Your cover letter for a job application functions much like a book cover. Ideally, you want it to scream, "Read me!" When a prospective employer is drawn in by a crisp, professional cover letter, he's more likely to thoroughly examine your resume and seriously consider you for the position. Content is important, but so is format. For your cover letter to stand out, you need to arrange it properly.
The Purpose of Regards
Your formal "Regards," or closing of the letter, is like a gate; while it's the end of your introduction, it opens the reader to the contents of your resume. It should convey a tone that matches the professionalism in the body of your letter.
What Comes before Your Regards
A standard cover letter that you send via snail mail includes certain components leading up to the "Regards." You should use a single-space format, align the text to the left, and include line spaces between each section. You should list your name, address, phone number and email address at the top of your letter, each on a separate line. Next, include the date. On the following lines, list the name of hiring manager or your perspective supervisor, followed by his title, the company name, and finally, the company address. You should formally address the interviewer in your greeting. For example, "Dear Mr. Smith," is appropriate. The body of your letter should include one to four paragraphs in which you introduce yourself, note your interest in the job, highlight your qualifications, and indicate when you're available for an interview.
Ending Your Letter
If you want the employer to remain awake -- and still interested -- by the time he reaches the closing, your cover letter should not exceed one page. You can end your letter with the word, "Regards;" however, "Sincerely," and "Sincerely yours," are among other appropriate closings. You should leave space -- usually about four lines -- to hand-sign your letter before inserting your full name. Leave another blank line and then indicate that you've included enclosures such as your resume and any other application material.
Emailing Your Cover Letter
The rules change a bit if you're submitting a cover letter via email. The main difference is that your contact information should go at the bottom of your letter following your name instead of at the top. The letter should begin with the date at the top and proceed the same as a letter you would send via snail mail until you reach the signature. You obviously won't be able to include a hand-written signature. Keep in mind that the function of the "Regards" is the same; it closes your letter and encourages your reader to move on to the rest of your application. Under your contact information, you should also note any attachments, i.e., "Resume attached as PDF."
Gina Poirier has a professional background in nonprofit administration and management, primarily with youth development organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.