How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

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Cover letters are an important part of the job application process. You should almost always send a cover letter with a job application unless the hiring manager specifically asks you not to.

However, one thing that is less clear is how long your cover letter should be. If it is too short, employers might think you do not care much about the job. If it is too long, employers might not take the time to read your letter and may not consider you for an interview.

Read below for more advice on how long your cover letter should be, as well as additional advice on writing a strong cover letter.

Why Include a Cover Letter

Should you include a cover letter with your resume? Some employers require cover letters, and you can find out if they do by reading the job posting. If a cover letter is required, the job advertisement will mention it.

Jobvite's Recruiter Nation Survey reports that only 27% of recruiters said that cover letters are important in their hiring decisions, up from 8% in 2017. A CareerBuilder survey reports that 40% of human resources managers responded that a cover letter would help an applicant get noticed.

Cover letter requirements vary between employers, industries, and the jobs the organization is filling. They also vary depending on whether you're sending an email cover letter, sending a printed letter attachment, or uploading your document.

Even when a cover letter isn't required, it can boost your chances of getting hired if you include one when you apply for a job.

Therefore, only leave out a cover letter when the employer specifically asks you not to send one.

How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be?

Should you keep your cover letter short, or should it be a full page or even longer? Your cover letter should be no longer than one page. If you're sending an email letter, it can be even shorter.

In fact, as far as how long your cover letter should be, shorter is better. The exception would be when an employer requests a letter that's a specific length or number of words.

  • Your cover letter should be a maximum of one page, and shorter than that for an email cover letter.
  • Some employers want even less. A Saddleback College survey reported that almost 70% of employers wanted a cover letter of a half page or shorter, 20% had no preference, and 12% expected a full page letter.

Your letter should concisely highlight your most relevant qualifications for the job and what you have to offer the employer.

Email Cover Letter Length

When sending an email cover letter, it's even more important to be concise. The first paragraph is what readers pay attention to when reading an email. The rest of the message is typically skimmed. Two paragraphs—one that serves as an introduction, and one that explains your qualification for the job—and then a closing is sufficient.

Cover Letter Word Count

There is no specific word count you should aim for when writing a cover letter (unless the employer gives you a specific word count). Instead of focusing on the number of words, focus on making your cover letter one page or less, with a readable font and font size, and enough white space between paragraphs and in the margins.

Your goal is to highlight your most relevant qualifications for the job, not to repeat everything that's on your resume.

However, if you use a 12-point font, a full page letter, not including the heading or signature, would be approximately 250 to 400 words.

You might want to hand a printed out version of your cover letter to a friend or family member and ask them if the letter seems too wordy, or too difficult to read.

Use a Concise Subject Line

You can also make your email cover letter stand out with a clear, concise email subject line. Typically, you want to include the title of the position that you are applying for and your name. For example: Editorial Assistant-John Smith (try to keep it less than 30 characters).

This is about as much as people can see on their mobile devices, which is often how people check their email.

How to Format a Cover Letter

Just as important as the length of your cover letter is the format. You will want to choose a font that is simple and legible (such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana, or Times New Roman) in a readable font size (typically 12 point).

Your letter should include the following:

  • Heading (hard copy letter)
  • Salutation
  • Introductory Paragraph
  • Your Qualifications (one to three paragraphs or a list of bullet points)
  • Closing
  • Signature (include your contact information in your signature when sending an email letter)

Your margins should be 1-inch all around, with the text aligned to the left.

You also want to leave space between paragraphs in your cover letter, as well as between your salutation and the text (and between your text and the signature), so that your letter is easy to read.

A good rule of thumb is that you always want a good amount of white space on the paper. This will prevent your letter from looking too cluttered and difficult to read.

Article Sources

  1. Jobvite. "Recruiter Nation Survey," page 19. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

  2. CareerBuilder. "How to Create a Cover Letter That Gets Attention." Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

  3. CareerOneStop. "Write Effective Cover Letters." Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.

  4. Saddleback College. "Your Resume is Your 1st Interview." Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.