How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? – CV Nation

How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

Posted by Phillip Jewell on

The complete guide to cover letter length

When it comes to writing a cover letter for job applications, many people are unsure how long an effective cover letter should be. Should you use a one-page or two-page cover letter? In this article, we’ll explain exactly how long your cover letter should be.

A cover letter should be one-page long. Don’t write short cover letters that don’t provide enough detail and don’t write excessively long cover letters that lose the attention of the reader. The aim of a cover letter isn’t to detail all aspects of your career and all of your achievements; it’s to provide a concise outline of your skills and experiences and explain how you can provide value to your potential employer. The best way to do this is with a polished one-page cover letter that touches on your core competencies and significant experiences.



There are two main mistakes that people make when writing cover letters: they write cover letters that are too short, or they write cover letters that are too long. Both of these mistakes can have a very negative impact on your job application.


Cover letters that are too short

Cover letters that are too short usually don’t provide enough information to convince the recruiter that you’re a strong candidate. Here at CV Nation, we’ve seen many cover letters are no more than one paragraph long. With such short cover letters, you’re simply not going to be able to stand out from the competition.

It’s worth noting that most advertised jobs receive hundreds of applications. If your cover letter doesn’t go into enough detail to explain how you can be a valuable asset to your potential employer, the recruiter will not be encouraged to consider you as a potential candidate for the job.

Cover letters that are too long

While some cover letters are too short, some are simply far too long. You shouldn’t exceed one page, which in Microsoft Word, with standard formatting, usually consists of around 400 words.

Long cover letters don’t make for an easy reading experience. Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter, who may have hundreds of cover letters to read. Would you prefer to read a huge, multi-page cover letter or a concise one-page cover letter that demonstrates the applicant’s key qualities and experiences?

At this point of the job application process, you’re just trying to get recruiters or hiring managers to consider you as a candidate and spend time reading your CV. The time for longer, more detailed explanations about your career experiences isn't necessary in the cover letter.

So, if your cover letter is over one-page long, trim it down or rewrite it completely.

Cover letter word count

Aim for 400 words. This is usually one page of writing, with at least 8 pt. spacing between paragraphs. A concise, professionally written 400-word cover letter will make for a pleasant reading experience and it will ensure recruiters spend more time reading what you have to say.

A 400-word cover letter should consist of around four-paragraphs.


How to ensure your cover letter is one-page long?

Many people find it difficult to trim down their cover letter to one-page. Others find it more difficult to write enough to even get close to filling one page. Here, we’ll give you all the advice you need to ensure your cover letter is of optimal length.

Remove Superfluous Information

If you have an excessively long cover letter, you may have included information that just isn’t relevant. The point of your CV is to convey all the necessary aspects of your career, not your cover letter. Your cover letter should be an engaging, concise summary of your capabilities that encourages the hiring manager to read your CV.

The best way to identify superfluous information in your cover letter is to ask yourself if the content would encourage the hiring manager read your CV. Ask yourself if it is one of your key selling points. If not, chop it out.

Don't reveal everything

While you may have many great accomplishments that you want to showcase in your cover letter, don’t reveal them all. You’ve likely prepared a professional CV to go with your cover letter, so let the CV do some of the work. Entice the reader by including a few of your key achievements and experiences, but don't swamp them with too much detail.

Use the STAR method to trim down your cover letter

The STAR method – a method of writing cover letters and job application form answers – is the most effective writing method to specifically showcase your ability to achieve results.

But this method can also be used to trim down your document if you’re finding it difficult to hit the one-page limit.

This works when you dedicate only one paragraph to STAR. In just one paragraph, you can demonstrate how you can provide value to employers to great effect. As such, you might find that you don’t need an excessive word count to show off your capabilities.

What is the STAR method?

The STAR method consists of Situation, Task, Action, Result. The idea of this methodology is simple: you start by describing a situation you faced (a problem, maybe), then you touch on the task (your role in reacting to this situation). Following this, describe the action (what you did), and then explain the result (the benefit/achievement) of your actions.

Here is an example of the STAR method:

“In my most recent role, I was informed by my employer that I was required to deliver a £10k cost saving within 6 months. In response to this, I decided to review our network of suppliers and consider alternatives. Following comprehensive analysis and reviews with team members, I consolidated a number of suppliers and eliminated suppliers who were unreliable. This generated a cost saving of £18k.”

Notice how the example above shows the individual’s ability to deliver results and make positive impacts on organisations in just one paragraph. Use the STAR approach to ensure your cover letter makes a powerful impact without a high word count.

Use spacing

Ignoring Microsoft Word’s spacing function can make for a very poor reading experience. If you don’t add enough spacing to your cover letter, the text will look like one huge paragraph. There should be enough space to ensure that the paragraphs are clearly identifiable as separate paragraphs.

We recommend adding 8 pt. of spacing between your paragraphs. To do this in Microsoft Word, highlight the paragraphs, click ‘Layout’, and then alter the ‘After’ option in the ‘Spacing’ section to 8 pt.

Use the four paragraph template

As a rule of thumb, your cover letter should consist of four paragraphs. Of course, including exactly four paragraphs isn’t necessary by any means. But if you're struggling to structure your cover letter or to trim the cover letter down, the four paragraph template will provide you with a good platform to build your cover letter.

When using the four-paragraph template, the first paragraph should be an introduction of you as a professional. The second paragraph should outline why you are suitable for the job by describing your experiences. The third paragraph should touch on how you can add value to the employer by focusing on your successes. And the fourth paragraph should restate your interest in the role and provide a strong call to action.

As previously mentioned, this is not an approach you must use, but it can be a helpful step-by-step process to follow if you’re struggling.

Does cover length vary depending on the country?

No. Whether you’re writing a cover letter for the UK or a cover letter for Canada, one-page should be your target length. Unless specifically asked to submit a longer or shorter cover letter, stick to the one-page limit as it makes for easy reading and it ensures the recruiter can skim through it within about 10 seconds.

Change the font size

If you’re struggling to write enough content to fill the page, increase the font size. Although don’t exceed 12 point font size. Anything above 12 will look unprofessional. Likewise, font sizes lower than 10 will prove too difficult to read.

Always use easy to read fonts, such as Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri.


Conclusion

Should a cover letter be one-page long? Absolutely. One-page is the perfect cover letter length. It makes for the best reading experience and it provides enough space to include plenty of valuable content.


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