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How Long Should A Cover Letter Be? Ideal Length & Best Practices

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Your dream job has been posted, you’ve read exactly what the employer is after, and you know you’re perfect for the role.

But while your CV might make it clear you have all the skills required, this isn’t all you need to land a job.

Skills and experience are just a part of the package. You need to sell yourself.

The cover letter is your first impression.

This is what employers look at when they want to get an idea of who you actually are, rather than simply reading a list of accomplishments.

Your cover letter can be what distinguishes you from other potential candidates, and ultimately nets you the job.

But there are two things that are immediately off-putting in a cover letter: it’s too long, or it’s too short.

A cover letter should be roughly half a page to a page long, and should never exceed a single sheet of paper.

Learn more about perfecting the cover letter here.

How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?

Cover letters should be between half a page and one page long.

A cover letter is essentially your first chance to sell yourself as a person, but employers can have a first impression on your first impression.

A cover letter that’s too long or too short can be off-putting, and might immediately harm your chances at getting the role.

The cover letter is meant to grab the attention of the reader, but this can’t happen if there are too many words on the page.

A dense block of text will indicate to the employer that you don’t really know what you want to say.

But if you write too little, you won’t be able to convey the key points of the cover letter.

How Many Words Should A Cover Letter Be?

Cover letters must be formatted correctly, with a 12-point font considered standard.

Including room for a header and signature, a page of 12-point font will be between 250 and 400 words.

What To Include In A Cover Letter

A good cover letter is precise, includes enough relevant information without getting too descriptive, and is formatted professionally.

Many find writing cover letters to be complicated, because they’re trying to fit too much information in.

However, an effective cover letter will manage to convey all the necessary information in just three or four paragraphs.

1. The Heading

Your header should include your basic information and contact details.

This goes at the top of the page, in the same way you format the CV. 

2. Paragraph 1: The Introduction

The introduction makes up the first paragraph of your cover letter.

This is where you express your interest in both the position and the company.

Mention both the specific job you’re applying for, and the specific company you’re applying with.

Cover letters should be customized, rather than generic.

You want to show you really are interested in this role.

Make sure to address your cover letter to the hiring manager.

If this isn’t posted in the job description, you should be able to find it with a little research.

Paragraph 2: Qualifications

How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?

In the second paragraph you can put forward the qualifications that make you right for the role.

Be specific, and only mention relevant experience.

Performance stats look good, and can quickly convey exactly what it is you bring to the role.

Don’t get overly descriptive, but keep to the facts.

Allow your achievements to speak for themselves.

This section can be bullet points.

Paragraph 3: Why You’re Right For The Role

Paragraph three should be a natural continuation of qualifications, but instead of listing achievements, you bring the focus to what drew you to the role.

However, if you have several relevant qualifications, you may prefer to use paragraph three to continue discussing them.

If your cover letter is looking long, then paragraph three can be left out.

Paragraph 4: Closing And Call To Action

End by restating why you’re interested in the role, and thank the reader.

Include a call to action, asking the reader to reach out to you.

Provide your contact details (email, phone number), and express your interest in hearing about the role.

Finish with your signature.

How Long Should An Email Cover Letter Be?

Email cover letters are typically shorter than standard cover letters, and are often half a page or less.

An email cover letter needs to be easy to read on a smartphone — this is how a lot of people view their emails.

If it’s too long, the recruiter won’t read it.

Before you send the email to the employer, make sure to check how it appears on different screens and devices. 

If you’re sending an email cover letter, don’t include your contact information at the top.

Instead, keep all the necessary information to the bottom.

When receiving an email cover letter, most people tend to read the first paragraph, and skim the rest.

If the first paragraph is your address, they’re less likely to bother with the actual letter. 

Tips For Formatting A Cover Letter

Cover letters need to be refined, and they must look professional.

Here are some tips for getting your cover letter perfect:

  • Have a 1-inch margin all the way around, with text aligned to the left.
  • Pick an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman.
  • Pick a readable font size. 12-point is considered standard.
  • Unless the job posting states otherwise, send your CV and cover letter as a PDF.
    This way, all your formatting stays in place.
  • Leave spaces between your paragraphs.
    This will make the cover letter easier to read, and stop the page from looking cluttered. 
  • Always proofread!
    Make sure to run your cover letter through a spellchecker, but read it yourself to look for errors.
    If you can, ask someone else to read it.

Final Thoughts

A cover letter can convey a lot of information with a small number of words.

As well as displaying your achievements and qualifications, a well written cover letter will show you understand the role. 

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