How Long Should A Cover Letter Be? Ideal Word Count Revealed

Writing a cover letter can be awfully confusing. Especially when you have your cover letter strategy in place and you're trying to figure out how long the cover letter should be. We're going to cover what the ideal length of a cover letter is and how you might be able to optimize the length of your resume around the other assets that you might have (like letters of recommendation).

Let's go ahead and get started.

Table Of Contents

Is A Cover Letter Useful?

Cover letters are useful, yes. But not for what you might think. Having a cover letter doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get the job. But not having one might make you look bad. And that’s all you should care about.

Job Seeker Nation performed a study and it reports that 26% of recruiters mentioned that cover letters aren’t important in how they make hiring decisions.

That might seem like a low number but it’s not. Generally speaking, it’s important to spend time on your cover letter but how much time you spend on it depends on key factor, do you have letters of recommendation?

Pro fact: It's estimated that 90% of HR managers don't read cover letters. Phil Rosenberg of reCareered surveyed over 2,000 hiring managers and here's what he had to say, “I found 90% ignored them and 97% made a decision whether to interview or not based only on the resume.”

Do You Have A Letter Of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation can far outweigh your cover letter. If you have a letter of recommendation from one or many professional sources, be sure to include that and include notes inside of your cover letter that indicates the merits you received through your recommendation letters.

Related: 2 Best Soft Skills To Beat AI (Plus Soft Skills List)

If you don’t have a letter of recommendation, you might want to consider having a slightly lengthier cover letter (more word count) as it could benefit you, in the long run, depending on if your future employer reads it.

How Many Words Should A Cover Letter Be?

There’s much debate over the ideal length of a cover letter. Saddleback College created a poll and it was reported that 70% of employers wanted to see less than a page for the ideal cover letter length.

From that survey that means about 1/2 a page in terms of length is the most ideal.

But how does that boil down to word count? Before we get into word count be sure that you don’t include these components of a great cover letter as part of your word count:

Now, inside the body of your cover letter should be the real heart and soul of the letter itself. In terms of word count, two paragraphs is most ideal. Meaning, 250 - 400 words is ideal.

Is A 500 Word Cover Letter Too Long?

Again, if we exclude the other components that make up a cover letter (like your heading, footer, and signature) a 500-word cover letter might be considered too long. But if you don’t have a letter of recommendation, you might want to have a cover letter of this length, as long as you can make it impactful.

If you are simply trying to sell yourself using 500 words, it isn’t recommended that you make a cover letter this long.

Though, if you are telling an impactful story (like what the companies mission means to you) and you use the first paragraph to introduce the story, then 500 words is absolutely okay.

Is A 2 Page Cover Letter Too Long?

Having a two-page cover letter might communicate the wrong thing. What it mostly communicates is that your communication skills might be missing. And written communication skills are still important in the workplace (think about emails, for example).

If you have a two-page cover letter, consider what message you’re trying to send and how you might be able to condense it down to being at most a single page. Your cover letter should never be longer than one page.

Can A Cover Letter Be Too Short?

Yes, a cover letter can be too short. If you are under 250 words, your cover letter is too short. Consider what your cover letter is trying to communicate. Are you telling a story? Are you hoping that you can highlight particular skills? Or are you not clear on what you should be communicating with your cover letter, thus making it short.

If your cover letter is under 250 words, it’s too short. You should consider more words but most likely, a better strategy for your cover letter as well.

What’s The Ideal Font Size

Your cover letter should be easy to read but also easy to print and read. Most likely, the professionals who are going to be interviewing you won’t be reading your cover letter on their computer. They’ll print all of your resume assets as a package and read it before the interview starts.

Pro fact: Nick Kolenda performed a study that suggests font choices have a large impact on the perception of the author.

Consider making sure that your font size is no larger than 12-point. In fact, 11-point is most ideal for print legibility. Also, consider your font family choice. For example, Arial looks a little too plain. Try Calibri, it’s a nice serif that’s easy to read with professional presentation.

Resume Resources

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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