Let’s admit it: if it were up to preference, most job applicants would skip cover letters altogether.
But if you’ll customize one for a specific position, you might as well nail the document length. This poses the question: how long should a cover letter be?
Shorter cover letters are generally better, but it’s not always easy keeping the content brief.
In this post, we’ll go over the expected length, how to reach it, and when it’s okay to exceed it.
- How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
- Is it Bad to Have a Long Cover Letter?
- How to Determine the Length of Your Cover Letter
- How Many Words Should a Cover Letter Have?
- What Should You Include in a Cover Letter?
- What Should You Not Include in Your Cover Letter?
- How to Reach the Ideal Cover Letter Length
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping Up
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
The ideal length for a cover letter is approximately half a page, chopped into three or six paragraphs.
Depending on the format used, the content can be stretched to reach two-thirds of a page.
Is a Two-Page Cover Letter Too Long?
Two-page cover letters are only acceptable for academic professionals. Otherwise, cover letters don’t need to go beyond one page. Even a full page can be excessive.
Is 400 Words Too Much for a Cover Letter?
No, it’s okay to write 400 words in your cover letter as long as you’re not stretching minor details to fill up the word count.
If you find it hard to come up with 400 words, you can settle for 300 or even 200 words.
Is Four Pages Too Long for a Cover Letter?
Yes, a four-page document is too much for a cover letter.
A hiring manager won’t bother reading cover letters that are that long. In fact, four pages can be considered excessive even for a typical CV (curriculum vitae).
Is a 1000-Word Cover Letter Too Long?
Unless you’re applying for an academic position, you don’t need to write a 1,000-word cover letter.
Instead, this word count is more suitable for a standalone personal statement in a university application.
Is a 300-Word Cover Letter Too Much?
No, not at all. A 300-word document strikes the perfect length for most cover letters!
This length works like a charm because it usually sits between half a page to two-thirds of a page, depending on your cover letter format and spacing choices.
Is it Bad to Have a Long Cover Letter?
Yes, having an excessively long cover letter can hurt your chances with hiring managers.
According to a survey by Saddleback College, around 70% of employers prefer receiving cover letters that are half a page long or shorter.
Sending long cover letters is a waste of both paper and the recruiter’s time. Some even consider it unprofessional.
How to Determine the Length of Your Cover Letter
Some cover letter generators can help determine length and take the guesswork out of the equation.
However, if you’re creating your template from scratch, there are a couple of tips to help you decide how long the cover letter should be.
Check the Requirements
Before writing the cover letter, double-check the requirements on the job listing.
Some hiring managers specify a word count or a file size limit. Others will let you know what questions you need to answer in your cover letter.
Reflect on Your Relevant Skills and Experience
While the proper length of a CV changes depending on seniority, cover letters have less room for customization based on the applicant’s experience.
For people with over ten years of experience, two-thirds of a page is a good fit. If there aren’t a lot of technical skills to cover, less than half a page will do.
How Many Words Should a Cover Letter Have?
For a cover letter, an average of 300 words works best, but you can range between 200-400 words.
While we don’t usually measure a CV or a resume’s length by word count, we do it for cover letters. Why?
Well, for one, cover letters rely on full paragraphs instead of the bulleted lists you find on a typical resume. That’s why word count can accurately reflect the length.
Plus, the length of a resume is usually one page, too. That doesn’t mean that cover letters and resumes share the same length or layout. Instead, it helps to use word count (200-400 words vs. one page) to clearly differentiate between the expectations for each document.
What Should You Include in a Cover Letter?
The “less is more” approach is one of the top cover letter tips in our books.
You don’t want to cut out the essential parts, though. A strong cover letter still needs to touch on the following aspects:
- Personality (without excessive humor or overusing “I” in the text)
- Specifics about the position (gather ideas from the job description and the company’s about page.)
- Contact Information
- A statement about why you’re the right candidate in the middle paragraph
You can reflect your attention to detail by using consistent formatting and picking up on the top skills from the job posting.
What Should You Not Include in Your Cover Letter?
One of the common cover letter mistakes is including the wrong kind of information. To avoid wasting space, keep the following out of the document:
- Anything that isn’t true
- Salary requirement (only include it if the employer specifically requests it)
- Negative comments about former employers or colleagues
- Irrelevant information like hobbies or experience in a different field
We’d also recommend avoiding excessive modesty or flattering. Instead, try to balance between showcasing your accomplishments and praising the company’s achievements.
How to Reach the Ideal Cover Letter Length
Since keeping cover letters around half a page long is easier said than done, you’ll need some tips and tricks along the way.
1. Keep it Concise
Adding a hint of personality is okay, but you don’t want to turn the cover letter into a mini-essay and bore the recruiter senseless.
The best practice is to use short, simple sentences that drive the point home.
If some words don’t add value, remove them and focus on the relevant information.
2. Format Correctly
Your formatting makes all the difference in the cover letter length.
For instance, if you opt for double spacing throughout the article, you’ll have less room for the text. Instead, try using 1-1.5 line spacing for normal text and double spacing between paragraphs.
Don’t increase the font size too much, either. Use 11-12pt to keep the cover letter short without compromising readability.
3. Get Help
We all have blind spots in writing, and that’s why getting a second opinion is helpful.
Ask someone you trust to read the cover letter and point out the redundant parts.
Then, you can use an editorial tool. Not only would it weed out grammatical errors, but it’ll also help you spot issues with readability.
4. Don’t Reveal Everything
It’s good to show enthusiasm and highlight your selling points in the cover letter. The issue is that once you get in the mood, there’s a risk that you’ll overdo it.
The key is knowing what to reveal and when to stop. The goal is to appear interesting enough to get a job interview.
That’s why you need to include a call to action (CTA) in the closing paragraph to either direct the recruiter to your CV or land an interview to discuss the details.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Avoid Too Many Pages in a Cover Letter?
To avoid stuffing the cover letter, limit your ideas to three paragraphs.
In the first one, introduce yourself, hook the recruiter, and express enthusiasm.
The second paragraph should showcase how your skills and experiences fit into this role.
The final one should close with a compelling call to action.
How Long Should 500 Words Take to Write?
Typing 500 words shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. That said, since you need to craft the cover letter carefully, the process could take around an hour.
You’ll need to draft ideas and rephrase some parts more than once! Proofreading the text could take 10-15 more minutes.
To tailor your cover letter to the ideal length, aim for 200-400 words. That word count usually takes up around half a page.
Two-page cover letters only work in specific situations, like applications for academic positions. Otherwise, going beyond two-thirds of a page is a waste of time.
If you have trouble reaching the ideal cover letter length, let us know in a comment below.
Remember that a fresh set of eyes can help you spot redundancy and formatting issues!