How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

By Indeed Editorial Team

11 February 2021

Even before recruiters review your CV, they read your cover letter to get a sense of who you are and if you appear to be a good fit for the position. Employers spend a limited amount of time reading a cover letter, so it's important to be concise and to list your most relevant qualifications. A well-crafted cover letter can make a potential employer excited to read your CV and learn more about you. In this article, we discuss what makes a great cover letter in terms of length and quality.

What should be included in a cover letter?

A cover letter is your thesis statement regarding why you are a perfect candidate. This means discussing qualities you possess and why they will be beneficial to the company, previous job experience that can help you excel in this new position and ideas about how you will grow within this position. Even if a cover letter is not required, writing one for every job application can help you stand out from other candidates.

Many hiring managers also rely on cover letters to gauge your personality, attention to detail and communication skills. This means ensuring that your letter has all of the necessary elements:

  • Your contact information

  • The purpose of your letter

  • Specific references to your past professional contributions and accomplishments

  • Connections between your qualifications and those required for the position

  • Your goals as they relate to this position

Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter

How to reach the correct length in a cover letter

Cover letters should be a page in length and no more than four paragraphs. Here are 7 tips that can help you organize your thoughts and reach the perfect cover letter length:

  1. Check the requirements

  2. Include your contact information

  3. Briefly acknowledge the reader

  4. Keep paragraphs short and focused

  5. Mention one or two relevant stories about your accomplishments

  6. Use bullet points where applicable

  7. Add a succinct call to action

  8. Thank the reader

1. Check the requirements

The key to writing effective cover letters is to follow instructions and communicate succinctly but with a compelling voice. In the job posting, there may be specific directions for writing the cover letter. This may include a specific writing prompt, a question to answer or a word limit to follow. A question or writing prompt can help you determine what type of response the company is looking for and the length needed for this type of response.

Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to make a good first impression to demonstrate your attention to detail.

2. Include your contact information

Your name, phone number, email address and professional networking profile should only take up one line per item. Place this information at the top of your cover letter to ensure the reader can easily identify who the letter and accompanying CV belong to.

3. Briefly acknowledge the reader

When writing a cover letter via word processor, be sure to include the recipient's name, professional details and contact information after your own contact information. Include the date of writing the letter in between the two sets of contact information. As you open the letter, use a professional salutation, such as 'Dear' with the recipient's surname.

To find out who you should address the letter to, you can:

  • Review the job listing to find a recruiter or hiring representative's name on the posting

  • Research the company's employee directory for a human resources representative or recruiter

  • Call reception or the company's HR department to inquire about the recipient

This extra step will show the employer that you are thoughtful and resourceful before they even read the letter. If you don't know the name of the recipient, you can just write 'To Whom It May Concern'.

Read more: 7 Powerful Ways to Start a Cover Letter (With Examples)

4. Keep paragraphs short and focused

Create an easy-to-follow letter by using a simple and clear structure for each paragraph. Here is an example of how to structure your paragraphs:

  • Topic sentence: Open each paragraph with an active and succinct topic sentence that introduces the main idea of the paragraph. For example, 'One thing that attracts me to this role is that ValuTech values innovating and investing in new technologies'.

  • Descriptive sentences: Use the following one or two sentences to support and expand upon the topic sentence, adding more relevant details. 'In my experience, I've found that keeping up with the latest technologies in the industry gives you an advantage over competitors. I also believe employees respond well to advancements in the workplace as it gives them a sense of forward momentum and confidence in the company'.

  • Conclusion: Add a final sentence that is attention-grabbing and recaps your main idea. 'I think I can continue to grow the department's use of new technology if I were to receive this position'.

4. Mention one or two relevant stories about your accomplishments

Your cover letter should explain why you're qualified for the role by using relevant examples from your work history. Cite recent accomplishments and focus on skills that match the requirements the employer wants. To create concise and impactful stories, try using the STAR method. Briefly explain the situation you were in, the task you had to complete, the actions you took and the results of your hard work.

Example: 'At my previous company, there was a client who was uninterested in relying on online marketing for his company's product. The client's refusal was hurting his company and making our ad campaign look insufficient. I convinced him not only to expand the online ad campaign but also increased his company's revenue. I learned the benefits of strengthening relationships with existing clients'.

One reason you want to be short and concise in your cover letter is that it's best to save some details and stories for the actual interview. Retain some specific stories and examples to tell the interviewer in person. Write just enough to grab your interviewer's attention so they want to bring you in for an interview.

5. Use bullet points where applicable

Though using a clear paragraph structure is an effective method, you can also incorporate a bulleted list of items to make the letter look more dynamic and to further influence your brevity when explaining key details about your qualifications.

Example: 'In my previous role as an office administrator, I improved efficiency and strengthened relationships with clients. My accomplishments include:

  • Creating a new client report filing system, which directly increased interoffice organisation and reduced time spent filing by 35%

  • Establishing an automated email system to send reminder emails to clients about upcoming meetings, which reduced time spent on organisational correspondence by 18%

  • Writing a bi-monthly newsletter with relevant industry articles and company updates for both clients and office personnel, increasing client engagement by 20% and employee engagement by 45%'

I believe my creative problem-solving and knowledge of internal and external marketing can help Sissler & Johnson increase client satisfaction overall'.

6. Add a succinct call to action

In the last paragraph of your cover letter, summarise your qualifications by describing what value you plan to bring to the company. Then, encourage the recipient to review your CV and other application materials and to reach out to you if they have any other questions. Repeat your phone number and/or email address, and express your excitement to learn more about your candidacy for the role.

This paragraph can clearly establish your expectations for their response and provide them with the best contact information through which they can use to contact you about next steps.

7. Thank the reader

Finally, in one short sentence, thank the reader for their time and consideration. This is a professional courtesy that shows respect.

Read more: How to Structure a Cover Letter (With Example)

Cover letter formatting tips

Here are some additional general tips to help you refine your cover letter, which can also help you keep it as brief and focused as possible:

  • Use 2.5cm margins: If you're writing a cover letter in a word processor, set your margins to 2.5cm before you start writing. This way the content fits comfortably on the page and you can better gauge the length as you write.

  • Skip the contact information at the top of the email cover letter: You don't have to include the recipient's contact information in an email, and you can include your contact information at the end, both in the call-to-action paragraph as well as your digital signature.

  • Mention where you heard about the role: If you were referred to this job by a colleague at the company or within the industry, mention that connection in the opening paragraph. This can support your strength as a candidate.

  • Read to streamline: After writing the letter, reread it to find areas you can trim down or remove, especially if it's over one page.

  • Proofread: Read through your cover letter again, looking for grammatical and spelling errors. If possible, have someone else read it as well. An error-free cover letter showcases your attention to detail and writing abilities.