Think you can get away with a paragraph or two? Think again.

When it comes to crafting a cover letter, one common question that job seekers often ponder is, "How long should it be, and what exactly should I include?" The length of a cover letter is an important consideration, as it should be concise yet comprehensive enough to make a compelling case for your candidacy. 

In general, the typical length of a cover letter ranges from 250 to 400 words, which translates to an average of four paragraphs. However, it's important to remember that quality and content are paramount, regardless of the specific word count.

Finding the right balance between providing enough information and keeping the letter succinct can be a challenge. On one hand, you want to grab the attention of the hiring manager and make a strong impression. On the other hand, you don't want to overwhelm them with excessive details or lose their interest with a lengthy document.

In this article, we'll explore the optimal length for a cover letter and look at what essential elements should be included. While there are no hard and fast rules, understanding some general guidelines and best practices can help you create a compelling cover letter that captures the attention of potential employers.

What's the average length of a cover letter?

So, how long should your cover letter be? The average length of a cover letter typically ranges from 250 to 400 words. This usually translates to around three to four paragraphs. However, it's important to note that the length can vary depending on the specific circumstances, industry norms, the employer's expectations, and whether you're sending the cover letter as an email or as an attachment.

While there is no strict maximum word count for a cover letter, it's generally recommended to keep your cover letter to a maximum of one A4 page if you're sending it as an attachment and half a page if you're sending it as an email. Hiring managers often have limited time to review application materials, so a more concise cover letter can be more effective in conveying your key qualifications and maintaining their interest.

Although there is no set minimum length, it's important to ensure that your cover letter provides enough relevant information to make a strong case for your candidacy. A cover letter that is too short may come across as lacking substance or not sufficiently addressing the employer's needs. Aim for at least three paragraphs, covering key points such as your qualifications, experiences, and interest in the position.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide enough information to highlight your suitability and make a strong case for your candidacy while keeping the letter concise and focused. Remember, the quality and relevance of content are more important than strictly adhering to a specific word count.

What should be included in a cover letter?

Knowing what to include in a cover letter is just as crucial as knowing how long your cover letter should be. Here are the essential elements that should be incorporated into your cover letter to effectively showcase your qualifications, demonstrate your fit for the position, and capture the attention of hiring managers.

Contact details

Every cover letter should begin with your full name, location, phone number, and email address in the top right-hand corner. This is just like a traditional letter, but it removes unnecessary details, like your complete address. The details should mimic the contact details in your CV.

If you're sending your cover letter via email, your contact details can be listed in your email signature. Again, ensure they mirror the contact details in your CV.

Paragraph 1: Introduction 

Always address your cover letter to the person that is handling the applications. It could be the hiring manager, a talent acquisition partner, or even the Managing Director. If you don't know, find out. 

Then introduce yourself by stating the position you're applying for and how you learned about the job opening. Make sure you convey your enthusiasm for the role and demonstrate a genuine interest in the organisation, but do so through powerful language, not an overdose of exclamation marks.

Paragraph 2: Why you are a strong candidate

The next paragraph is dedicated to outlining why you're a strong candidate for the role. Summarise your relevant qualifications, skills, or experiences that make you a strong prospect for the position. Power them up with specific achievement-based details that showcase your abilities and demonstrate how you can contribute to the company's success.

Paragraph 3: Alignment with the company

The third paragraph's purpose is to show that you align with the company. Show that you have done your homework by mentioning specific aspects of the company that resonate with you, such as its mission, values, or recent accomplishments. Then explain how your values, skills, or experiences align with the company's goals or culture. Remember to link this back to what value you can bring to the organisation.

Paragraph 4: Additional qualifications or experience

If you have room and if you're able, use the fourth paragraph to expand on additional qualifications or experiences that could be of value to the prospective employer. For example, you might want to highlight experiences that are relevant to the position but not extensively covered in your CV. 

You could also emphasise unique skills, knowledge, or accomplishments that set you apart from the competition and make you a valuable asset to the company. Remember, always connect these additional qualifications to the company's needs or the specific requirements of the role.

