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How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

After spending weeks scanning every job search website, you finally found your dream job. You checked the requirements, and you tick all the boxes. You feel confident, and your professional CV is ready to be sent.

There is only one more thing to prepare: the dreaded cover letter.

how long should a cover letter be

If this isn’t your first application, you probably already know what you should write. But are you asking yourself exactly How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

And is it even that important?

Well, that’s why I decided to answer these questions in detail so that the length of your cover letter will not sabotage your chances of being hired.

Pages or Words

Generally speaking, a cover letter should be pretty short.

But exactly how short?

There is not a definitive rule, and it might depend on the job you’re applying for and your background. If you’re a fresh graduate and you’re applying for a job that doesn’t require any experience, the cover letter could be just a few sentences.

25 years of experience?

On the other hand, if you’re already a senior accountant and you’re applying for a partner position in a prestigious firm, you might want to articulate a few more details.

However, as a rule of thumb, a cover letter shouldn’t be longer than a page which equals, on average, 500 words.

Why You Should Keep it Short?

Let’s put ourselves in the recruiter’s shoes for a second. They have to go through hundreds of cover letters that, most of the time, repeat the same things over and over. When people try to be professional, they tend to be incredibly dull, and the longer the letter is, the more monotonous it sounds.

A cover letter should convey just a couple of essential bits of information about you and the reason you’re applying for that job.

how long should the cover letter be

Two Common Mistakes

When your cover letter is longer than one page, it generally means one of the following two things:

  • The applicant is unnecessarily reiterating the same concept. If you say more than once that you would be an excellent fit for the role, you lose credibility.
  • The applicant is writing something that is not required. This usually happens when you talk about information that the recruiters can find in your CV.

Not only is this repetitive and useless, but it will also shift the attention from what is really important.

What’s The Main Purpose of a Cover Letter?

The primary purpose of a cover letter is to arouse the curiosity of the recruiters and get you the chance to be invited to a personal interview. Therefore, everything you say should be meaningful and deeply related to the job you’re applying for.

Be aware…

A cover letter is no place to tell your life story. If they are interested in that, they will ask you about it during the interview.

Even if the amount of information you want to give is not a lot, some people could still have a hard time condensing everything into less than a page.

The trick is to know how to structure a cover letter correctly. So, let’s find out how to do that…

How To Say Everything You Need Using Fewer Words?

Let’s take a look at how exactly you should write your letter so that you include all the necessary information without going over the one-page limit.

First Paragraph

In the first paragraph, introduce yourself by name, say what the position is you are applying for, plus how you came to know about the job.

Generally speaking, it shouldn’t take more than 100 words.

Forget the demographics that are on your CV…

A common mistake to avoid is giving too many personal details such as age and nationality. Your name is more than enough, and they’ll find the other information on your CV.

If possible, address the recruiter by name instead of a general formula like “Dear sir/madam.”

how long should cover letter be

Second Paragraph

This is the most critical part, and it will make roughly half of the entire length of the cover letter.

The purpose of this paragraph is to briefly explain why you decided to apply for the job and what makes you the very best candidate.

How?

This can be done in many ways, but the most effective is to relate what you write to one or two of the job requirements. Try to pick the most important ones and avoid those that are already included in your resume. As an example, please don’t waste time and space telling them that you speak fluent French.

Structuring…

Try to divide the paragraph into three or four sections of a few sentences each so that your thoughts are well organized and easy to remember.

The ideal length is 200 to 300 words, and if you find yourself writing more than that, you’re probably giving too much useless information.

Your Conclusion

In the last part, you should show some appreciation for the consideration that you’ll get from the recruiters, express interest in the next steps (without being too demanding), and finish with a professional salutation.

You could also include a couple of sentences explaining what you can bring to the company, but only if it’s not repetitive and is genuinely meaningful.

This last section shouldn’t exceed 150 words.

Is Your CV a Good Addition to Your Cover Letter?

If you’re still perfecting your CV or resume, also check out my article on Hobbies Interests to Put on Resumes. And for more intensive guidance writing CVs, I highly recommend these resources: The 7 Second CV or How to Write a CV and Cover Letter.

Once you’re confident that your resume or CV is perfect, we can also assist with the application processes for many US-based companies. Our database includes everything from Popeyes Chicken Application to The Ritz Carlton Application to ABF Freight System Application. Just type your ideal company into our search box. You’ll likely find it!

Top Recommendation

You can all so begin preparation right now around answering potential questions that will likely come up in almost any interview. Read my in-depth guidance on Answering Tell Me About Yourself in Interview, responding well to Why Do You Want to Work Here as well as Why We Should Hire You.

Back to today’s topic…

Final Thoughts

We often tend to write too much in a cover letter because we feel like this is the only opportunity to get the job. But this is not the goal of a cover letter, the purpose of which is to open the doors to an interview. That will be the moment where we need to give more information.

If you didn’t know How Long Should a Cover Letter Be, now you have the answer. Follow the tips here, and your chances of being invited to that interview will surely increase.

Happy writing!

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About Eugene Casey

Eugene works in a busy employment agency in Chicago and has nearly 20 years of experience in finding clients the perfect job. His philosophy is simple, the right match for the right position is nearly always a win-win for both the employee and the company.

When he isn't working or writing for us, he enjoys cooking and exploring the United States, one state at a time.

He lives with his wife Lisa and their two German Shepherds, Wilber and Gus.

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