Picture a hiring manager. His name's Kevin.
He's got 200 cover letters on his desk.
He can tell a lot about an applicant by glancing at each one.
If your cover letter is too short, he'll think you don't care.
Too long? He'll pass.
But it's the reason it's the right length that lands the interview.
How long should a cover letter be?
This guide will show you:
- The ideal length of a cover letter to land the interview.
- How to make the right cover letter length by putting in exactly the right things.
- How long should email cover letters be?
- How to make it through both phases of the cover letter reading process.
Here's a good cover letter example made with our fast online cover letter tool. Want to write your letter in 15 minutes? Use our cover letter templates and build your cover letter here.
Perfect Length Cover Letter - See 20+ cover letter templates and create your letter here.
That short cover letter is the perfect length. Now let me show you why, and what to put in it to do it right. You'll get more good cover letter examples further down.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
|Ideal cover letter length|
As you can see, a cover letter should be about 2/3 of a page long. Why? If your cover letter is too long, it makes you look unfocused. If it's too short, it looks weak and flimsy. Follow these tips to nail exactly the right length of cover letter:
Can a cover letter be 2 pages?
A cover letter should never be 2 pages. A 2-page cover letter violates the cover letter definition. Namely, a cover letter is a brief description of why you fit the job. In rare cases, a resume can be two pages if you've got 10+ years experience.
Should a cover letter be one page?
A cover letter should always be less than one page. Short cover letters get more eye-time with managers. A cover letter that's less than a page sends an instant signal to the manager that your letter won't run over to page 2.
Is my cover letter too long?
A cover letter is too long if it's a full page or longer. Three page or two page cover letters are a waste of paper. A cover letter should be about three paragraphs of facts explaining why you're perfect for the job.
How many words should a cover letter be?
Cover letter word count should be between 250 and 300 words. Why? Because that's the right length to fill up slightly more than half a page with 12-point font. But that's not how you'll get the interview.
How long should an electronic cover letter be?
An electronic cover letter should be the length of cover letters on paper. Namely, three paragraphs, 250-300 words, and less than a full page. The difference is, write a great subject line and leave the address section off the top.
Should a cover letter be double spaced?
A cover letter should not be double spaced. Always single space a cover letter. That includes the address. The only place to double space a cover letter is in between the paragraphs. That is: insert a blank line after each paragraph ends.
What about academic cover letter length?
A cover letter for an academic position should be no longer than two pages, but long enough to show off your accomplishments. Research, teaching, departmental service, and relevant accolades. The typical academic cover letter is usually one and a half to two pages long (or about five to eight paragraphs.)
Why does the right length of cover letter matter?
The right cover letter length matters because it sends a signal you're worth looking into. But how you make a cover letter the right length decides how many interviews you get.
So the real question is, how do you make your cover letter the right length?
You'll learn that in a minute.
Pro Tip: Out of 250 applicants, only 4 will get the interview. The right length of cover letter will increase your chances exponentially.
Want to make the most of your cover letter? Need a simple cover letter format? See our guide. Employers will see that you are the perfect match: How To Write A Cover Letter in 8 Simple Steps (+12 Examples)
How Long Should an Electronic Cover Letter Be?
There's a big difference between a paper cover letter and an electronic cover letter.
A glance at a paper cover letter tells how long it is.
That makes it easier to read.
An email might be two paragraphs or 50. The reader must scroll down in order to find out.
That means people skim most emails.
So how long should an email cover letter be?
Use short sentences. Short paragraphs. Make every sentence count.
Add bullet points to show achievements. Make them company specific, like this example of how long a cover letter email should be:
Email Cover Letter Length Example
I'm very excited about the software engineer position at Igatronix, Inc. I'm confident I can help you become the #1 SaaS video editing platform on the web. For one, I led the team that won the Bossie for an online video editing application.
To me, the Bossie wasn't just an award, but a culmination of:
- Eight years as the CEO of a profitable video production firm.
