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Cover Letter Formats

A rundown of the various cover letter formats and how to determine which option is right for your job search


Why Your Cover Letter Format is Important

The format you choose for your cover letter determines which information you include as well as the order in which it is distributed. It determines how the hiring manager perceives you and helps develop his or her first impression of you.

Types of Cover Letter Formats

Cover letters are used for many different reasons, so the proper format for each one varies. There are three main types of cover letters: the application cover letter, the prospecting cover letter, and the networking cover letter. Short introductory emails (we call those “Non-Cover Letter Cover Letters”) alongside your resume are also considered cover letters.

Application Cover Letter

This is the standard cover letter used alongside a resume during a job application. The application letter is geared toward a certain job, and it is tailored to the skills and specifications listed in the job posting.

The application cover letter is a tool used to sell yourself as a job candidate. It supplements your resume and expands upon relevant parts of your work history and qualifications.

Prospecting Cover Letter

Like the application cover letter, the prospecting cover letter is written by a job seeker to a company of interest. However, this type of cover letter inquires about open job positions in general. It is not a response to a specific job posting.

Networking Cover Letter

The networking cover letter is the black sheep of the cover letter family. This type of cover letter is the most casual and tends to be the shortest. It still comes from the job seeker, but rather than being sent to a company, it is sent out to former colleagues, mentors, friends and other contacts. It informs the recipient of the person’s status as a job seeker and asks them for help in their job search.

The “Non-Cover Letter” Cover Letter

This cover letter is simply an introduction to your resume. It is professional but very short. This type of cover letter is great to use when a formal cover letter is not requested in the job posting.

The “Non-Cover Letter” cover letter does not follow a specific format. It usually includes a greeting, simple body explaining your experience and your interest in the company and a closing with reference to any attachments such as your resume, portfolio, samples or any other requested documents.

If you are emailing your resume, it is always a good idea to write a quick, professional email to go along with it. It should be short--a couple of paragraphs is sufficient--and the tone should remain casual but professional throughout.

How to Setup Your Cover Letter

Application Cover Letter

The application cover letter should be set up in the same order as a job interview. Think about the flow of conversation in a job interview and use it to format you cover letter.

  • Contact Info
    • Full name, address (including zip code), phone number and email address
  • Greeting
    • Always address the hiring manager by name. If you don’t know it, consult the company website or give the office manager a call to find out.
    • A simple, “Bill” is all you need in your greeting.
  • Opening
    • Who are you?
    • What skills and accomplishments best describe you and are also relevant to the job position?
  • Body (1-2 paragraphs)
    • What do you know about the company already?
    • Why are you applying for this specific job?
    • What can you bring to the company and job position?
  • Closing
    • Refrain from sounding too desperate with phrases like, “I can’t wait to hear more about this position”. A good alternative is “I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m a match for this position”.
    • Mention any attachments
    • Use “Sincerely”, “Yours” or “Best” before signing your full name.


Cover Letter Formats
Example of an application cover letter

Prospecting Cover Letter

The prospecting cover letter is setup much like the application letter. The only differences occur in the opening. The body might change slightly based on the company, but many times it will remain the same.

  • Contact Info
  • Greeting
  • Opening
    • Why are you reaching out?
    • What interests you about the company?
  • Body (1 paragraph)
    • Who are you?
    • What skills do you have that could help the company in general?
    • What have you accomplished in your career that could be of interest to the company?
  • Closing


prospecting-cover-letter-format
Example of a prospecting cover letter

Networking Cover Letter

The networking cover letter, being different in purpose than the first two, keeps only the contact info and closing the same.

  • Contact Info
  • Greeting
    • Can be more casual than the other cover letter greetings if you have a relationship with the person.
  • Opening
    • Why are you reaching out? Do you want referrals? Recommendations?
    • What kind of job/company interests you?
  • Body
    • What skills and accomplishments should they be aware of in order to help you out?
    • What do you hope to accomplish in your next position?
  • Closing


networking-cover-letter-format
Example of a networking cover letter

Cover Letter Formats by Country

Unlike resumes, for which the guidelines vary extensively by country, cover letters are the same or very similar regardless of the country in which you are applying.

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia all use similar cover letter formats. There are, however, certain adjustments you might have to make.

When applying in other countries, you should be aware of differences in formality of language and ways of speech. For example, phrases that are common in the United States might not be common in places like Australia.

Another aspect to be aware of is pictures. Job seekers in the UK and Europe often add headshots to their resumes or cover letters. However, in the United States, pictures are highly discouraged. Since companies in the U.S. are legally not allowed to hire based on race or gender, hiring managers will often reject applications with pictures in an effort to protect the company.

Cover Letter Formats

Cover Letter Formats FAQ

Do I have to include my address on my cover letter?

It is good practice to always include your address on your cover letter. If the hiring manager likes what they read, they will easily be able to locate your information and track you down for an interview.

What if you don’t have a direct contact at the company for which you are applying?

You should always find the name of a contact at the company and direct your cover letter specifically to that person. Check the company website, LinkedIn, or even call the company’s office to find the name of the hiring manager.

How do I write a cover letter without work experience?

If you don’t have work experience, you can still follow the basic cover letter format. In place of experience, expand upon relevant coursework or skills and explain how that experience makes you a good candidate for the job.

Can I include my salary requirements in my cover letter?

While salary expectations are an important conversation during the hiring process, the cover letter is not the place for it. Interviews, whether on the phone or in person, are an appropriate and expected time to discuss salary.

How do I include attachments with my cover letter?

If sending my email, any attachments should be mentioned during the closing of your cover letter. Keep in mind that .docx and PDF files work best to avoid issues.

How do I use a cover letter format?

You can use our cover letter formats (above) as a guideline for your own cover letter. Simply add your own information and experience in the order listed.

Do different jobs require different types of cover letters?

Generally, a basic cover letter format works for any job application. If a job posting requires a different type of cover letter, it should be clear in the description.

Should I always include a cover letter?

No. In fact, you should not include a cover letter unless the job posting specifies.


Jobscan Learning Center The Jobscan Cover Letter Learning Series

Part 1: Cover Letter Writing Guide
How to write a cover letter that will get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers
Part 2: Cover Letter Formats
A rundown of the various cover letter formats and how to determine which option is right for your job search
Part 3: Cover Letter Templates
Cover letter templates and guidance that provides structure and foundation for your own cover letter
Part 4: Cover Letter Examples
These cover letter examples will point you in the right direction if you’re unsure where to start


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