How to Use a Cover Letter Template

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How to Use a Cover Letter Template

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If you aren't sure how to start writing your cover letter, a cover letter template or sample is a solid spot to start. By reading sample cover letters, you can get a feel for the appropriate tone of a cover letter, and a template will show you the proper formatting.

However, it's also imperative to make sure you customize your cover letter. Copying a sample word-for-word is a surefire route to the reject pile, and there's no doubt that employers - who have generally read hundreds of cover letters - can detect the cut-and-paste trap that jobseekers can sometimes fall into.

But, with the right amount of personalization, a cover letter sample and template is a good way to get off on the right foot. Here's a guide on how to properly use a cover letter template. 

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Choose a Template

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The first step is to browse cover letter samples and to find a cover letter template that works for you. Check out this selection of different sample cover letters, for a variety of different fields, positions and circumstances.

Once you've found one, copy and paste it into your word processing software.

Read More: Cover Letter Templates | Microsoft Word Cover Letter Templates | Cover Letter Samples

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Organize Your Draft

Start filling in your own information. Image Copyright Alison Doyle

Now that you have a general template to work with, start organizing your information according to the structure of the template and filling in your own details. The organization should be something like this:

Heading: The first set of contact information will be your name, your address, your phone number, and your e-mail. Then, change the date to the date on which you will be sending out the letter. Next, list the name of the addressee and their title, followed by the company's name, and then the office's address.

First paragraph: Introduce yourself and mention what position you're applying to. Briefly explain your interest in the company. If someone you know referred you to the company, mention their name here.

Second paragraph: Summarize your work experience related to the job you're applying to, including your education, if relevant. 

Third paragraph: Focus on how your professional and personal qualifications match the company's requirements for the position. You can use a table within the body of your cover letter in order to convey this information in a clear and concise manner.

Avoid making sweeping generalizations, and instead, provide tangible anecdotes and concrete evidence of your attributes. For example, instead of saying, "I have excellent leadership skills," you might say, "Over the past five years, I successfully managed a sales team of ten people and we increased the company's profit margins by 75 percent."

Closing: Finish with a thank you and mention that you will be in touch in a week (or whenever you plan on reaching out) to confirm the receipt of your cover letter.

Read More: Sample Targeted Cover Letter | How to Write a Targeted Cover Letter | Match Your Qualifications to a Job Description | 5 Steps to Cover Letter Success

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Write In Your Own Words

If you're going to use a thesaurus, do so with caution, selecting words that you'd say in real life, and avoiding long, fancy words that you think might sound smart.

When you're proofreading your cover letter, make sure the cover letter sounds as if it were written in your own words - after all, it should be. It's okay to use a template or a sample to familiarize yourself with the format and tone of a cover letter, but ultimately you want the letter to embody your own voice and reflect your own, individual experience.

So, make sure you personalize the body of letter, because the employer will know if you simply copied and pasted from a sample. Try to change the phrasing, and use different adjectives, if you can.

A thesaurus can come in handy here, but it's very important that you avoid fancy words or an extremely formal tone. Although some degree of formality is expected, as it is a business letter, you want to come across as approachable and personable.

You don't want to leave your reader tongue tied by a phrase like, "I possess prodigious administrative abilities and preeminent communicative prowess," so keep the writing natural and read your cover letter aloud when it's done to ensure that it flows. 

Read More: What to Include in a Cover Letter | What Not to Include in a Cover Letter

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Format the Cover Letter

Keep the format professional and the margins between 1 and 1.5. Image Copyright Alison Doyle

Now that you have your cover letter written out, it's time to set the formatting.

You should use a standard font type, ideally Times New Roman, although Georgia or a similar, simple and easy-to-read font is acceptable, too. The size should be between 10 and 12. 

Then, format the margins in your word processing program between 1 and 1.5 inches.

You should adjust these settings, as well as the length of the actual cover letter content, so that the final document fits on one page.

Read More: How to Proofread a Cover Letter

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Save the File as a PDF

It's best to save the file as a PDF if your word processor allows. Image Copyright Katie Doyle

Last, it's time to save your cover letter. Keep the file name short and sweet; a good standard is to have your first name, last name, then "cover letter." For example: LeahMcMahonCoverLetter.

If you're applying to multiple companies and want to be sure to keep your documents straight, you could save it as first name, last name, then the company you're applying to. For example: LeahMcMahonABCommunications.

Finally, save the file as a PDF so that all your hard work in writing the body of the letter and formatting it properly is retained.

Read More: How to Email a Cover Letter | How to Send a Resume and Cover Letter Attachment