A cover letter should be no longer than one page, no less than half a page, and divided into four paragraphs. A cover letter of this size allows job seekers to show hiring managers why they’re right for the job while respecting their time.
Most job applications will request that you submit a cover letter as part of the application process. The purpose of this letter is to share, with the company, information about your background and what makes you suitable for the position for which you are applying.
If you are preparing to apply for a job, you may be asking yourself the question: how long should a cover letter be? If it’s too short, you may be seen as someone who is not passionate about the job. On the other hand, if it’s too long, an employer may gloss over important details.
In this article, we’re going to discuss how long a cover letter should be, and explore a few factors you should consider when writing one.
Why Do I Need a Cover Letter?
While cover letters are often optional, many employers require that you submit a cover letter for the job. But even if submitting a cover letter is not a requirement, it is still a useful document to attach to your job application.
Cover letters allow you to explore why you would be a good fit for a job in more depth and give you the ability to share more information about yourself alongside your resume and job application.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
The ideal cover letter length should be between half of a page and one page in length, depending on the content that you want to include in your letter. Your cover letter should include no more than four paragraphs of writing, but it could be even shorter if you are writing an email.
To help you ensure that you use the right cover letter format, we have compiled a list of six factors that you should consider when writing your letter:
1. Focus on your relevant skills
In a cover letter, it can be tempting to talk about all of the experiences you have had in the past and how they shaped you as a worker. You could talk about all of the semesters you spent abroad or the internships you took in college.
Because your cover letter should be short, you should only focus on your relevant skills and background which pertains to the job for which you are applying. So, if you have some experience that relates directly to a position, then you should mention it.
However, you should make sure that you don’t add in too much filler content that does not make it clear to the employer why you are the right candidate for a position.
2. Use no more than four paragraphs
As we discussed earlier, your cover letter should be between half a page and one full page long. This will only give you room for about four paragraphs. So, when you are writing your cover letter, you should aim to write three or four paragraphs which are easy to read.
For instance, your first paragraph can be dedicated to an introduction to your background and a description of the position for which you are applying. Your next two paragraphs could be dedicated to two specific past experiences that you think qualify you for a position. Then, your final paragraph could act as a closing statement for your letter.
3. Do not use a word count
One way in which many people measure the length of content is through using word counts. Indeed, “half a page” is not a very clear measure of how long a cover letter should be.
With that said, unless there is a clear word count imposed by the employer, then you don’t need to worry about using a specific word count. Your cover letter may end up between 300 and 400 words, which is about how much you can fit on a properly-styled page of paper, but you can use fewer words if you want.
4. Leave some information to be revealed later
The cover letter is designed to help you pitch yourself to an employer. It is not a resume—which lists all of your accomplishments—nor is it a job application. You have control over exactly how you structure your letter, and what you include (and leave out).
In your cover letter, you should try to leave some information that you can mention later. As we mentioned earlier, you should mention your highlight accomplishments that are relevant to the job. Even if you have a lot of impressive accomplishments that you think the employer should know about, you don’t have to fit them all into your cover letter.
If you advance to a job interview, you’ll have an opportunity to delve into your experience in more depth. The cover letter is your chance to give an employer a taste of your expertise and skills, not a full historical retrospective.
5. Ask for a review
If your cover letter is still long—and if you are not sure what to remove—then you may want to consider asking a friend or a family member to give you a second opinion.
By having someone else read your cover letter, they’ll be able to give you specific and actionable feedback on how you can improve. They may even notice changes you can make that you otherwise would have missed because it is often difficult to find problems in your own writing.
6. Use clear and concise sentences
One way to ensure that your cover letter is kept brief is to use short sentences that communicate only the information that you need to share.
For instance, if you are describing your college internship, you would want to mention that you participated in an internship, the name of the organization, and perhaps one thing that you learned from the experience. This information could be broken down into two or three different sentences, which could constitute its own paragraph.
Toward the end of each paragraph, you should aim to write a conclusion sentence that links the main point you are making back to you. This will help ensure you can retain the attention of your reader.
How to Format a Cover Letter
While the length of your cover letter is important, so is making sure that you include all of the necessary information. Here are the main points that you should include in your letter:
- Introductory paragraph
- Main body (your qualifications, skills, educational history)
- Closing paragraph
In addition, your cover letter should use a simple and readable font in a legible font size. For instance, you may want to use the font Times New Roman with a font size of 12, which is easy to read.
Your cover letter should also be surrounded by a one-inch margin. While it may sound like a good idea to change the margin so you can fit more content onto your page, doing so can often result in a cover letter looking cluttered. Indeed, having white space on your cover letter is not a bad thing—the less text on the page, the easier it will be to read your letter.
Cover letters are an important part of the job application process, and a strong candidate has a strong cover letter.
When you are writing your cover letter, you should make sure that you focus on the skills and experiences that are relevant to the position for which you are applying. You should also try to use short sentences, and ignore the voice telling you to include a list of every impressive accomplishment that you think an employer should know about.
By following the guidance in this article, you should have no trouble writing a cover letter that is neither too short or too long. Writing a good and clear cover letter can make the difference between getting an interview and being rejected.