How Long Should Cover Letters Be?
- Word count: 250–400 words
- Ideal length: between ½ and one page
- Paragraph count: 3 to 4 paragraphs long
Don’t let your cover letter’s word count go past 400 words. You can write a short cover letter and still effectively communicate your qualifications.
How to Achieve the Ideal Cover Letter Length
Follow these five tips to achieve the right cover letter length, so employers can evaluate your application as quickly as possible.
1. Follow Cover Letter Sizing Rules
Before starting your cover letter, check whether the hiring manager has set a cover letter work length in the job description. If not, aim for 250 to 400 words, because the average reading speed of US adults is roughly 300 words per minute.
By limiting yourself to 400 words, you leave enough white space at the bottom of the page to signal to the hiring manager that your cover letter will be easy to read.
A full page cover letter makes hiring managers think you wrote more than one page. They simply don’t have time to read multi-page cover letters.
2. Make Your Cover Letter 4 Paragraphs or Fewer
A standard cover letter should be broken down into four 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.
Your second paragraph should focus on your professional accomplishments. Showcase what you’ve achieved so far in your career, and use numbers whenever possible. By highlighting your achievements, you show the hiring manager what you’ll bring to the company if hired.
It’s a good idea to use bullet points to showcase these accomplishments. Bullets help break up text and let the hiring manager quickly review your record.
Expand on your achievements in your third paragraph. One strategy to expand on your achievements is to research the company’s current projects and future goals, and explain how your past accomplishments will help you with the company’s projects and goals.
If you’re able to explain what you can do for the company as an employee, you will land more interviews with your cover letter.
The final paragraph of your cover letter should repeat your interest in the position, and thank the hiring manager for taking the time to look through your application. Provide them with your contact details again, so they can connect with you as soon as possible.
3. Focus on Your Most Relevant Achievements
If you have a diverse work history, referencing your many resume accomplishments in your cover letter may be tempting.
However, to keep your cover letter focused and concise, only write about one or two of your greatest professional achievements.
Imagine you’re writing a sales associate cover letter. Describe one or two anecdotes about how you increased sales revenue at your previous company, rather than including four or five irrelevant examples.
If you have many relevant achievements, keep some of them off your cover letter. Instead, save them to impress the interviewer.
4. Write Concisely and Directly
Make sure your sentences are all short and direct. Here’s an example that demonstrates how not to write about your experience:
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:
My previous job taught me how to perform well under pressure.
By removing unnecessary words, your sentences become shorter and easier to read. Shorter sentences give you more space to demonstrate your qualifications.
5. Use a Professional Cover Letter Format
To keep your cover letter organized and succinct, use a standard cover letter format.
A physical cover letter includes:
- The date
- The employer’s address
- Your address
- A greeting
- The body of your cover letter
- A sign-off
- Your signature
In addition, use a standard font for your cover letter, such as Helvetica or Garamond. The font size should be between 11 and 12 points, with standard margins of 1” on each side. Also left align your text.
If you’re struggling to structure your letter, use our sample cover letter template.
How Long Should an Email Cover Letter Be?
If you’re applying for a job opportunity online, you may need to send the hiring manager an email cover letter along with your other application materials.
To hold their attention, keep your email short and direct. It should be the same length as your regular cover letter, or shorter.
Unlike a physical cover letter, you don’t need to include the employer’s contact information. Your own contact details can follow your email signature.
You should also create a simple subject line that includes the job position and your name. You can send your cover letter in the body of your email, or attached as a DOCX or PDF file. Just clarify by letting the hiring manager know you’ve attached your resume and cover letter to the email.