What does length have to do with a cover letter?

Well, majorly everything. A very pressing question in the pre-HR industry is: how long should a cover letter be?

Quite literally, it asks, how far you should go in order to impress your employer.

Along Herb Caen's words, a cover letter is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.

So how long should cover letters be? The immediate answer is 1/2 an A4 page.

Read on to find how to find the necessary variations. Always customize it according to your target recruiter.

How long should a cover letter be?

Let's look at the length of the following example.

The length of cover letter varies with what your cover letter needs to do.

Now a quick review of what your cover letter should do:

  • Introduce you
  • Reassure your knowledge about the company and the position
  • Demonstrate 2 - 3 examples of how your skills and experience match the recruiters' requirements
  • Share your enthusiasm for working for the company/institution
  • Imply an insight into your personality

And you need to do all of it in less than one page!

You may read more on our blog on how to write a cover letter. Or get one made on the online resume builder.

Hiration Pro-Tip: On an average, out of 300 applicants, 5 gets the interview. The right cover letter length increases your chances exponentially.

How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?

You shall be surprised to find that most cover letters are two pages in length. Professionally speaking, this is wrong.

Most hiring managers do not read long cover letters.

A very long cover letter is. Therefore, longer your cover letter, lesser are your chances of getting shortlisted.

Let's look at the following cover letter sample.

Summary: Cover Letter Length.

Page count ~0.5
Paragraph count 3
Word count 250 - 300

How long are Cover Letters?

How long should a cover letter be 2017?

The 2017 edition of cover letter length saw a rapid elaboration and justification of one's skills and interests. This was followed by explanatory interviews and resulted in wasting a longer time before hiring the most relevant candidate.

How long should a cover letter be 2018?

The 2018 edition of cover letter length has been made concise and to the point. This allows recruiters to:

  • find the exact candidate they are looking for
  • filter and detect the skills you want them to
  • shortlist more relevant candidates

How long should a cover letter be 2019?

Trends suggest that the 2019 edition of cover letter length will not necessarily compromise on space but shall highly prioritize on the simplicity of language and directness of specs.

This shall enable recruiters to:

  • spend lesser time before contacting the right applicant
  • apply quicker filters to find the necessary candidate

This shall enable applicants to:

  • spend lesser time writing fluff and adding information
  • highlight key points they want the recruiters to see

How long should a Cover Letter be?

Your cover letter should less than one page.

Only highlight:

  • your most relevant skills for the job
  • what you have to offer the employer
  • awards/recognitions across your career
  • certifications that prove your merit

In fact, in a recent survey, almost 70% of employers want a cover letter of less than 1 page, and about 25% responded that shorter the better.

The usual preferences around the question - how long should cover letters be:

1 page 13%
1/2 page 45%
No preferences 20%
Shorter, the better 22%

Ensuring Readability - Cover Letter Length

Here are the few things to consider for the ideal cover letter length:

1. Cover Letter Format

The second most important thing after the length of cover letter is the format.

You must choose a legible font. Resume experts are Hiration suggests:

  • Calibri
  • Verdana
  • Times New Roman

Ensure a readable font size of about 12 points.

Your margins should be about 1 inch all around, with the text left aligned or justified.

To ensure maximum readability, add spaces between:

  • paragraphs
  • salutation and text
  • text and signature
Hiration Pro-Tip: As a rule of thumb always have a good amount of white space on your cover letter.

This will prevent your letter from looking cluttered.

2. Do not waste key blank space

This brings us the very next rule: do not waste the space you are supposed to cover with useless information.

Information that is considered useless is usually around:

  • over-explaining your contributions
  • apologizing for skills you don’t have

Examples of wasteful sentences are: “Despite my limited experience with marketing…”, ""

3. Word Count

How long does a cover letter need to be?

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.

4. Highlight the Right Experiences

Not sure what skills and experiences you should be featuring? Drop the text of the job description into a word cloud tool like Wordle, and see what stands out. That’s what the hiring manager is looking for most.

5. Email Subject Line

When emailing your cover letter, it is even more important to be concise.

Most readers pay attention to the first paragraph 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.

How to make cover letter length right

To understand how long can a cover letter be, imagine you need to buy a car.

Do you ever read the long literature or spend hours listening to a salesman describe the functionalities of a particular car?

No.

You only listen to the necessary specifications that match your  needs.

The same goes for a cover letter. Check out the following length of a cover letter example:

This example shows how long a cover letter first paragraph should be, and why.

How long should a Cover Letter be? Paragraphs

First enter your name as the largest text. Then enter your contact information:

  • Phone number
  • Email Address
  • Locations

After the header, starts your actual cover letter.

