.

 

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Cover letter structure example

 

Madison Nixon

45 Hedgerow Crescent

Bristol

BS6 4EG

077 6666 7777

madison.nixon@lcmail.co.uk

 

18th August 2021

 

Tessa Parkin

Human Resources Manager

Moore’s Business School

17 Layburn Road

Bristol

BS1 3YD

 

Dear Tessa,

 

I was absolutely delighted to see that Moore’s Business School is looking for an administrative assistant to join its Programme Office admin team. In the 4+ years that I have been working in academic administration, I have found great satisfaction in excelling at supporting managerial, teaching and administrative staff. In my current position I reduced office operating costs by 10% and improved visiting lecturer satisfaction levels by over 40%.

 

In my current role at Griffiths College I successfully sorted through 14 years of old student records, reducing stored paperwork by 45% and freeing up significant archive space all while working strictly within college policies and GDPR requirements. I also switched office supply vendors, saving the college over £300 per month in purchase and delivery costs while changing to a more convenient delivery model. In my previous role with the Sands Institute of Technology, I did some research regarding hotels in the area and secured a preferential rate for SIT to host its guest lecturers and other VIP visitors, allowing SIT to offer its guests an even higher standard of accommodation while saving 5–15% on accommodation and taxi costs.

 

As you can see, I take the initiate whenever I can and enjoy making myself useful in ways that go beyond core administrative tasks like dealing with daily correspondence and enquiries and preparing and filing documentation. Given how small MBS’s admin team is, I think this a quality that could be very beneficial to the School.

 

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to discussing my CV in greater detail during the course of an interview.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Madison Nixon

 

How to structure a cover letter

 

To actually go about structuring your cover letter, think of the business letter format as a recipe. The first thing you’ll need to do is gather up all the necessary ingredients. For the header, you’ll need:

  • Your contact details
  • The addressee’s contact details, including position and company address
  • The date of writing.

 

The salutation is easy, you’ll already have the addressee’s name or position. Of course, the content of the body of your cover letter isn’t laid out by the standard business letter format, but you’ll need:

  • 3–4 achievements
  • Some background research on the company to which you’re applying.

 

And, finally, the way you sign off will be determined by the salutation you used, so you’ll have everything you need there, too.

 

Fleshing out each of these parts and getting recruiters to give you a call is something that’s easier said than done, though. A good cover letter structure will give you a strong foundation. Check out a cover letter writing guide for plenty of examples and advice on how to build on that foundation.

 

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.

 

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1. Cover letter header

 

A ‘standard business letter’ is going to look different from country to country. Cover letters—being a type of business letter—are no exception. Cover letter structure can vary according to whose contact details go where, whether they’re left- or right-aligned, or the salutation used, to name just a few.

 

The header is perhaps where such regional differences are most pronounced. Have a look at the header example below and note the justification (alignment) used as well as how the date is written and where it’s placed. All British letters should follow this pattern but it’ll vary in other parts of the world.

 

Take note also of the fact that the sender’s details include a phone number and an email address. This may not strictly be part of the standard British business letter format but makes sense as part of a cover letter’s structure—you want recruiters to be able to contact you as easily as possible.

 

UK cover letter header example

 

Madison Nixon

45 Hedgerow Crescent

Bristol

BS6 4EG

077 6666 7777

madison.nixon@lcmail.co.uk

 

18th August 2021

 

Tessa Parkin

Human Resources Manager

Moore’s Business School

17 Layburn Road

Bristol

BS1 3YD

 

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.

 

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2. Salutation

 

Following the standard UK business letter format, you should stick with a standard, formal salutation. ‘Dear’ + the first name of the person to whom you’re writing is generally the best option. ‘Dear’ + the person’s title and surname is another option, as is ‘Dear’ + the person’s full name (avoid this if possible).

