How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
Cover letters are an important part of the job application process. You should almost always send a cover letter with a job application unless the hiring manager specifically asks you not to.
However, one thing that is less clear is how long your cover letter should be. If it is way too short, employers might think you do not care much about the job. If it is too long, employers might not take the time to read your letter, and will not consider you for an interview.
Read below for more advice on how long your cover letter should be, as well as additional advice on writing a strong cover letter.
Should You Send a Cover Letter?
The majority of employers require cover letters. A Saddleback College Resume Survey reports that more than half (53%) of employers responded that a cover letter is required, while nearly 30% had no preference.
Even when a cover letter isn't required, it can boost your chances of getting hired if you include a cover letter when you apply for a job.
Therefore, only leave out a cover letter when the employer specifically asks you not to send one.
How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be?
Should you keep your cover letter short or should it be a full page or longer? Your cover letter shouldn't be longer than one page. It should highlight your most relevant qualifications for the job and what you have to offer the employer.
In fact, as far as how long your cover letter should be, shorter is better.
Almost 70% of employers wanted a cover letter of less than a full page and about 25% said the shorter the better.
Here are the preferences for cover letter length from the employers who responded to the survey:
- Full page – 12.6%
- 1/2 page – 43.7%
- No preference - 19.5%
- The shorter the better - 24.1%
Cover Letter Format
Just as important as the length of your cover letter is the format.
You want to choose a font that is legible (such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana, or Times New Roman) in a readable font size (typically about 12 point).
Your margins should be about 1 inch all around, with the text aligned to the left.
You also want to leave space between paragraphs, as well as between your salutation and the text (and between your text and the signature), so that your letter is easy to read.
A good rule of thumb is that you always want a good amount of white space on the paper. This will prevent your letter from looking too cluttered and difficult to read.
There is no specific word count you should aim for when writing a cover letter (unless the employer gives you a specific word count). Instead of focusing on the number of words, focus on making your cover letter one page or less, with a readable font and font size, and enough white space between paragraphs and in the margins.
You might want to hand a printed out version of your cover letter to a friend or family member, and ask them if the letter seems too wordy, or too difficult to read.
Email Subject Line
When sending an email cover letter, it's even more important to be concise. The first paragraph is what readers pay attention to when reading an email.
The rest of the message is typically skimmed. Two paragraphs – one that serves as an introduction, and one that explains your qualification for the job – and then a closing is sufficient.
You can also make your email cover letter stand out with a clear, concise email subject line. Typically, you want to include the title of the position that you are applying for and your name. For example: Editorial Assistant - John Smith.
If possible, try to keep the meat of your subject line (specifically, the job title and your name) under about 30 characters. This is about as much as people can see on their mobile devices, which is often how people check their email.
Tips and Advice for Writing Cover Letters That Will Get You Noticed
Resumes are hugely important, but cover letters are just as important and should never be considered an after-thought. Every cover letter you write should be customized for the job you are applying for. Your cover should be clear, concise, grammatically correct, and error-free. Remember, people see your cover letter before they see your resume. It's your opportunity to make a good first impression.
Here are tips and suggestions for writing cover letters that will help you stand out from the crowd and get you one step closer to a job offer.
Cover Letter Tips
Send a customized cover letter with each resume you send out. Your cover letter may make the difference between obtaining a job interview and having your resume ignored. Your cover letter is your first opportunity to create a relationship with the person who is doing the hiring. Even if an employer doesn't request a cover letter, it's helpful to send one.
Target your cover letter. Take a good look at the job posting and make a list of the criteria the employer is looking for. Then list the skills and experience you have that correlates to what the employer is looking for. This is not cheating. It's simply being smart enough to target your skills to the job. Be sure to address how your skills match the job requirements.
Don't rehash your resume. Your cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your resume.
It should expand upon your resume and highlight your skills and experience and how they relate to the job you're applying for.
Write simply and clearly. Get right to the point and write short targeted letters. No one has time for an epic novel, so keep your cover letters to one page. Also, make sure each paragraph has no more than three or four sentences.
Personalize your letter. If you can, address your cover letter to the individual who is doing the hiring. If necessary, conduct some online research or make a phone call to find out who the hiring manager is. This is not being pushy. The hiring manager will respect you for taking the initiative.
Use email for cover letters, but keep them very short and include them in the body of the email message. Don't send a cover letter as an attachment unless the employer specifically requests it that way.
Spell check and proofread. Then ask someone else to read your correspondence before you send it. It's often easy not to notice mistakes in our own writing.
Review cover letter samples to get ideas regarding format and what kind of content to use. Use examples as a jumping off point for creating your own library of job search correspondence.
Keep copies of all your cover letters, so you know what you sent to whom.
Cover Letter Examples
Review cover letters examples, both written and email, that are designed for a variety of different types of job applications and employment inquiries.
Cover Letter Articles and Advice