Let us break the above example into the following steps to understand exactly how to optimize the paragraphs to make it most effective.

Cover Letter Length: Salutation [Example]

The following example portrays how to write the salutation in your cover letter.

Mr. D. Best,
Bro Code Limited

The template you follow is:

Addressee/Employer, followed by
Company Name

Cover Letter Length: 1st paragraph [Example]

Let's look at the corresponding example:

CCP & TTL1 Certified Collection Manager & Credit Analyst with a prolific 16-year track record of overseeing collection management and credit control for Fortune 500 companies. Adept at conceptualizing and implementing initiatives to drive continuous process improvement within the control and compliance framework to achieve operational excellence, I am extremely interested in the profile of Collection Manager & Credit Analysis Expert at Bro Code.

How long is a cover letter first paragraph?

It has all the elements of a first paragraph of an ideally long cover letter:

  • It starts with the certificate name: "CCP & TTL1 Certified".
  • It displays your profile title(s): "Certified Collection Manager & Credit Analyst"
  • It shows your years of experience: "16-year track record"
  • It substantiates your most pressing contributions: "overseeing collection management and credit control for Fortune 500 companies"
  • It then exemplifies why you are such a great fit for your target position: "Adept at conceptualizing and implementing initiatives to drive continuous process improvement within the control and compliance framework to achieve operational excellence, I am extremely interested in the profile of Collection Manager & Credit Analysis Expert at Bro Code."

It's 2 sentences long with 64 words.

There is no generic element in it. It displays your genuine interest and proposes why you think you are the best candidate for the job.

And it does it based on your experience. It's the first part to the best cover letter ever.

Cover Letter Length: 2nd paragraph [Example]

Let's look at the corresponding example:

In my present tenure as the Assistant Manager at Accenture, I have been independently managing 11 accounts while incubating and managing a team of 15 to supervise collections from Expedia on behalf of Marriott. As the Lead at IBM UK across London, Manchester & Liverpool, I spearheaded the Cash & Collections Application team to steer process development and deliver stellar levels of customer service. In my previous role as the Process Developer at Miss Effective, I effectively executed the Green Belt project (US/London) while steering process migration for USA Business Credit Services.

How long is a cover letter second paragraph?

The second paragraph of the cover letter is slightly longer, about 93 words long.

It does not pound its chest and claim "I'm the best". Instead, it simply showcases the right numbers. Again, not a generic cover letter.

But, how do you do it?

First, read the job description very carefully. Secondly, go down memory lane and brainstorm about the times you delivered what the target job is exactly looking for.

Cover Letter Length: 3rd paragraph [Example]

Let's look at the corresponding example:

I was declared a recipient of the Top Collector Award & Maintenance Award while demonstrating capability to achieve 99% accuracy and productively managing a portfolio of USD 1.5 M on a monthly basis.

How long is a cover letter third paragraph?

The hiring manager should have by not stopped skimming and started reading your cover letter.

Here's why it worked:

  • It did not just say, "I like the company."
  • It proved it, based on numbers
  • It showed your exact skills

Read their mission statement and "about us" page. Read news articles about them. Find out their philosophy on training and staff development.

In short, maintain a reason why you  the perfect company for you.

Pro Tip: To get the right cover letter length, use one inch margins and 12 point font. Add white space between paragraphs to give the hiring manager's eyes a pit-stop. Also, make it single-spaced, not double-spaced.

Cover Letter Length: 4th/5th paragraph [Example]

Let's look at the following example:

It is difficult to come away un-awed by the passion for excellence that Bro Code has displayed in its meteoric rise to become a stalwart in this domain. Despite a presence in 9 countries, it values its employees & ensures a continuous learning environment. Hence, I consider Bro Code to be my most preferred employer.

Enclosed for your consideration is my resume. I’d appreciate the opportunity to further discuss my suitability and qualifications with you on call or in person.

How long is a cover letter fourth paragraph?

The fourth paragraph always entertains the nature of the organization and your reason for wanting to attend to the same. You should:

  • Read about the company before writing the concluding paragraph
  • Show eagerness for the company and the recruiter
  • Be kind

Cover Letter Length: Signature [Example]

Always end on a sincere note as does the following example.

Sincerely,
Sussane Stephens Enclosures: Resume

Ensure sustainable gap betweent he text and the signature.


Still not clear about how long should a cover letter be? Your may read our guide on the same.

The following is a concise guide for the same thing.


Academic Cover Letter Length

An academic cover letter could run up to 2 pages.

The question, how long should a cover letter be for an academic position, enables us to rethink the scope of an academic cover letter length.

