How to create the perfect cover letter layout

You only get one chance at a first impression, and your cover letter is your first point of contact with a hiring manager. That makes it critical to choose a cover letter layout that is professional and engaging while encouraging the reader to review your resume.

Following these cover letter layout tips to reassure hiring managers that you are a highly skilled and enthusiastic professional, who is genuinely interested in working for their company.

Customise your cover letter layout

No two jobs are the same and rehashing the same cover letter for each role you apply for won’t help you stand out from the crowd.

Investing time to customise each letter to individual roles tells a hiring manager you are genuinely interested in the position, while also allowing you to summarise your strengths, experience and accomplishments that make you right for the job.

A key aspect of cover letter layout is addressing your letter to the specific hiring manager rather than using a generic introduction. If you don't know the appropriate person's name and title within the organisation, contact the company to find out.

Demonstrate your knowledge of the firm by researching the company. This gives you a better opportunity to explain how your skills and background are a good fit, and it lets the hiring manager see you have made the effort to learn about the organisation.

Keep the layout professional

Written communications have tremendous visual impact, so aim to keep your cover letter layout as businesslike as possible. This is especially important in roles where "exceptional communication skills" are called for as you’ll be demonstrating these first hand in your cover letter.

Some basic rules of thumb apply to a cover letter layout. Always stick to basic black in workmanlike fonts such as Arial or Verdana. Skip cover letter fonts that are ‘flowery’ or hard to read. Aim for a font size or 11- or 12-point.

Be mindful of spacing. Single space your cover letter, and add an extra space between greetings, each paragraph and your signature. This makes it easier to read.

Left justify the entire letter with the exception of your name, address and contact details (landline, mobile phone and email), which can sit as a block at the top right-hand corner of your cover letter and be right justified or centred across the middle of the page.

Aim for a single page

Your letter doesn't have to be lengthy to be effective. Stick to a single page where possible and remember that good cover letter layout involves dividing what you have to say across three or four short paragraphs rather than a single block of text.

Use the first paragraph to note the role you are applying for and how you found out about the opportunity. It’s also appropriate to mention your qualifications, current position and length of industry experience.

Use the following paragraphs to outline your skills and why you are a good candidate for the position. Don’t simply summarise your resume. Use this part of your cover letter to fill any gaps in your resume while staying relevant to the advertised role.

The final paragraph of your cover letter can be used to reaffirm that you believe the role is an exciting opportunity and note when and how you can be contacted.

Always proofread your letter

Be sure to spellcheck your letter. No matter how professional your cover letter layout is, a single typo or spelling error can scratch you from the list of potential candidates for interview.

Once you are certain there are no spelling or grammatical errors, carefully review your cover letter for flow (it can help to read it aloud). Ask others to proofread and critique it as well.

Have you got the tone right?

While the tone of your cover letter should always be professional, think about how well it replicates the tone of the job ad. An extremely formal letter for instance could see you overlooked in an informal, creative workplace, however it could be just right for a job in a legal team or academic environment.

These cover letter tips should assist you in creating an introductory document that will make a favourable impression on an employer and increase your chances of getting called for an interview.

Take a look at our cover letter hub for more cover letter writing tips and examples.