How Long Should A Cover Letter Be? Can It Be Two Pages?

Christina J Colclough

By Christina Colclough

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Attaching a cover letter to your resume is the quickest way to draw the hiring manager’s attention. However, there has been a dispute over how long it should be. Some suggest keeping it short and simple, with only 3-4 sentences. Others pack their letters with as much detail as possible, which can stretch for pages.

How Long Should A Cover Letter Be

Where should yours fit into that spectrum? Let me share some of my tips regarding the ideal cover letter length, drawn from my own experiences as both a job seeker and a hiring manager.

How Long Does A Cover Letter Have To Be?

Your cover letter should be concise and to the point, aiming for a length between half a page and a full page (translated roughly to 250-400 words).

Less than half a page (250 words) might not provide enough information for the prospective employer to understand your qualifications and compatibility for the role. Worse, you might come across as uninspired or lacking genuine interest in the position.

A rambling letter (more than 400 words) is not a good idea, either. 

Example of a Cover Letter

We all know hiring managers and recruiters are busy people; your long letter might be skimmed or not read entirely, and the most important information will get buried in unnecessary details. The team not only misses out on all your key qualifications but also has a bad impression with the clear lack of focus in your writing style. 

Good news: there are still some exceptions. In some technical fields, your experience or qualifications might be complex and require more explanation. 

Hence, a slightly longer letter (up to 1.5 pages) could be justified if it provides crucial details relevant to the position. Ensure the extra content adds significant value, and be careful not to go longer than 2 pages; that would be excessive. 

How To Keep Your Effective Cover Letter In One Page

1. Be Concise With Your Cover Letter Introduction

You should aim for 2 to 4 sentences with your opening. Start with a short yet powerful statement demonstrating your interest in the position; you can mention how you came across the opportunity or what excites you about the company.

Next, briefly mention a specific aspect of the job posting or the company that resonates with your relevant skills and experience level. If relevant, consider including a quantifiable achievement from your previous role that can back up this value proposition.

And that’s it. Now, conclude your opening and transition smoothly into the body of your letter. Do not let the introduction overstay its welcome. 

2. Cut Out What Your Resume Has Already Covered

A perfect cover letter and an amazing-looking resume are two parts of a powerful package, but they serve different purposes. The resume is a detailed list of your skills and experience level. Your cover letter, however, should focus on how those skills and experience benefit the potential employer.

Hence, do not just restate all your skills from your resume. The cover letter should connect the dots between your relevant experience (mentioned in your resume) and the specific job requirements you’re applying for. If there’s a stellar achievement mentioned in the resume that could be elaborated further with more details, do so in your cover letter. 

3. Cut Out The Fluff

A well-organized, concise cover letter should showcase your communication skills. Fluff only dilutes the impact of your message with unnecessary words or phrases and barely adds any value to your proposition.

Here are three simple yet powerful tips I have used for my own cover letters in earlier days: 

  • Never use unsubstantiated claims like “I’m a highly motivated individual with excellent skills.”
  • Replace phrases like “in order to” or “due to the fact that” with simpler alternatives like “to” or “because.”
  • Stay away from generic descriptive sentences of your skills. Instead, use specific examples to showcase them in action.

Let’s take a look at some cover letter examples:

Fluff: “I am a highly motivated individual with excellent communication and interpersonal skills during everyday tasks.”

Clearer: “My proven communication skills enabled me to…” (Demonstrates skill with an example)

Fluff: “In my previous role, I was responsible for managing social media campaigns and successfully increased brand awareness.”

Clearer:I spearheaded social media campaigns that increased brand awareness by 20%.” (Focuses on achievement with a quantifiable result)

3. No More Than One Adjective Or Adverb For Each Sentence

Adjectives and adverbs might add some nuance to your letter writing, but overuse makes your entire cover letter feel bloated and difficult to read. My advice is to rely less on them and gravitate more towards verbs and nouns: 

  • Use action verbs that showcase your skills and achievements in action. These verbs can convey meaning effectively on their own without additional adverbs.
  • Choose specific nouns that paint the whole picture and eliminate the need for descriptive adjectives.
  • Write in an active voice for clear and concise sentences. (e.g., “I increased sales by 15%” is stronger than “Sales were increased by 15%”).

Some stellar cover letter templates:

Original: “I am a highly motivated and results-oriented individual with a strong work ethic.” (2 adverbs, 2 adjectives)

Revised: “I consistently achieve results through my dedication and strong work ethic.” (1 adverb, 1 adjective)

Original: “I successfully managed a team of ten very talented and creative designers in a fast-paced environment.” (3 adverbs, 2 adjectives)

Revised: “I led a ten-person design team and delivered creative projects on time despite the time pressure.” (1 adverb, 1 adjective)

4. Be Selective; No More Than Two Examples

Hiring managers prefer in-depth details about 1-2 impactful achievements than a long list of generic examples that lack depth.

You should carefully read the job description and identify the key skills and experiences they are looking for. Then, from your list of accomplishments on the resume, choose the ones that best demonstrate the skills highlighted in that description. 

Two golden strategies to keep in mind:

  • Choose examples from more recent positions that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for, as they showcase your current skills and knowledge.
  • Consider examples that demonstrate the scope and complexity of your work. The manager would be impressed with how you handled challenging tasks and contributed to the company’s vision.

Extra Tips For A Well-Written Cover Letter

Write A Cover Letter

Aligning your tone builds a bridge between you and the company culture and makes you seem like a great fit.

From my experience, a company website is your goldmine. The “About Us” section typically outlines the company’s mission, values, and what it stands for. It would help if you also looked for employee testimonials or “Company Culture” pages to get a closer look at the team dynamics

Social media is another option, especially popular platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn.

Most importantly, observe the writing style of the posts: 

  • Suppose the company culture leans formal; mirror that in your own writing. Use complete sentences with proper grammar and avoid slang or informal language.
  • For a more casual company culture, you can inject a bit more personality into your letter without losing professionalism. However, overly casual language is still out of the question.

Do You Need A Cover Letter If The Job Description Says It’s Not Required? 

In most cases, submitting a cover letter is still a good idea, even if the job description says it’s not required. 

A compelling cover letter can set you apart from the rest of the candidate pool (especially if many choose not to submit one), allowing you to showcase your communication skills and genuine interest in the job. 

Plus, as I said earlier, the paper cover letter acts like a bridge that connects the dots between your basic qualifications (mentioned in the resume) and the company’s needs.

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Keep your professional cover letter to one page, maybe stretching to one and a half at most (the letter word count: 250 to over 400). Going over two pages might hurt your chances rather than increase them! Write to me if you need more advice on the contents of the cover letter.

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Christina J Colclough

Christina J. Colclough

Dr Christina J. Colclough is an expert on The Future World of Work and the politics of digital technology advocating globally for the importance of the workers’ voice. She has extensive regional and global labour movement experience, is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach, and strategist advising progressive governments and worker organisations.

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