Basically, it incorporates evidence, enthusiasm and rationale.

On a larger scale, the academic cover letter covers highlights from the following:

  • Current Position
  • Education
  • Research Interests/Affiliations
  • Scholarly Publications
  • Selected Awards & Honors
  • Conference Presentations/Papers
  • Invited Talks
  • Additional Publications
  • Teaching Experiences
  • Languages

Further, if asked, it may also encompass a "Statement Of Purpose". The SOP relates to the readers the motivation/inspiration of the candidate behind opting for the particular position he/she is seeking.

This may easily run from 750 - 1000 words.

Cover Letter FAQs

How long does a cover letter need to be? Here are the common questions.

1. Can a cover letter be 2 pages?

No, a cover letter should not be 2 pages.

A 2-page cover letter violates both the definition and the parameters -  brief description of why you fit the job.

In fact, a resume can be two pages only if you possess 10+ years experience.

2. Should a cover letter be one page?

The best cover letter length is less than 1 page.

Smart and short cover letters allows a detailed eye-time with the manager.

In fact, a long cover letter often sends the message that you are unsure about your capabilities.

3. Is my cover letter too long?

A cover letter is too long if it's a full 1 page or longer.

A 2 - 3 page length of cover letter is a waste of paper.

A cover letter should be about three paragraphs of facts explaining why you're perfect for the job.

4. What should be the font size for my cover letter?

The font your use for your cover letter should be of the same font size as that of your resume.

This said, the ideal font size for both is 12 pts.

5. How many words should a cover letter be?

Cover letter word count should be between 250 - 300 words.

This is because that's the number of words to fill up slightly more than half a page with 12-pt. font.

6. How long should an electronic cover letter be?

An electronic cover letter should be the length of cover letters on paper.

Mainly

  • 3 paragraphs
  • 250-300 words
  • < 1 full page

The difference in an electronic cover letter would be in the subject line and the address section on the top.

7. Should a cover letter be double spaced?

A cover letter should not be double spaced.

The line spacing of your cover letter, including that of the addressal section should effectively be between 1 - 1.5 spacing.

Also, insert a blank line after each paragraph ends to clearly distinguish them.

8. How about academic cover letter length?

Usually, the cover letter for an academic position is called an SOP or a "Statement Of Purpose".

This can be 2 pages long - enough to demonstrate your:

  • accomplishments
  • research work
  • teaching
  • departmental service
  • relevant accolades.

The typical academic cover letter length is usually 1.5 - 2 pages long. This is about 5 - 8 paragraphs.

9. Why does the right length of cover letter matter?

The right cover letter length signifies that you are able to justify your profile and highlight the most relevant experiences.

How you make a cover letter the right length decides how many interviews you get. So the real question is, how do you make your cover letter the right length? You shall find it.

10. How long does it take to write a Cover Letter?

Well, you should ideally spend 20 minutes writing a cover letter and 10 minutes proofreading it.

The examples on the page shall help you answer how long should a cover letter be.

Follow the ideal cover letter length for the most number of responses from your hiring manager.

You may also get it reviewed by industry-specific professionals at Hiration.

Key Takeaways

Here are the most important points to practice while reducing your cover letter length:

  • Be Specific
  • Sell Yourself Subtly
  • Be Concise
  • Customize
  • Proofread

Limit your contact information to:

  • Phone number
  • Email Address
  • Locations

Dos

Donts

Most convincing evidence first. To make an impact in the first few sentences, show your most relevant job first.

Summarise your CV or render too much detail. Be selective about the points you highlight.

Focus on achievements in your roles and not merely your responsibilities. These include publications, awards won, etc. Quantify wherever possible.

Make unsubstantiated statements about skills and experience without giving examples.

Tailor your cover letter to your target employer needs.Concentrate on the skills/roles which differentiate you from the competition rather than the basic job criteria.

Send the same letter to all your targets employers. Never "cut and paste". Employers will immediately suspect a lack of research and career focus.

Illustrate specific examples around your achievements. Explain why these are relevant to this role.

Write generalised statements about why you want to work for the institution. (E.g. referring to "Fortune 500 company", "institute with high prestige", etc.)

Show how well you have managed to research the role and the job context while explaining your career motivation.

Use profession specific jargons for your employer which one might not understand.

Explain your rationale. If you are seeking for a career change, always be clear about your intentions and reasons.

Focus on what the employer can do for you. Your cover letter should be about what you can do for the employer.

Be succinct. Proofread it and delete any unnecessary words/sentences.

End on a blank note. Always end on note of enthusiasm and anticipation.