How long should cover letters be in general?
It’s a common question brought up by job seekers of all sorts: how long should a cover letter be, really?
Thankfully, hitting the proper length on your cover letter isn’t complicated.
- How many words should a cover letter be? 250-400 words.
- What’s the ideal cover letter length? Between ½ and one page.
- How many paragraphs are in a cover letter? 3 to 4 paragraphs long.
Yet your cover letter’s length isn’t as important as its content. 250-400 words of fluff isn’t going to impress anyone.
How to achieve the ideal cover letter length
Follow these five tips on how to achieve the right cover letter length, so employers can spend time evaluating your application for its content rather than its size.
1. Don’t exceed 400 words
The average reading speed of an adult in the US is roughly 300 words per minute. Since hiring managers typically spend less than a minute reviewing a resume, we can assume that a brief cover letter of around 250-300 words is ideal.
However, if you have additional experience that’s relevant to the position, it’s worth extending your cover letter to 400 words to give yourself space to elaborate on it.
2. Keep your cover letter to 4 paragraphs or fewer
Keeping your cover letter concise should be your number one priority. At most, everything you need to mention should be contained within three to four paragraphs.
While it depends on the nature of what’s being written, a single paragraph typically contains around 100-200 words. Therefore, a three to four paragraph cover letter should fit within the recommended cover letter word limit of 400 words.
3. Focus on your most relevant achievements
If you have a diverse work history, it can be tempting to reference your many resume accomplishments.
However, to keep your cover letter focused and concise, only write about one or two of your greatest professional achievements.
Imagine you’re applying for a position as a Sales Associate. It’s much better to describe one or two anecdotes about how you increased sales revenue at your previous company than to include four or five examples that are irrelevant to the job.
4. Write concisely and directly
Many job seekers think that giving employers a thorough introduction of their personal history will help them land a job. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Hiring managers have limited time to scan your cover letter for information. To help them easily determine your qualifications, avoid mentioning your personal life unless it’s related to the position.
To make your cover letter more straightforward, ensure each body paragraph focuses on a specific position or accomplishment.
Start each paragraph with a sentence introducing your previous experience. In the next two sentences, mention something notable you achieved, or skills you honed while in that position. Finally, wrap up the paragraph by connecting how that experience will help you excel at the position.
Additionally, keep each of these sentences 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.
While this sentence sounds professional, it takes 27 words to communicate an uncomplicated idea. By simplifying the language, you can communicate the same idea much more directly:
My previous job taught me how to perform well under pressure.
By removing unnecessary words, this sentence becomes shorter and easier to read — giving you more space to demonstrate your qualifications elsewhere.
5. Use a professional cover letter format
To keep your cover letter neatly organized and succinct, stick to a standard cover letter format.
For reference, a normal cover letter outline includes the following sections:
- An introduction paragraph
- One or two body paragraphs that highlight your experience or accomplishments
- A cover letter closing paragraph with your contact information
Additionally, try using one of the many custom cover letter templates available online to help structure your cover letter and give it a unique appearance.
How long should an email cover letter be?
If you’re applying for jobs online, you may need to send the hiring manager an email cover letter along with your other application materials.
To hold the hiring manager’s attention, keep your email cover letter short and direct — specifically, under 150 words long.
To make sure your email hits all the right points without getting too lengthy, follow these rules:
- Don’t include the employer’s contact information.
- Create a simple subject line that includes the job position and your name.
- Include only your most relevant information.
- Highlight just one of your professional achievements.
- Close with your contact information and availability.
Need more help writing your cover letter? Try our free cover letter builder to ensure you achieve the perfect cover letter length with minimal effort. Or learn how to write a great cover letter yourself and make yours from scratch.