How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be?

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According to a resume survey from Saddleback College in San Viejo, CA, 53 percent of employers require a cover letter, and 23 percent prefer one. Undoubtedly, a well-written cover letter is key to getting an edge in a competitive job market. The same study shows 70 percent of employers want cover letters to be under one page long. Your objective is to write a stand-out cover letter that is informative yet succinct.

Cover letter length varies depending on your history, goals and intentions and the complexity of the job. However, any cover letter should include a minimum of two and a maximum of four succinct paragraphs. If possible, keep the length of the paragraphs right at three sentences; do not exceed four. A good rule of thumb is that the more paragraphs you have, the shorter they should be. Fill each paragraph with only highly relevant information that is directly related to the job description and the company.

Your cover letter length should be just long enough to convey a logical flow of information. This flow includes your reason for writing, your work history as it relates to the position you are applying for, your knowledge of the company and a cordial closing and interview request. Your cover letter should have a clean layout, have straightforward wording and be thoroughly proofread.

The best way to make sure you confine your cover letter length within the appropriate range is to have a clear idea of what needs to be in it. Research the company and the job description, and try to imagine precisely what it is they want to see on the ideal candidate's cover letter. Employers may have dozens or even hundreds of cover letters to peruse, so they like it when you cut to the chase. Simplicity, specifics, and succinctness are key to achieving appropriate cover letter length.

Resist the temptation to go into detail about your education and work history in the cover letter; that is what your resume is for. Just give two to three examples of how a specific skill, ability or past experience has prepared to you to do the job as they have outlined it, and highlight any attributes that you think make you a great fit for the company. Trim cover letter length by proofreading and editing out superfluous details and excess wordage.

According to Shakespeare's Hamlet, "brevity is the soul of wit." It also happens to be the soul of a well-written cover letter. Ideal cover letter length is short enough for the hirer to finish reading and engaging enough for them to want to move on to your resume. Keep your paragraphs short and to-the-point, and never allow the letter to exceed one page.


(Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman /


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