How long should a cover letter be?

The saying goes, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but in this instance, please do! Just like a book cover, your cover letter gives the hiring manager a hint of what you’re all about. It’s your chance to impress the recruiter, entice them in to read your CV, make yourself stand out from the crowd and showcase why you’re better for the job than other applicants.

But how long should your cover letter be?

Considering the length of your cover letter is a tricky one. If it’s too short, it could show you’re not bothered about the job. If it’s too long, the employers are unlikely to take the time to read it properly. After all, you don’t want your cover letter to end up on the cutting room floor before you have even had a chance to step foot in the building for an interview!

To send or not to send

As a rule of thumb, you should always send a cover letter, even if the application doesn’t require a one. Your cover letter is the opportunity to impress your prospective employer and sending one when not asked could indicate that you’re a candidate with a certain poise, drive and motivation, striking a chord with the hiring manager.

Lock the style down. Nobody wants to read a sea of words that have no relevance or meaning. Prospective employers certainly don’t want to have to pick through an entire essay that’s summarising your work history. That’s your CV’s job; don’t confuse things!

Keep your writing style simple. Don’t make reading your cover letter hard work for hiring managers. They are busy people with potentially hundreds of CVs to sift through, so short and concise is the way forward. Remember the end game is for the employer to invite you back for an interview. Make your cover letter speak out directly to the employer and show them exactly why they should pick you.

Length vs great content

The consensus is that cover letters shouldn’t be any longer than one A4 page.

‘Neat, simple and clutter-free’ is the cover letter motto. Paragraphs should be kept to a seven-line minimum, with five lines being the most appropriate choice.

Sentence length and structure should be varied; you have to find the right balance. With too many long sentences, you run the risk of the reader losing interest. Similarly, a series of short, sharp sentences may not have the desired effect either.

Carefully select the content you want to include. Choose points from your CV that are most relevant to the recruiter and expand on them. By putting forward a relevant, compelling argument, you’re sure to convince the hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job.

But take note; if your letter is too short, don’t plump it out with irrelevant information. This is a sure-fire sign that your letter needs some reworking.

High five to format

Great format speaks volumes and can be as important as the length of your cover letter. Here are a few great pointers to help you in this area.

First of all, stick to an easy-to-read font, such as Arial or Calibri, at sizes 10 to 12. Next, keep the margins of the letter to one inch all around with standard left-aligned text. Remember your paragraph spacing too. It’s important that the document doesn’t look too bunched up as it can be difficult to read. Keep it clean with a clear amount of white spacing.

If you don’t have the white space think about the length of your piece; does it need editing?

Finishing touches

Your letter may only be a page in length but check the content thoroughly before you send. Mistakes and grammatical errors can indicate poor professionalism and a lack of attention to detail. It’s a great idea to have somebody else check your letter too.

Overall, remember to make certain you are getting your key strengths across to the employer with your page of A4. Highlight that you’re worth bringing in for an interview.

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