Finding the perfect balance between concise and complete can be a challenge

When applying for a job, the cover letter can often be the key factor that sets you apart from other candidates. A cover letter serves as an opportunity to showcase your skills, experience, and personality and can give hiring managers a glimpse into what you have to offer. 

However, one of the biggest challenges in creating a cover letter is determining the ideal length. So, what is the perfect length for your cover letter? The answer can depend on the job you're applying for, the company culture, and the expectations of the hiring manager. 

In this article, we'll provide tips on how to create a standout letter and offer guidance on determining the ideal cover letter length that will make the right impression on potential employers.

How long should a cover letter be?

While there's no set rule for how many words your cover letter should be, the length will depend on the amount of information you need to convey and the style you choose to write in. 

However, as a general guideline, it's recommended to keep your cover letter to one page, with each paragraph consisting of 3-4 sentences. This works out to between 300 and 500 words and ensures that your document is concise and easy to read - while still providing enough detail about your qualifications and experience

Additionally, it's important to focus on quality over quantity and make sure that each sentence is relevant and impactful to the overall message of your cover letter. On top of that, some employers may have specific guidelines for cover letter length. 

Guidelines on cover letter length

1 page or 300-500 words

One commonly accepted guideline is to keep your letter to one page, with a cover letter word count of approximately 300-500 words. This length allows you to provide enough information to highlight your skills and experience, while remaining on point.

Exceptions to the rule

How long is too long? Many people wonder if it's okay to have a two-page cover letter. There are some instances where you can exceed one page; however, they are few and very far between. If the job posting specifically requests a longer cover letter, you can consider writing a more detailed document that addresses the specific requirements of the position. In some fields, such as academia or research, a longer cover letter may be expected in order to provide a comprehensive overview of your experience and qualifications. But in normal circumstances, one page is plenty. 

Breaking down the cover letter

When determining the length of your cover letter, it can be helpful to think about the different sections of the document and how much space each one should take up. Breaking down a cover letter into its different sections and knowing what to include in each paragraph can help you to create a document that is well-organized, effective, and concise. 

What should a cover letter include, though? Here's a breakdown of what you could cover in each paragraph:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

The first paragraph of your cover letter should introduce you and explain why you're applying for the job. You can start with a sentence that grabs the reader's attention and makes it clear that you're excited about the opportunity. For example, you might say something like, "I am thrilled to apply for the [Position] at [Company Name], as I have a long-term interest in [field or industry]."

You should also summarise why you're a good fit for the position and why you're interested in working for the company. This is your chance to make a connection with the reader and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job. 

Paragraph 2: What you bring to the table

The second paragraph of your cover letter should provide more detail about your skills and experience and how they align with the requirements of the job. This is where you can explain what you bring to the table and how you can contribute to the company's success.

It's important to be specific and provide examples of your accomplishments, as well as any relevant education or training that you've completed. This is also a good place to mention any soft skills that are important for the position, such as communication, teamwork, or leadership abilities.

Paragraph 3: Career achievements and supporting information

The third paragraph of your cover letter can be formatted into bullet points, if you prefer. This is where you can demonstrate your expertise and show the reader that you have the skills and experience needed to excel in the position.

Be sure to tailor your examples to the requirements of the job posting and focus on achievements that are relevant to the company's goals and mission. This is also a good place to mention any relevant certifications, awards, or publications that you've earned.

Paragraph 4: Closing and call to action

The final paragraph of your cover letter should wrap up your document and provide a call to action. This is where you can thank the reader for considering your application and express your enthusiasm for the position once more.

You should also provide your contact information and encourage the reader to get in touch with you for further discussion or to schedule an interview. This is your chance to leave a lasting impression and show the reader that you're a qualified and keen candidate for the job.

Tips on crafting effective cover letters 

Crafting an effective cover letter within word count limits can be challenging, but it's always possible. Here are some tips that can help you to stay on track and make the most of the space you have:

  • Focus on the essentials: Be concise and avoid including irrelevant or redundant information

  • Use the active voice: This helps to convey confidence and clarity and makes your writing more engaging

  • Use bullet points: When appropriate, bullet points can help you to present information in a more efficient and visually appealing way

  • Customize your letter: Tailor your letter to the specific job and company you're applying to, highlighting the skills and experience that are most relevant to the position

  • Proofread: Make sure to carefully proofread your letter for errors, typos, and grammar mistakes; consider asking a friend or mentor to review your letter as well

  • Use a consistent format: Use a consistent format for your letter, with the same font and header that you used on your resume

  • Be confident and positive: Use confident, positive language to convey your enthusiasm for the position and your ability to excel in it

Example of a successful cover letter

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[Your Email Address]

[Today's Date]

[Company Name]

[Company Address]

Dear Mr Carlson, 

Having seen the job posting for a Project Manager, I would like to offer you adaptability, leadership skills, and a willingness to take initiative in this role. As someone who has demonstrated an ability to embrace change and lead others through it, I can also bring a wealth of knowledge surrounding project management to your team. I have earned recognition for bringing innovative and creative approaches to business and for embracing technical solutions. 

I am proud to have successfully transitioned from a QA role to a Project Manager with my current employer, in response to a sudden shift in the business structure. I demonstrated strong leadership by being one of the first employees to embrace the changes and execute the transition. I encouraged and inspired other QA team members to take on the challenge and shone a positive light on making the transition.

Please also consider the following qualities that I could bring to your team:

  • Emerging technologies: Business and tech changes at the speed of light, or so it seems sometimes. I am adept at keeping up with those changes and assimilating new ways of doing things. I bring fresh perspectives to processes and procedures and strongly feel that transformational change and adaptation are imperative to driving innovation. 

  • Leadership: I truly enjoy stewarding the career progression of others and have been trusted by management on several occasions to lead projects and to motivate teams to success.

  • Commitment to improvement: I proactively seek opportunities to expand my skills and knowledge through professional development activities. I'm also not afraid to take on new challenges and can make autonomous decisions despite ambiguity and tight deadlines.

While my resume does go into more detail and provides additional insights into my background, please feel free to contact me on [cell phone number] if you have any questions about my candidacy.  I look forward to discussing further how my professional goals are perfectly aligned with your organization's priorities.  

Thank you for your time and kind consideration.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]

In closing

Remember, the goal of your cover letter is to get your foot in the door and secure an interview, so put in the effort to make it the best it can be. Good luck with your job search!

If you need help, TopResume writers are experts at crafting compelling cover letters that highlight skills, qualifications, and achievements. We'll not only make sure you have the perfect cover letter length, we'll write it in such a way that you won't fail to impress recruiters!

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