Paragraph 5: Conclusion and call to action

In your closing paragraph, thank the person for considering your application and taking the time to review your cover letter and CV. Also, reiterate your interest in the position and express your eagerness for the opportunity to further discuss your qualifications.

Always mention your availability for an interview or a screening call and the best method to contact you. Then use a professional closing, such as “yours sincerely.”

How to make your cover letter the appropriate length

Crafting a cover letter of the right length is essential to make a strong impression while maintaining the reader's attention. Here are a few effective strategies to ensure your cover letter is the perfect length, allowing you to convey your qualifications in a compelling way.

Be concise

Avoiding overly wordy sentences is one way to keep your cover letter to an appropriate length. Remember that every paragraph in your cover letter has a purpose and you must convey your message while using the fewest words necessary.

Choose words that have a substantial impact and convey your qualifications clearly. Instead of using long phrases or multiple words, opt for precise and descriptive language, like action verbs, to describe your accomplishments.

Prioritise relevant information

Tailor your cover letter to highlight the most relevant qualifications and experience that directly align with the demands of the job. Carefully read the job description and identify the key skills, qualifications, and requirements mentioned. These are the areas you should prioritise.

Do this by addressing them directly in your cover letter and explaining how your background and experiences meet those requirements, and how you can contribute to the organisation in those areas.

Avoid including unnecessary details or unrelated information. Remember, focusing on the experiences that directly demonstrate your ability to excel in the desired role is a winning strategy.

Use bullet points 

If you have a list of specific skills, accomplishments, or qualifications that you want to highlight, consider using bullet points throughout your cover letter. This can help to break up the text and make it easier to read, while also ensuring important details stand out.

For example, you could create a bulleted list to emphasise your most relevant qualifications, skills, or achievements that directly align with the job requirements. This allows the reader to quickly grasp your strengths without having to read through lengthy paragraphs. 

Focus on quality over quantity

Instead of trying to include every single detail about your background and experiences, prioritise quality over quantity. Choose the most impactful and relevant information that showcases your qualifications for the role.

Focus on the experiences that are most pertinent to the position and demonstrate your suitability. Instead of listing a generic set of skills or responsibilities, provide specific examples that showcase your achievements and demonstrate your abilities  as this will make your cover letter more impactful and memorable. Make sure you quantify your achievements to provide concrete evidence of your capabilities, too.

Avoid including irrelevant or extraneous details that don't contribute to your candidacy and eliminate any repetitive statements or excessive information. Each sentence should add value and strengthen your candidacy.

Avoid repetition with your CV

Remember that your cover letter should complement your CV, not duplicate it. Rather than repeating the information verbatim, use your cover letter to provide context and highlight specific aspects of your experience or qualifications mentioned in your CV. Explain how certain skills or accomplishments are relevant to the position you're applying for.

If there are any gaps or transitions in your CV that might raise questions, such as career changes or extended periods of unemployment, use your cover letter to briefly address them. Provide a short and positive explanation that demonstrates your adaptability, growth, or relevant skills acquired during that time.

While your CV may focus more on technical skills and professional experiences, your cover letter can provide an opportunity to showcase your soft skills, such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, or teamwork. Highlight how these qualities have been instrumental in your previous roles and how they make you a valuable asset for the prospective employer.

Proofread and edit

Proofreading and editing are crucial steps in creating a polished and professional cover letter. Review your cover letter carefully for any spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes. Typos and errors can make a negative impression and undermine your credibility. Use spell-check tools, but also read through your letter yourself to catch any errors that automated tools might miss.

Also, check for any awkward phrasing or confusing language and revise accordingly to make sure that your ideas flow logically and that the content is coherent and organised. Remove any unnecessary or repetitive information that doesn't add value to your cover letter too. Be on the lookout for filler words and phrases that weaken the impact of your writing.

Crafting a cover letter of the right length and content is crucial. To enhance your chances of success, consider enlisting the help of a professional CV and cover letter writing service. Their expertise can ensure your application stands out, leading you closer to your desired career opportunities.

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