One of the most common cover letter mistakes is getting the length wrong.
If it’s too short, it probably doesn’t provide enough information to be useful.
And if it’s too long then it’s going into too much detail.
Sound like a familiar thought process?
You’re not alone in your thinking.
In this article, we suggest things to consider when you’re deciding on the word count of your cover letter.
And we do this by taking a recruiter’s perspective on how long a cover letter should be, not a job seeker’s perspective.
After all, it’s the opinion of recruiters and hiring managers that matters.
Do I need a cover letter?
Quite often, there is no specified requirement as to whether you need a cover letter to accompany your application or not. So you may be wondering if sending a cover letter is necessary at all.
But think about it for a second…
Why would you not send a cover letter (other than because you’re being lazy)?
Unless you get it completely wrong, there are only upsides from sending a cover letter.
And they are…
1. A cover letter can make you stand out from other applicants
Imagine the scenario:
You’re a hiring manager, and you receive a bunch of resumes for a role. Only one of them is accompanied by a cover letter.
The cover letter is engaging, and clearly describes how the candidate would be a great fit for the role and an asset to the company.
Who would you select for interview?
2. It’s easier to demonstrate your personality in your cover letter than your resume
Resumes are typically quite factual. Whereas cover letters can be a lot more personal, and can enable you to show off who you are.
It’s actually a good thing to hint at your interests and values, as this will help demonstrate your alignment with the hiring company’s culture.
And even better, it may help build rapport with the hiring manager before you have even met them.
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So how long should a cover letter be?
In one survey, 70% of hiring managers said they preferred a cover letter to be either half a page, or ‘the shorter the better’.
That said, it has to be long enough to create a compelling case that you are the best person for the job, which might be tough in half a page or less.
So the annoyingly vague, but accurate, answer to the question “How long should a cover letter be?” is:
As long as it needs to be to convince the reader that you deserve an interview.
But at the same time, no-one wants to trawl through pages and pages of waffle, especially when receiving cover letters from potentially dozens of candidates.
If you find yourself adding ‘fluff’ to reach a pre-determined word count or page length , that should be a red flag that you’re writing more than you need to.
And similarly, if you find that you’re simply re-writing your resume but in a slightly different format, you’re trying too hard to reach a certain cover letter length.
Cover letter length: Summary
Ideally, aim for less than one page, and certainly don’t spread it out over two pages or more.
As long as you have made a strong case for you being the best person for the job, and you haven’t just repeated your resume, then it’s a good length.
But there is an exception to this…
If there are any specific directions from the employer about the length of a cover letter, make sure you adhere to the instructions to the letter!
Going over or under a specified word count or page length just illustrates that you can’t follow instructions. This is not a good first impression to make!