Asking yourself "Do I need a cover letter?" We surveyed 200 hiring decision-makers to find out if cover letters are still important in 2024.
Does writing cover letters feel like daunting guesswork to you?
“Is this enough? Should I write more? How long should my cover letter be? I mean… if it’s too short, the recruiter will think I don’t even care. And if they think it’s too long, they won’t bother to read it, so I’ll never get that job. Argh. You never know what those hiring managers want.”
Well, we’re here to save you from doubt and rumination. HR experts do know what they want to see in a cover letter. And right now, you’ll learn exact guidelines for cover letter length.
This guide will help you:
- Understand how many words should a cover letter be.
- Discover the ideal length of a cover letter, according to HR professionals.
- Keep the cover letter length under control.
- Avoid common cover letter writing mistakes that could ruin your entire job application.
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New to Cover Letter Writing?
If you’re writing your first cover letter, we suggest you check out our full step-by-step guide to writing a cover letter.
Or, if you’re looking for career-specific cover letter examples to inspire you, take a look at these:
- Computer Science Cover Letter
- Cover Letter for Promotion
- Cover Letter with No Experience
- Customer Service Cover Letter
- Engineering Cover Letter
- General Cover Letter
- Internship Cover Letter
- Teacher Cover Letter
You can find more examples and guides here: Cover Letter Examples to boost your hiring chance.
But if you’re here just to find out more about cover letter length… you’re almost there, just scroll down a tiny bit.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
As a rule of thumb, your cover letter should be between half a page and one page long typed in a standard font (ideally the same as your resume font). You should aim from 250 to 400 words and 3 to 4 paragraphs.
What’s the reasoning behind these guidelines?
Well, recruiters are busy people, and no one’s going to read a full-blown essay about your humble beginnings. And if your letter of application doesn’t get read, you’re not getting that job interview.
But isn’t half a page too short? After all, you’ve got so much to tell!
Here’s our tip: treat your cover letter as a movie director would treat a teaser trailer. Pick the most exciting moments of your professional life and put them together in a way that makes the reader crave more. Like this:
Example With a Perfect Cover Letter Length
Product Manager, CPM
10 March 2022
Head of Sales
Jensen Smul International
Overland Park, Kansas(KS), 66210
2638 Better Street
Dear Mr. Primm,
Surpassing revenue goal by 130% at Accelubeam, and saving $1.5 million in costs last financial year wasn’t the peak of my career. I am positive I can achieve even higher results in the role of a Senior Product Manager at Jensen Smul International.
As a product manager with over 5 years of experience, I’ve been opportune enough to work in varied environments. I had a chance to lead 5 cross-functional teams from conception through product launch with multiple iterations, which resulted in raising 7 efficiency measures by more than 20%. I believe this is the kind of flexibility and leadership experience you’re looking for among your senior leaders. And I’d be delighted to help your product team grow.
I’m truly elated by this opportunity as I’ve been a long-time fan of your multiple ventures, especially Accel-Rator. I’d love my experience in helping fast-growing SaaS businesses use their full potential to contribute to the growth of Accel-Rator in particular.
Would it be possible for you to set aside some time next week to talk about my ideas on exploring new product functionalities, and running marketing campaigns that could help us realize up to 130% ROI?
PS—I'd love to tell you how my team managed to improve UX/UI scores by up to 20% by means of increasing user feedback collection.
This cover letter has 261 words, including contact information, the greeting, and the closing formula. Look, if someone like Charlize could pack their expertise into 261 words, you can, too.
How to Write a Cover Letter Without Wasting Words and Space
Your cover letter shouldn’t take much space. So, if you’re prone to writing long cover letters, try these tips to make your cover letter length meet the requirements:
- Focus on your most relevant professional achievements—instead of explaining your entire professional background, show how you’ve solved a few specific problems that are similar to the challenges your new employer is facing.
- Avoid clichés. Deleting meaningless fluff like “Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved thinking outside the box…” can be a powerful way to trim down your letter.
- Stick to the proven four-paragraph format you’ll find below—if you follow it closely, your cover letter is practically guaranteed to be the right length.
- Use a professionally designed cover letter template and fill it in directly—this will give you a feel of how much you’re written.
Double your impact with a matching resume and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter generator and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There's 21 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
Best Practices for Writing a Cover Letter: The Four-Paragraph Structure
To make good use of the limited number of words in your cover letter, follow this structure:
- Start with a cover letter header that contains contact info.
- Greet the reader with “Dear Mr./Ms. X” or another bulletproof way to start a cover letter.
- Write the first paragraph: focus on a big achievement to attract the reader’s attention
- Write the second paragraph: show that you understand the professional challenges your new boss wants you to solve, and give specific proof of how you aced similar challenges in the past.
- Craft the third paragraph: explain why you’re eager to work at this specific company.
- End with the fourth paragraph: ask the reader to schedule a meeting or a call with you, then repeat your offer to bring value to the company (see more ways to end a cover letter)
- Now, sign off and add an optional P. S.
This simple blueprint provides a clear, easy-to-skim cover letter structure. It shows the recruiter that you mean business. Now, pair your brilliant cover letter with a matching resume and you’ll be ready to submit your job application.
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To answer the question "how long should a cover letter be?" remember those three simple rules:
- 250–400 words long
- 3–4 paragraphs long
- Between half a page and one page long
Do you have any other questions about how long a cover letter should be? Would you like to share your advice on choosing the optimal cover letter length? We’d love to hear from you.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Cover Letter Length
Can a cover letter be two pages? I have so much to tell!
Well, would you watch an hour-long movie teaser?
Even if you're Gandalf and your most recent work experience alone could fill an entire movie trilogy, keep your cover letter short. Focus on the most relevant achievements and success stories and leave the reader wanting more. You can even leave a P. S. that goes like "Once I persuaded a hobbit to go on an adventure and helped save the world—can't wait to tell you the story!"
How Long Should an Electronic Cover Letter Be?
The guidelines for cover letter length are the same, no matter whether you’re sending your cover letter by post, submitting it as a PDF (the best file format for cover letters), or pasting it into the body of an email. Stick to 250–400 words and 3–4 paragraphs.
How Long Should an Entry-Level Cover Letter Be?
The general rule of thumb for cover letter length is 250–400 words. But don't sweat too much if your cover letter ends up being just 200 words long—this is perfectly normal, especially if you're writing an entry-level cover letter or a cover letter with no work experience at all.