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How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

Cover letters are an important part of the job application process. You should almost always send a cover letter with a job application unless the hiring manager specifically asks you not to.

However, one thing that is less clear is how long your cover letter should be. If it is way too short, employers might think you do not care much about the job. If it is too long, employers might not take the time to read your letter, and will not consider you for an interview.

Read below for more advice on how long your cover letter should be, as well as additional advice on writing a strong cover letter.

Should You Send a Cover Letter?

The majority of employers require cover letters. A Saddleback College Resume Survey reports that more than half (53%) of employers responded that a cover letter is required, while nearly 30% had no preference.

Even when a cover letter isn't required, it can boost your chances of getting hired if you include a cover letter when you apply for a job.

Therefore, only leave out a cover letter when the employer specifically asks you not to send one.

How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be?

Should you keep your cover letter short or should it be a full page or longer? Your cover letter shouldn't be longer than one page. It should highlight your most relevant qualifications for the job and what you have to offer the employer.

In fact, as far as how long your cover letter should be, shorter is better.

Almost 70% of employers wanted a cover letter of less than a full page and about 25% said the shorter the better.

Here are the preferences for cover letter length from the employers who responded to the survey:

  • Full page – 12.6%
  • 1/2 page – 43.7%
  • No preference - 19.5%
  • The shorter the better - 24.1%

Cover Letter Format

Just as important as the length of your cover letter is the format.

You want to choose a font that is legible (such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana, or Times New Roman) in a readable font size (typically about 12 point).

Your margins should be about 1 inch all around, with the text aligned to the left.

You also want to leave space between paragraphs, as well as between your salutation and the text (and between your text and the signature), so that your letter is easy to read.

A good rule of thumb is that you always want a good amount of white space on the paper. This will prevent your letter from looking too cluttered and difficult to read.

Word Count

There is no specific word count you should aim for when writing a cover letter (unless the employer gives you a specific word count). Instead of focusing on the number of words, focus on making your cover letter one page or less, with a readable font and font size, and enough white space between paragraphs and in the margins.

You might want to hand a printed out version of your cover letter to a friend or family member, and ask them if the letter seems too wordy, or too difficult to read.

Email Subject Line

When sending an email cover letter, it's even more important to be concise. The first paragraph is what readers pay attention to when reading an email.

The rest of the message is typically skimmed. Two paragraphs – one that serves as an introduction, and one that explains your qualification for the job – and then a closing is sufficient.

You can also make your email cover letter stand out with a clear, concise email subject line. Typically, you want to include the title of the position that you are applying for and your name. For example: Editorial Assistant - John Smith.

If possible, try to keep the meat of your subject line (specifically, the job title and your name) under about 30 characters. This is about as much as people can see on their mobile devices, which is often how people check their email.

How to Choose the Right Font and Size for a Cover Letter

Which font should you use in your cover letter? What will make the best impression? When you are writing cover letters, it's important to use a font that is clear and easy to read. When hiring managers have to review dozens – if not hundreds – of applicants for a position, they may immediately pass over a cover letter and resume that aren’t instantly legible. Here's how to select a cover letter font and the appropriate font size for your letter.

Be sure to make your font large enough so that the reader doesn't have to squint to read your letter, but not so large that your letter doesn't fit well on the page.

Choose the Best Font Size and Style for Your Cover Letter

When it comes to choosing a font to use in your cover letter, your best bet is to keep it simple and professional. You want your words and message to stand out - not your font choice. Avoid using unprofessional novelty-style fonts such as Comic Sans, handwriting, or script-style fonts.

Ideally, the font used in the cover letter will be both the same size and style as the one used within your resume, to help you present a cohesive package. Review these tips for determining the right font for your cover letter, as well as what size it should be, and which styles are - and are not - appropriate to use within a cover letter.

Best Fonts for Cover Letters

Using a simple font will ensure that your cover letter is easy to read.

Basic fonts like Arial, Courier New, Calibri, Verdana, and Times New Roman work well. Most word processing and email programs will default to a professional and easily readable choice.

Limit yourself to one font in your cover letter; it's best not to mix several fonts in one document.

There is no need to use different styles in a cover letter.

Avoid underlining or italicizing, and use boldface text only when emphasizing quantifiable achievements that need to “pop” on the page.

What's an Appropriate Font Size?

Depending on how much content you have in your letter, select a 10 or 12 font size.

It's best if you can format your cover letter so it fits on one page, with margins that are no large than 1” and no smaller than .7”.

If your letter includes a heading with your name and contact information, you may choose to make this font slightly larger.

How to Select a Cover Letter Font

  • Select a font from the list at the top of your document before you start writing your letter, or:
  • Type your cover letter.
  • Highlight the content of your letter.
  • Either select the font from the pop-up window or select the font from the list at the top of the document.
  • Select the font size you want to use the same way.
  • Proofread your cover letter.
  • Print your cover letter, even if you are going to upload it online, to make sure that it is formatted, properly spaced, and looks the way you want.

Include Plenty of White Space

Regardless of the font size you select, there needs to be space at the top of the letter and between each paragraph and each section of your cover letter.

Here's how to space your cover letter.

When you are using Microsoft Word, here is how to select a template for your letter and how to select the font style and font size. If you're using a different word processing program, the process is similar. Select the content of your cover letter, then choose a font and a font size.

You may need to try a couple of different sizes to make sure that your cover letter fits on a single page. Review these formatting tips to be sure your letter will make the best impression.

Email Cover Letters

The information above applies primarily to instances where you are sending a traditional cover letter by snail mail or when you are sending a formal cover letter as a Word or PDF attachment to an email message. Be forewarned that copy-and-pasting a cover letter into the body of an email message may destroy the formatting, making it difficult to read for an employer who may have a different computer system.

The safest thing to do when you are copy-and-pasting your cover letter to email is to remove all formatting and HTML and submit it as plain text.

Cover Letter Articles and Advice: What to Include in a Cover Letter | How to Write a Great Cover Letter

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