Cover letters are a great way to express your interest in a job while explaining your best qualifications. To ensure your cover letter is effective, it should be concise and easy to read. Learning how long your cover letter should be can help you construct a letter that hiring managers read all the way through. In this article, we explain how long your cover letter should be and provide an example as a guide.
Why do you need a cover letter?
A cover letter is a chance to detail your qualifications and why you're a good fit for the job. While it is important to rely on your resume to tell a hiring manager about your experience, a cover letter introduces you and your career achievements. Use a cover letter to explain what you have accomplished and what you hope to achieve in your new job.
How long should a cover letter be?
Your cover letter should be less than one page. Hiring managers need to have a quick idea of your experience. A cover letter shows your interest in a company or a particular job vacancy, points out highlights in your resume and motivates the hiring manager to interview you. You should have just three or four paragraphs that include the following:
- Reason for writing: The first paragraph should explain your purpose for writing and how you found the job opening.
- Description of qualifications: In one or two paragraphs, detail your career or just one or two accomplishments.
- Skills: List a few skills that relate directly to the role.
- Closing: Your last paragraph should reiterate your best qualifications and your enthusiasm for the job.
How to write a cover letter
Follow these steps when writing your cover letter:
- Start with a salutation
- Detail why you're applying for the job
- Describe your education and experience
- Mention transferable skills that are relevant to the job
- Write a closing
1. Start with a salutation
Begin your letter with the appropriate salutation, like 'Dear Hiring Manager.' If you know the name of the hiring manager or the person who will read your letter, address it to them, such as 'Dear Ms. Lipman.'
It's usually best if you can include a specific name in your cover letter. You can look at the job description or the company's website to see who the hiring manager. If you can't find the information online, you can call the company to ask for the information.
Here are some acceptable salutations you can use if you can't find a name or if you need to address the letter to multiple people:
- Dear Hiring Team
- Dear [Specific Department]
- Dear [Department Team]
- Dear [Department] Hiring Manager
2. Detail why you're applying for the job
Give a brief reason for applying for the job and how you heard about it. Include the job posting or specific person who recommended the job. Adding the name of the person, especially if it was someone who works at the company, is a good way to get the hiring manager's attention. Try to give a specific reason for applying, such as believing you would be a good fit for the company culture or how your education and experience seem like a good match. Reread the job description and research the company's website to give a compelling reason.
3. Describe your education and experience
In a paragraph, explain your education and experience. It's best to give one or two accomplishments that summarize your career to keep your cover letter short. Look for keywords in the job description that you can relate to in order to keep the hiring manager's interest. Try to relate some of your experiences to responsibilities in the posting.
4. Mention transferable skills that are relevant to the job
Mention the skills you have used in previous jobs that could transfer to the open role. Including skills helps you relate directly to the job and how you could excel within it. Hiring managers can also determine how much training you would need if they hired you. You should include keywords from the job description in this section too.
5. Write a closing
Keep your closing short by reiterating your best qualifications and interest in the job. Tell the hiring manager that they can reach you should they have any questions about your cover letter or resume. End the letter with a closing like 'Sincerely,' then write your full name.
Cover letter tips
Use these tips when writing your cover letter to keep it concise and to the point:
- Consider your best qualifications. Cover letters should be short and direct. In order to do so, think about the highlights of your career, and only include one or two. Add a particular project that you led or a good record of sales or customer interactions.
- Use numbers when you can. Numbers help hiring managers put your career into perspective. Instead of writing that you completed a project under budget, explain that you completed the project $20,000 under budget. Or, explain how many customer complaints you resolved in one month. If you don't have exact numbers, you can give an estimate.
- Include a call to action. A call to action encourages a conversation between you and the employer. It can also show that you're truly interested in the job. Tell them you hope that they contact you to continue the hiring process or to ask questions about your qualifications.
- Tailor your cover letter. Make sure you effectively use space on your cover letter by tailoring it to every job you apply to. You can keep a basic template of your cover letter, but find areas in which you can make it specific to the job, such as why you applied to the job and how your experience relates.
Cover letter template
You can follow this template to write your cover letter:
[Name of Hiring Manager]
This letter is to show my interest in the [job] [how you heard about the job]. I am applying because [reason for applying].
[Use the second paragraph to detail your achievements or education and work experience.]
[Use the third paragraph to relate your skills to the open role.]
I hope that you will consider my skills, experience and interest in your organization, as I believe I would be a valuable addition in [give a specific way your experience translates to the role]. I have attached my resume for your consideration and welcome further discussion about my skills and experience.
Cover letter example
Use this example to help you write your own:
123 Aspen Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1H2
January 3, 2020
123 Eagle Road
Vancouver, BC V6C 1H2
Dear Ms. Smith,
This letter is to show my interest in the content writer position you posted on the Children Haven website. I am expressing my interest in the job posting because I think my experience and education will make me a good candidate for this role at your company.
In my most recent job, I was responsible for drafting over 20 training manuals focused on managing human resources where I was responsible for communicating with clients and management. In addition to my writing and editing training manuals, I assisted in developing two blog posts per week and various PR materials. These skills I believe are transferrable to your organization's role in the community as a leader.
What interested me about your organization is your work. While I have worked as a content writer at my former company using my communication and marketing skills to interact with clients, I feel strongly that my skills are better suited in the not-for-profit sector. The solid written and verbal communication skills I have demonstrated in my role as a content writer at a for-profit corporation can be easily transferable to a role as a content writer at your organization.
I hope that you will consider my skills, experience and interest in your organization, as I believe I would be a valuable addition in providing resources to children and their families. I have attached my resume for your consideration and welcome further discussion about my skills and experience.