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A cover letter packs a big job-application punch: It introduces yourself to a potential employer, showing your experience, skills, and personality. But the fact that this one document conveys so much doesn’t give job seekers carte blanche to go on and on indefinitely. So, how long should a cover letter be? That’s what we’re here to answer—with a few extra tips on cover letter writing.
Before you put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be—you’ll need to know: How long should my cover letter be? The answer, in the most general terms, is only one page. And even that might be a little too long: A recent survey shows that 70 percent of employers want a cover letter that’s less than a full page—and about 25 percent want even less than that.
You should also consider the format in which you’re sending the cover letter. An emailed cover letter can be shorter than a page, while an attached Word document could stretch to one page. In order to keep potential employers engaged, there’s one more length you should consider, too: the length of your sentences and paragraphs. By keeping these short, punchy, and to-the-point, you’ll be more likely to keep your reader interested throughout from the beginning to the end.
Even though you’re keeping your cover letter short, you still must include certain information in your cover letter. Here’s everything you must fit in to your one-page—or less—document:
It may seem like a lot to squeeze into a single page or email, but this information can fit into four paragraphs between your contact information and your signature. (If you are writing more than that, it’s time to edit. You can ask a friend or mentor to help you trim unnecessary information.)
Your skills and experience will surely impress a potential employer. But you can make your cover letter really sing with a few extra tweaks. Here’s how to make your letter stand out:
Show, don’t tell. Your CV covers all the relevant information a potential employer needs to know, but in short sentences and bullet points. Your cover letter is your chance to tell a story and show off your personality. Plus, stories make you more memorable to the employer; they show you in action, which can help employers better visualise how you would fit into their company.
Use numbers when possible. When sharing your skills and experience, use numbers to illustrate how effective you were in your previous jobs. For example, you could say you increased sales—or, you could say you increased sales by 53 percent in three months. The latter is more effective.
Be enthusiastic. Employers want to hire people who really want to work for them, so don’t be afraid to express your enthusiasm for the job and the company in your cover letter. If your cover letter only shows off your experience, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with the reader.
Now that you know how long a cover letter should be, here are some guides and templates for specific types cover letters to help you in your job search: