A cover letter is a formal letter submitted as an accompaniment to a resume. A standard cover letter should run no longer than three paragraphs and be simple to read, clear, neat, concise, understandable, error-free, and formatted properly.

The goal of a cover letter is to persuade an employer to review your resume. A resume can make a good case for your relevant preparation for a job, but it will not tell the employer why you would be a great candidate for a job, nor will it convey much of your attitude and personality. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to point out specific experiences not fully covered in your resume that might make you a valuable or exceptional candidate or employee.

Cover Letter Style Tips

  • Use formal, professional language—do not use slang or casual phrasing or vocabulary.
  • Be polite.
  • Sell yourself: highlight your strengths and be positive.
  • Use a standard and legible font such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Use a word processing system with spelling and grammar checks.
  • Have someone else carefully review your cover letter for mistakes and phrasing and formatting issues before you send it. (It’s a good idea to get the assistance of a person without a visual impairment to review your cover letter and resume.)
  • If mailing or delivering in person, make sure to use nice, clean, plain white or ivory paper.
  • If you are e-mailing your letter and resume to the company, you should both copy and paste your letter into the e-mail and attach it as a document along with the resume. Unless the employer requests otherwise, the cover letter and resume should be separate documents.
  • Make sure you do not have any computer viruses if you are e-mailing these files.
  • The cover letter should be no longer than three paragraphs and it should fit on one page.
  • Make sure the e-mail address that you use in all correspondence, and the e-mail address that appears in all of your documents is something formal like your first initial and last name.

Formal Letter Format:

  • Single spaced, 10-point font, left justified, one-inch margins.
  • Return address on top right of the page.
  • Address of business or employer below the return address, but on the left side of the page.
  • Leave a line empty.
  • Greeting: “Dear Mr. Vicious:” or “Dear Ms. Torra:”. It’s always better to address your cover letter to someone specific. If you have not spoken with an individual at the company you are applying to, call the office and ask for the name of the human resources director, or the name of the person who reviews applications. If for some reason you are unable to get the full name of a contact, you may as a last resort address your letter “Dear Human Resources Representative:” or “To whom it may concern,”.
  • Leave a line empty.
  • First paragraph: Express your interest in the specific position at their company. Make sure to include the title of the position as it appears on the job posting and, if any reference numbers appeared on the posting, include those as well. If you were referred by someone in your network or at the company, mention them by name. Mention specifics about the job or company that interest you; tie in personal experience or something that shows the extent of your research into the company or the job.
  • Second paragraph: Describe how you are a good candidate. Be specific and highlight the most important parts of your resume, or something your resume can’t cover. This is the time to describe why you are a great fit for the job. What can you bring to the position? What can you bring to the company? Think of skills, personality traits, knowledge, training, experience, enthusiasm, passion, strong work ethic, etc…
  • Final paragraph: Thank them for taking the time to consider your application and state that you hope to hear from them soon.
  • Leave a line empty
  • Close with “Sincerely,”
  • Leave two or three lines of space for your signature
  • Your full name: “Daniel Stevens” or “Mr. Daniel Stevens”

The Job Seeker’s Toolkit

This article is based on the AFB Job Seeker’s Toolkit, a free, self-paced, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the employment process. Set up a My CareerConnect account to get started with the Toolkit—it’s an easy and fast process that will give you access to many helpful job hunting resources!

This article and The Job Seeker’s Toolkit are based on the 2nd edition of The Transition Tote System, by Karen Wolffe and Debbie Johnson (1997, American Printing House for the Blind).