How to Write a Great Cover Letter in 2023 | Guide & Tips
Learn how to write a cover letter that makes a great first impressi...
Hiring managers are busy people who don’t have the time to read lengthy introductions. As a result, the rule of thumb is that a cover letter should be somewhere between half a page and one page (but not longer).
That equates to around four paragraphs or between 250 and 400 words.
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Let’s take a look at the standard cover letter format and break this length guideline down by section.
Opening: Engages the reader with a compelling anecdote about why you’re applying and explains what attracted you to the role and company. Use this to connect your qualifications to the job. An opening to a cover letter should be one paragraph and around 80 words long.
Body: Shows why you’re the perfect fit for the position and highlights quantifiable accomplishments that back up skills. Use this section to align your abilities, experience, and values with the job requirements and indicate how you could bring value. The body of a cover letter should be one to three paragraphs and about 200 words
Closing statement: Reiterate your interest in the job and tank the reader for their consideration. Present a call to action and encourage them to arrange an interview. The closing of a cover letter will be one paragraph of about 60 words.
Being concise in a cover letter is essential because:
Optimize the process of writing a cover letter with our user-friendly cover letter builder. Professionally designed templates and expert suggestions will help you focus on the most relevant information and keep your document short and sweet.
Now that we’ve answered the question “How long should a cover letter be?”, let’s get into how to make sure you stick to the appropriate length.
Keeping your letter to under one page can be challenging. You might feel compelled to overexplain why you’re such a great fit for the role or dive into a lengthy story about why it would be your dream to work for the company.
But it’s important to rein yourself in and adhere to the recommended word count. Keep the following pointers in mind to do this successfully.
There’s no point in writing your whole letter with the one-page maximum in mind only to realize that your formatting is wrong. Get your formatting correct from the start so you can accurately assess length while typing.
Margins should be set to one inch and you should use single or 1.15 spacing. A 12-point font size is best, and your text should never be smaller than 11pt.
Using a professional cover letter template can help to ensure your letter’s formatting is correct.
Consider what you would focus on if you only had 30 seconds to convince a hiring manager that you’re the perfect person for the job. Jot down these key points and frame your cover letter around them – don’t give in to the temptation to add anything extra.
Your cover letter isn’t meant to tell the whole story of your career. It’s supposed to tell a condensed, customized story aligned with the particular role you’re applying for.
Make sure you address only the most relevant skills, experiences, and accomplishments that directly match the job requirements outlined in the description. If you prioritize relevance and omit everything else, you can keep your document tight and to the point.
One approach you could take is to just toss all your thoughts onto the page and then go back and remove every unnecessary detail.
Ask yourself questions like:
Then delete, delete, delete. The idea is to filter your message down to the fewest possible points that’ll make the most impact.
Being concise isn’t just about removing unnecessary information; it’s also about removing unnecessary words.
If you can express something in a shorter, tighter way, you absolutely should. Always use clear and straightforward language and avoid complex, wordy sentences. Maybe you’ve included lots of superfluous adjectives or flowery descriptions – get rid of these immediately.
Rather than thinking of your cover letter as one continuous document that needs to make 10 different points, approach it in sections, each with a specific objective and word count (see the by-section breakdown higher up on this page). This will help you to stay focused and avoid repetition while preventing you from rambling on.
You can also use bullet points to summarize information and present it in a well-structured and easily scannable format.
A cover letter builder with pre-built templates can help you optimize space and keep the length under control.
The ideal length for a cover letter is around 300 words – somewhere between 250 and 400 words. If you’re fresh out of college and are applying for a straightforward role, your cover letter could be a bit shorter, closer to 250.
If you have decades of experience behind you and the job requirements are fairly complex, you can write a slightly longer letter of around 400 words. The key is to make a strong argument and convey all the most pertinent information in as few words as possible.
Generally, no. A two-page cover letter is too long and will potentially put off readers who don’t have time to wade through lots of text. That said, if the hiring manager specifically requests a longer cover letter with extensive details, then two pages is absolutely fine.
Similarly, if you’re writing an academic cover letter that must dive into your teaching and research experience, a two-page letter is probably appropriate. In all other cases, try to keep your letter under one page.
If you don’t have a lot of work experience or technical skills to write about, you could get away with a 200-word cover letter (although bear in mind that the recommended minimum is 250 words). However, if you’re an experienced professional with a broad skill set and several key accomplishments, 200 words probably aren’t enough to do your background justice.
In general, you don’t want your cover letter to be too short because this suggests that you haven’t put in the effort to engage the hiring manager and don’t have much to say about what you can offer an employer.
Employers often receive hundreds of job applications for vacancies. They need to work through them quickly and a concise cover letter makes this job that much easier. A brief letter also shows that you can convey information clearly and succinctly – a valuable skill in many roles.
Finally, brevity ensures that you only focus on relevant qualifications and accomplishments. This means that employers don’t have to sift through heaps of irrelevant content to find the information they want.