- Growing revenue for a SaaS business 22% through superior development.
- Advanced product testing, pulling in client teams to boost customer ratings 32%.
I've been a huge fan of Igatronix products for several years. It's your commitment to letting employees guide the life cycle that delivers your success. You value self-motivated, highly creative software engineers, and my record speaks for itself.
Can we set up a time...
That short cover letter example gets the job done fast. The trick? Deliver eyebrow raising facts, lightning-fast, with zero filler.
Make your bullet points as hard-hitting to the company's bottom line as possible.
Just like with a paper cover letter, make sure you sell:
- Why this role
- Why this company
- Why you
Pro Tip: In an email cover letter, drop the address section from the top. Make your subject line the job offer title + "applicant" + your name.
The first sentence of your cover letter can make or break your interview chances. That goes double for longer cover letters. See how to do it right in our guide: How to Start a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [20+ Examples]
How To Make Your Cover Letter the Right Length
Imagine you need to buy a cake.
One baker sends you a long form letter about what a great cake maker he is.
The other is excited. She's known you since childhood. It's your wedding cake, and she's so happy for you. Plus, she's skilled.
Which one do you hire?
If you create generic cover letter length by adding fluff, you're doing it wrong.
Make the right length of cover letter by proving why you want this job.
This example shows how long a cover letter first paragraph should be, and why.
How Long to Make a Cover Letter First Paragraph [Example]
How long is a cover letter first paragraph?
I'm extremely enthusiastic about the project manager position at E.A. Seton Children's Hospital. I'm certain I can help with your upcoming Lean Healthcare transformation. This comes from my success implementing Lean at Greenhow Hospital, with a 32% cost reduction and 20% boost in HCAHPS scores.
See that? The manager would have to ingest something mind-altering to pass up on the interview.
It's three sentences long. About 50 words.
There's nothing generic about it. It shows exactly why you're fired up. It proves you genuinely care about the mission.
Better still, it does it based on your experience.
It's the first part to the best cover letter ever.
How Long to Make a Cover Letter Second Paragraph [Example]
How long is a cover letter second paragraph?
As Project Manager at Greenhow, my core skill at putting the employees first helped me lead the team to:
- Create a "Just in Time Restock" project that cut stockroom waste by 65%.
- Build a supply room relocation project that slashed wasted foot traffic by 88%.
- Cut redundant forms, decimating wait times and boosting patient scores 20%.
See that? It's 50 words. It doesn't pound its chest. It doesn't say "I'm the best" like Eminem on steroids.
It proves its case with numbers. It's a million miles from a generic cover letter.
Think you can't do that? You can.
Just read the job description carefully. Then, brainstorm about your past to find when you've delivered what it's looking for.
How Long to Make a Cover Letter Third Paragraph [Example]
How long is a cover letter third paragraph?
Lean Healthcare makes excellent sense, as evidenced by the rampant waste in our industry. I said as much in my article "Health Care and Lean: The Time is Now," linked to by Fortune. You spoke these thoughts yourself in your acceptance speech at APIC last year. Our thinking is aligned. With my track record of Lean success and E.A. Seton Children's Hospital's commitment to it, I believe the sky's the limit.
Wow. The hiring manager just stopped skimming and started reading.
Here's why it works:
It doesn't just say, "I like the company."
It proves it, based on your ambitions.
Not sure why you like the company? Find out.
Read their mission statement and "about us" page. Read news articles about them. Find out their philosophy on training and staff development.
In short, dig up a reason they're the perfect company for you.
Pro Tip: To get the right cover letter length, use one inch margins and 12 point font. Add white space between paragraphs to give the hiring manager's eyes a pit-stop. Also, make it single-spaced, not double-spaced.
Still not clear on the how long should a cover letter be problem? Need more good cover letter examples? See our guide: Cover Letter Formats: A Complete How-To Guide [10+ Examples] and What to Include in a Cover Letter (15+ Examples & A Complete Guide).
