When you apply for a job, you want your resume to stand out. For it to do that, you need to first grab the hiring manager’s attention. After all, your application package is one of possibly hundreds to cross his or her desk. But that’s where your cover letter comes in.
Your cover letter can make or break your chances of getting eyes on your resume and being considered for an interview. That’s why the right length of said cover letter is so important.
Hiring managers have seen it all when it comes to cover letters and can easily size you up just by looking at yours. For instance, if the cover letter is too short, the hiring manager thinks you didn’t put much effort into writing it. To them, that means you’re not that interested in the job or you’re lazy.
But an overly-long cover letter won’t win you any points, either. It shows you’re not organized and don’t know how to be concise. Besides, a hiring manager doesn’t have time to read a long cover letter.
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What Makes a Cover Letter Too Long?
A two-page cover letter is too long. That’s because it contradicts a cover letter’s purpose: to briefly explain why you would be the ideal fit for the position.
How about a cover letter that’s a full-page long? Nope. That’s still too long because your pitch for the job still isn’t brief. Plus, a cover letter that takes up an entire page tells the hiring manager that there might be a second page.
What is the Right Cover Letter Length?
To ensure your cover letter is the right length to catch that hiring manager’s eye, it needs to take around 75 percent of the entire page. The rest of the document should contain white space. This creates a nice balance that’s visually pleasant to look at.
The body of your cover letter should be 250-300 words, and consiste of of three to four paragraphs, each of which the hiring manager can read in about 10 seconds. You need to make sure these paragraphs contain strong sentences that express your interest in the position while highlighting your skills that make you an ideal fit for the job. If you're using a word processor like Google Docs or Microsoft Word you can easily get the word count using their built in tools.
What Should an Ideal Cover Letter Contain?
Address: At the top left-hand corner of the page, you should provide your name, physical address, phone number, and email address. This gives the hiring manager all the information he or she needs to contact you for an interview.
After double spacing, your cover letter should contain the name of the person you are contacting. You may need to do some digging on the company website to find the hiring manager’s name and actual position. That should be followed by the company name. Then, because you’re most likely sending by email, make sure the address portion of the letter contains the hiring manager’s email address.
Date: After the address, double space and then type the date.
Greeting: Double space again and then write the greeting. Make sure to address the hiring manager and never write “To whom it may concern.” This is another reason for doing that previously mentioned research. A personal greeting shows both warmth and that you’re willing to go the extra mile – both of which hiring managers are looking for.
First paragraph: The first paragraph should explain why you are writing, as well as a strong sentence explaining why you would be a great fit for the job.
Second paragraph: Use this paragraph to highlight your qualifications by summing up your experience while touching on skills you used that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Third paragraph: If you have volunteer experience that is relevant to this position, use this paragraph to highlight it. It shows your passion for the work and your community involvement.
Fourth paragraph: If you don’t have relevant volunteer experience, this should instead be your third paragraph. Regardless, use this closing paragraph to thank the hiring manager for considering you and to express your interest in further discussing the position.
Signature: As with any formal letter, sign your cover letter to drive home your professionalism.
By keeping these tips in mind, you’re one step closer to creating a strong cover letter with just the right word count, and significantly improving your chances of having the hiring manager put you in the category of candidates worth giving more consideration to—a great first step.