Q&A: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? (With Example and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A cover letter is a formal business letter that you attach with your CV on a job application. It contains information about your most impressive skills and experiences to highlight what you can offer an employer. Understanding the ideal length of a cover letter can help present your candidacy in a clear and concise way. In this article, we cover why a cover letter is important, state how long should a cover be, explain how to determine its length and share tips on editing your letter.

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter

Why is a cover letter important?

A cover letter is an important job application document because it acts as an extension of your CV. You can use it to describe your skills and experiences in greater detail, using persuasive writing techniques to convince the reader of your potential. Since a cover letter is often the first document a recruiter reads, it's essential to convey a good first impression. For instance, finding the ideal length of a cover letter can help you secure the recruiter's attention. Anything too long can distract the reader, whereas anything too short may imply a lack of interest or effort.

A cover letter can also help you stand out from other job candidates. You can include examples of your success in previous roles to demonstrate the unique talent you can bring to an employer. Structuring your cover letter professionally exemplifies your sound communication skills and attention to detail. The more time you invest into fine-tuning your job application, the more you can make the most out of this opportunity. Thus, a cover letter is an important device to elaborate on your CV, align yourself with the employer's expectations and share your career ambitions.

How long should a cover letter be?

The length of your cover letter largely depends on your recruiter's requirements, however, the standard length is usually no longer than one page. Unless your potential employer states otherwise in their job advertisement, it's best to aim for 400 to 500 words. This gives you enough space to introduce yourself to the reader and share with them your reasons for why you would be a good fit for the role. Anything longer than 500 words can distract the recruiter, especially those that need to read through dozens of cover letters each day.

A 400 to 500-word cover letter encourages your writing to be clear and concise. This way, you can provide recruiters with a glimpse of your most employable skills, while leaving them with questions to ask you during a job interview. Remember to use the word limit of your cover letter tactfully. Think of your cover letter as an inverted pyramid, whereby you structure the most important information at the top of your letter and the least important information towards the end.

Related: How To Write a Job Application Email (With Examples)

How to determine the length of your cover letter

You can determine the length of your cover letter by examining your recruiter's requirements and reflecting on the skills and experience you need to highlight to them. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to determine the ideal length for your cover letter:

1. Review your recruiter's job posting

Some recruiters may specify a word limit for your cover letter on their job postings. This way, they can ensure quality information that makes the selection process much easier and efficient. Remember to adhere to these requirements, as your recruiter might ignore any cover letters that don't meet their specifications. Similarly, automated applicant tracking software tends to fail job applications that exceed word limits.

2. Refer to your industry's standard practices

Another method to determine the length of your cover letter is by speaking to friends and colleagues in your industry. This can give you a general idea of what most employers expect. When composing your cover letter, think about how you can convey your knowledge of the industry and the top skills needed to succeed in this environment. Planning your cover letter carefully can help you decide whether your content is sufficient.

3. Focus on quality content

Before you write your cover letter, create an outline to help you plan your points. At this stage, try to focus on quality content rather than the length of your content. It's better to have a clear and concise letter rather than one that sounds repetitive, poorly edited or unnecessarily wordy.

4. Adhere to the standard business letter format

Format your document with one-inch margins, single line spacing and use a regular 12-point text size. Trying to squeeze many words onto one page or using a larger text size to fill your document may look unprofessional. Following the standard business letter format can improve the readability of your writing.

5. Limit your letter to four paragraphs

Choose three key points to focus on in your cover letter, so that the information remains relevant and doesn't get too wordy. Another way to think about your structure is through four paragraphs, starting with an introduction, a paragraph that describes your expertise, followed by a paragraph explaining why you want to work for the company and ending with an impactful conclusion. Using these writing aids can help you structure an impressive cover letter that holds the reader's attention.

6. Engage the recruiter without telling them everything

While you may feel tempted to include as many details about yourself into your one-page long cover letter, it's best to treat it as a teaser describing what you can offer the company as their employee. This way, you can intrigue the reader enough to invite you for an interview. You can then use this opportunity to elaborate on your qualifications and work experience in person.

Related: How To Structure a Cover Letter (With Example)

Cover letter example

The following cover letter sample exemplifies the ideal one-page length of an effective cover letter:

Dear Hiring Manager,

I'm excited to be applying for the web developer position at Max Technology. I've been programming websites and using CSS to create them since I was in middle school, so it's always been a passion of mine. Your work has also intrigued me since your company won the 'Most Innovative' award at the Asia-Pacific Web Development Awards two years ago. I strive to stay on the cutting-edge of web design and development, so when I saw this job posting, I knew I had to apply.

During my previous role at Impact Global, I build a website completely from scratch for a recently rebranded business. I started by gathering my client's requirements and holding a focus group to gather user feedback. My favourite part of web design is building a solution that impresses the client and meets the needs of customers and users. My new website was responsive, extremely fast and included the latest e-commerce features. After launch, I continued to lead optimisation efforts. Through A/B testing, I improved the click-through rate by 10% and reduced the bounce rate by 35%. As your web developer, I would bring these skills to develop websites that exceed the expectations of our clients and drive real business results.

One of the factors that really attracted me to this role is your value of giving back to the community. In my free time, I run free web development workshops for at-risk youth. In these workshops, I teach them the basics of HTML and JavaScript and serve as their mentor. As I grow in my career, applying my skills to help others has become more important to me and I believe this role would give me that opportunity.

Thank you for your consideration and time. I'm looking forward to learning more details about the position and company.

Yours Sincerely,
Helen Chan

Tips on editing your cover letter

The following tips can help you edit your cover letter to enhance the quality of your writing:

  • Proofread your work: Before you edit your letter, proofread your content to eradicate any spelling, grammar or other linguistical mistakes. Use this time to highlight any sentences that sound awkward or too lengthy so that you can improve the flow of your language.

  • Use shorter sentences: Wordy sentences with too many conjunctions can distract the reader. Try to break down long sentences so that your writing appears more readable.

  • Choose relevant examples: While you might feel tempted to discuss all your achievements to exemplify your success, it's best to focus on two or three points This ensures your content remains focused and concise.

  • Use the STAR method: STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. You can use this structure to explain your experiences and results clearly.

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