Remember: It’s not “how long can a cover letter be,” it’s “how long should a cover letter be.”
The ideal cover letter length is:
- Less than a full page
- Longer than half a page
- Word count: About 250-300 words
- Format: 3 paragraphs
But it's the things that make it the right length that land the interview. Fluff should never add to cover letter length.
The ideal length of a cover letter should be decided by how long it takes to prove three things:
Why this job, why this company, and why you. If you can do that in three sentences and you use four, your cover letter is too long.
Want to know more about how long to make a cover letter? What frustrates you about cover letter length? Give us a shout in the comments! We love to help!
Here’s the reality: Since we know hiring managers only spend six seconds on your resume, there’s a high probability they also spend very little time reading your cover letter, too.
And that means that as excited as you may be to rattle off all of your qualifications and accomplishments, going over that one-page mark can mean your message gets lost (which defeats the whole point). Career development expert Lily Zhang even states, “In general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. Unless you’re applying for a managerial or executive position, it’s unlikely a recruiter would look beyond your first page of materials anyway.”
What if you already have the cover letter drafted and don’t know what to cut? Well, here’s where I’d begin:
Compare it to Your Resume and the Job Description
Your cover letter is an addition to your resume, not a summary of it. The two documents together should match up with the job description. So, if you find that a lot of what you discuss in one document’s covered in the other, cut it. Then use that space to fill in any gaps that your resume doesn’t touch upon.
Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discuss your leadership skills if your resume makes it clear you’ve been in leadership roles for years. But rather than wasting space talking about titles and times spent in them, share an anecdote instead about a time when you showed those skills.
Keep Your Opening Short
It’s usually smart to start your cover letter with an interesting line or a personal anecdote to get the reader engaged from the get-go. That being said, be mindful of how long this drags on for—if you spend half of your cover letter introducing yourself in the style of The Bachelor, or take an entire paragraph to talk about the one trip that made you realize you wanted to become an engineer, the excitement will get lost—leaving you no room to talk about why you’d actually be great for the job.
When starting out, stick to one or two sentences about who you are, then move on to the more important stuff.
Find the Fluff
I’d bet that a decent amount of your cover letter is fluff that’s trying to sound impressive, yet lacks specifics.
If you’re using typical lines like “I would be honored to work for [company] because…” or “I believe I am qualified for this role because…,” cut them out and start immediately with the “why.”
Consider Your Adjectives and Adverbs
Print out your cover letter. (I know, you’re going to have to find a printer.) Circle all the adjectives and adverbs. Now take a look at any sentence with more than one and cut it down to just one.
For example: Do you have to be a “very passionate and focused learner,” or can you just be a “passionate learner?” Did you “institute an immense amount of truly important changes” or did you just “institute important changes?”
Yes, sometimes long, elaborate sentences make you seem smarter. But, more often than not, they make your message harder to understand. And wouldn’t you rather your experiences speak for themselves than get overshadowed by your flowery, overly enthusiastic language?
Choose Two Examples to Make Your Point—and No More
There’s nothing more exciting than reading a job description and realizing, I have all of these qualities! Score!
The thing is, as perfect as you are for the role, you unfortunately have to pick and choose what you talk about. And by this, I mean take your two best examples, the ones you’re proudest of, and focus on those. Explain them enough so that there’s context behind your resume, but not so much that you’re going off track from what they’re looking for.
It may seem intimidating to select one experience over the other, especially if you have a wealth of knowledge, but remember that your resume still holds that information. Consider your cover letter your last chance to say hey, I know you can see how awesome I am for this role, but here’s a little extra that makes me even more awesome.
Length shouldn’t scare you away from writing an awesome cover letter, but keep in mind the limit is there to make sure it doesn’t get overlooked in the job search process. By following these tips, you’ll guarantee it’s not only the perfect amount of words, but the perfect read for any hiring manager.