A cover letter should be a half-page to one page long.
More specifically, limit your cover letter to three or four concise paragraphs, or 250-400 words in total.
This cover letter length gives you enough space to communicate your experience and convey your interest in applying while also maintaining the interest of the hiring manager. Any longer than one page, and your cover letter risks making you come across as self-absorbed or long-winded.
In fact, you can write a short cover letter of fewer than 100 words and still effectively communicate your qualifications.
How to achieve the ideal cover letter length
Follow these four tips to achieve the right cover letter length, so employers can evaluate your application as quickly as possible.
1. Keep Your cover letter 3 to 4 paragraphs long
A standard cover letter should be concise and broken into four informative paragraphs:
In your first paragraph, introduce yourself and explain why you’re applying for the job. Emphasize why you’re passionate about the role, and state how many years of experience you have in the field.
“My name is John Smith, I’m currently a Marketing Intern at ABC Corp with over a year of experience in social media management, organic SEO, and email outreach. As a long-term fan of the impressive work being done at BigCorp, I was excited to see your listing for a Marketing Assistant on LinkedIn and believe my skill set would make me an immediate asset to the team.”
Your second paragraph should focus on your relevant professional accomplishments. Showcase what you’ve achieved so far in your career, and use numbers whenever possible.
“as a marketing intern for ABC Corp I developed a new social media strategy, increasing Instagram impressions by 36% over 3 months.”
By highlighting your achievements, you show the hiring manager what you’ll bring to the company if hired.
Your third paragraph should connect your accomplishments or experience to the needs of the company.
For example, research the company’s current projects and future goals, and explain how your past accomplishments have prepared you to contribute toward those projects and goals.
If you’re not sure what the company’s specific goals are, try looking at relevant cover letter examples from other professionals to see if there are any common challenges in your industry.
The final paragraph of your cover letter should restate your interest in the position, and thank the hiring manager for taking the time to look through your application.
Provide them with your email and phone number again, so they can connect with you as soon as possible.
2. Focus only on your relevant achievements
If you have a lengthy work history, highlighting all the work experience you have on your cover letter might be tempting. Similarly, if you lack experience it can feel like the best thing to do is use your cover letter to tell employers about your life experiences.
However, hiring managers are busy, and don’t want to spend time reading a cover letter that’s unfocused. To keep your cover letter clear and concise, you should only write about your most relevant accomplishments or qualifications.
For example, imagine you’re writing a sales associate cover letter. You should highlight just one or two anecdotes about how you increased sales revenue at your previous company, rather than including four or five less relevant examples.
3. Write concisely
If you’re struggling to keep your cover letter on one page while including all the relevant information you need about your qualifications, then it’s probably time to take a look at your writing style.
The best way to write an effective cover letter is to make sure you write with concision. Here’s an example of a sentence from a cover letter that’s not written concisely:
The hectic situation at my previous job was a crucial factor in the formation of my current skill set regarding my ability to handle high-stress environments.
Although this sentence sounds professional, it takes 27 words to communicate a basic idea. By simplifying the language, you can communicate that same idea more directly, like in this example:
My previous job taught me how to perform well under pressure.
If you’re struggling to make your cover letter more concise, here are a couple essential writing tips:
Replace phrases with a word
While common phrases like “due to the fact that” or “in the event that” sound fancy, they make your writing less direct.
Replace unnecessary phrases like these with fewer words. For example, “due to the fact that” can be replaced with “because”, and “in the event that” can be replaced with “if”.
Use the STAR method
The STAR method is a writing technique used to describe your experience in concrete, actionable terms.
STAR stands for Situation (the overall problem you were faced with), Task (what you were responsible for doing), Action (what you did in the situation), and Result (what you achieved).
STAR is commonly used when writing your resume experience section, but can also be applied to your cover letter to make it more concise and achievement-oriented.
Here’s an example of a cover letter section that applies the STAR method:
When our website was hit with a dip in traffic, my manager tasked me with recovering our rankings. I spearheaded a highly effective Twitter outreach campaign that increased impressions and clicks site-wide by 32% over a two-month period.
4. Adjust your formatting
Have you edited your language to be more concise but still can’t fit your cover letter on one page? Try adjusting your cover letter’s format to be more space-efficient and organized.
First, adjust your cover letter spacing and margins to fit more words on the page. Your cover letter should be single-spaced, and your margins set to 1” all around.
If you’re still having trouble making your cover letter fit, then you might need to adjust your cover letter font. Use a standard, easy-to-read font like Georgia or Arial, and your font size should be between 11 and 12 points.
Lastly, consider shrinking the header of your cover letter to save space (if necessary).
Some online cover letter templates feature large headers to help an applicant’s name stand out. If your cover letter is too long, adjust the header by cutting any unnecessary information or graphics, and shrinking font sizes.