 

Cover letter salutation example

 

Dear Tessa,

 

3. Opening paragraph

 

The first paragraph of your cover letter is where you’ll make your first impression. In order to really grab your reader’s attention and make them sit up and pay attention, your opening paragraph will need to do these three things well:

  • Clearly mention the company and the exact job title by name
  • Show your enthusiasm for the company and the role
  • Demonstrate what it is that you can bring to the company if hired.

 

Cover letter opening paragraph example

 

I was absolutely delighted to see that Moore’s Business School is looking for an administrative assistant to join its Programme Office admin team. In the 4+ years that I have been working in academic administration, I have found great satisfaction in excelling at supporting managerial, teaching and administrative staff. In my current position I reduced office operating costs by 10% and improved visiting lecturer satisfaction levels by over 40%.

 

4. Body paragraph(s)

 

This is where you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your achievements in the workplace thus far. The trick to making this as compelling as possible and standing out from the crowd is quantifying each and every achievement. This means putting numbers to your claims and backing them up with facts.

 

An achievement in this case is a description of actions you took and the benefits that they brought to your employer. Quantify everything you can, but focus on putting numbers to the benefits you brought your employers above all else. Estimating impacts is totally fine and often necessary.

 

Cover letter body paragraph example

 

In my current role at Griffiths College I successfully sorted through 14 years of old student records, reducing stored paperwork by 45% and freeing up significant archive space all while working strictly within college policies and GDPR requirements. I also switched office supply vendors, saving the college over £300 per month in purchase and delivery costs while changing to a more convenient delivery model. In my previous role with the Sands Institute of Technology, I did some research regarding hotels in the area and secured a preferential rate for SIT to host its guest lecturers and other VIP visitors, allowing SIT to offer its guests an even higher standard of accommodation while saving 5–15% on accommodation and taxi costs.

 

5. Closing paragraph and CTA

 

The closing paragraph, like the name suggests, aims to wrap all your achievements up and tie up any loose ends. This is not the place to introduce new information, but rather to summarise what came before. It’s a great opportunity to show off some additional knowledge about the company.

 

Good cover letters will include a quick expression of gratitude to the recruiter for the time and energy they’ve put into considering the application. They’ll also end on a confident Call to Action (CTA), expressing the desire to elaborate further on what the CV and cover letter contain during an interview.

 

Cover letter closing paragraph and CTA example

 

As you can see, I take the initiate whenever I can and enjoy making myself useful in ways that go beyond core administrative tasks like dealing with daily correspondence and enquiries and preparing and filing documentation. Given how small MBS’s admin team is, I think this a quality that could be very beneficial to the School.

 

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to discussing my CV in greater detail during the course of an interview.

 

6. Sign off

 

The standard UK business letter format limits the options for ways to sign off at the end of a formal letter like a cover letter. Letters that were addressed to a specific, named person end with ‘Yours Sincerely’ whilst letter that were addressed to an unnamed recipient end with ‘Yours Faithfully’.

 

Cover letter sign-off example

 

Your Sincerely,

Madison Nixon 

 

How long should a cover letter be?

 

Following a good cover letter structure should leave you with a cover letter that’s between half an A4 page and a full A4 page long. A total of around 250–400 words, including the header, salutation, sign-off and body paragraphs:

  • Opening paragraph – between 60 and 80 words
  • Achievements showcase – between 120 and 200 words
  • Closing paragraph(s) – between 40 and 60 words.

 

Other things to keep in mind when structuring a cover letter

 

There’s cover letter structure and then there’s cover letter format and layout. Keep the following things in mind what putting the finishing touches on your cover letter:

  • The overall look of your cover letter should match that of your CV, use the same colours (if any), the same fonts, and a similar general layout
  • Choose a clear and professional font like Noto, Garamond, Arial, or just stick to the default Liberation or Calibri
  • Keep font sizes between 10 and 12 points
  • Use white space, subheadings, bullet points and other elements of layout to direct your reader’s eye and make your documents clear and easy to digest
  • Your cover letter structure will stay the same but the content should change with every new job application
  • Save your documents in PDF, most of us have had bad days caused by *.docx files and their less than stellar stability.

 

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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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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