How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? This Is the Ideal Length for 2024.

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May 24, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • Your cover letter should be between 250 and 400 words and fit on a single page.
  • The ideal cover letter length depends on factors like experience and the employer’s instructions.
  • Teal’s AI Cover Letter Generator takes the guesswork out of the process and writes a cover letter that presents you as the ideal match for the company and open position.

You made it through writing your resume. A feeling of relief immediately washes over you—until you take another peek at the job description and realize you still need to write your cover letter.

Writing a cover letter is one of the more dreaded parts of the job application process. Yet this detested document can carry a surprising amount of weight in your job search. So, it’s worth gritting your teeth and getting it done.

As you summon your motivation, you’re bound to wonder: How long should a cover letter be? Do you need to drone on for several pages? Or can you put yourself out of your misery after just a snappy paragraph or two?

This guide breaks down the ideal cover letter length so you can write a cover letter that captures the interest of hiring managers and puts you at the top of the pile of applicants:

  • Understanding the ideal cover letter length
  • How long should a cover letter be?
  • 6 tips for a concise and compelling cover letter
  • How to write a short (or long) cover letter with AI

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

Understanding the ideal cover letter length

You likely already know the answer to “how long is a resume?”

But cover letters feel a little more ambiguous. So what’s the ideal length for a cover letter? Ultimately, the “ideal” length is whatever you need to present yourself as the most relevant, qualified, and impressive fit for an open position.

To write a great cover letter, it’s important to focus more on the content itself than arbitrary rules and criteria. That said, there are a few general recommendations that answer “how long should a cover letter typically be?”

A typical cover letter length is:

  • Under 400 words
  • Three to five paragraphs long
  • Half a page to a full page (but not more than one page)

But as with your other application materials, you have some flexibility here. As you write your cover letter, think through some of these more nuanced considerations to determine the right length for your specific situation:

  • Your experience level: If you’re applying for an internship or entry-level job, your cover letter might be closer to 250 words, or two paragraphs. But if you have several years of experience under your belt, your skills and work history might justify a full page of content.
  • Your type of experience: Are you making a change to a completely different career or industry? Your cover letter can help you connect the dots and tell more of your career story, which warrants a longer length. In contrast, if your experience is straightforward, you might be able to keep your document shorter.
  • Job ad instructions: Look closely at the job ad to see if there are any explicit instructions related to your cover letter’s length, format, or content. Honor those directions as you write yours to increase your chances of making it through the first screening while also demonstrating your attention to detail.

Specifics aside, your cover letter is intended to be a concise and compelling summary of your most notable skills and achievements—and you should be able to convey those in a few thoughtful paragraphs. 

Does the length of your cover letter matter?

Let’s start with the bigger question: Do cover letters matter? Is anybody reading them? Or are you wasting your time? 

Rest assured, in most cases, your cover letter is reviewed by the hiring manager. The 51 hiring managers and recruiters Teal asked identified length as the second most important factor, just behind resume and candidate quality, when deciding whether or not to read a cover letter.

Hiring decision-makers are not only reading your cover letter but using it as a valuable tool to review and evaluate candidates. When they’re trying to get through the stack of applications as efficiently as possible, a long-winded cover letter will only slow them down (and likely get you ruled out of the interview process).

In comparison, a more concise cover letter has an increased likelihood of being read all the way through, allowing the hiring manager to understand and absorb your qualifications.

When you keep your cover letter short, you can:

  • Highlight your most important skills: Your cover letter should call attention to your most relevant and impressive qualifications. That’s hard to do if they get buried and lost in thousands of words that describe all of your other experiences and capabilities.
  • Make an immediate impact: 45 percent of hiring managers say they read an applicant’s cover letter before they ever take a look at the candidate’s resume. A shorter document helps you snag attention right away. Think of your cover letter like a movie trailer. The movie itself has hours of interesting footage, but the trailer’s job is to showcase the most compelling pieces and entice you to see the entire film. Similarly, your cover letter should inspire recruiters to take a look at your resume.
  • Demonstrate your soft skills: Communication, prioritization, and organization are valuable skills in nearly every job and career path. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show that you can determine the importance of information, arrange it effectively, and deliver a succinct and persuasive message.

Need some help writing a concise one? Check out these short cover letter examples.

How long should a cover letter be?

Here’s the simple answer to this question: short. A solid cover letter is one that’s brief and to the point. So how many pages or words should you aim for? Here are some details to help you.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

Generally speaking, your cover letter should fit on one page. If you need less than one page to get your point across, there’s no need to add unnecessary fluff to fill out the page. Even half of a page is considered an acceptable cover letter length.

Shorter is almost always better and your cover letter should never require two pages. If your content is spilling onto a second page, it’s a sign you need to trim.

How many words should a cover letter be?

The typical cover letter length is between 250 and 400 words. While that might sound like a lot, you’ll likely be surprised how quickly you hit that word count. It’s roughly enough space for three to five short paragraphs of two to three sentences each.

Put simply, less than 400 words on a single page is a safe benchmark when writing your cover letter. But exactly how much length you need hinges on your qualifications and experience level. 

Use this chart to estimate how long your cover letter should be:

Keep in mind that those are guidelines and not hard and fast rules. You have the flexibility to adjust to a length that works best for you, provided you can still fit your information on a single page.

How to keep a cover letter to one page

Writing a short cover letter might seem simple. But once you start putting pen to paper (or your fingers on the keyboard), you’ll quickly realize how challenging it is to write a good cover letter.

Distilling all of your qualifications into a few paragraphs is no easy task. Just because your cover letter is short doesn’t mean it’s not substantial. Every single sentence serves a purpose.

Here are a few helpful tips to write a cover letter that’s equal parts clear, concise, and compelling:

1. Think like a highlight reel

Remember that, in many cases, the goal of your cover letter is to get the HR professional to review your resume. If they like what they see, you get moved to the interview stage.

That means your cover letter doesn’t need to tell the whole story. It just needs to get the hiring manager interested enough to keep you in the running. It’s not the whole meal—just an appetizer.

So ask yourself: If I could only tell the hiring manager three things that make me an ideal candidate for this position, what would I tell them? Those are the high points to focus on in your cover letter.

2. Return to the job description

Relevance is crucial when writing your resume, but it matters just as much when writing your cover letter. An effective cover letter is one that’s tailored to a specific job.

Teal’s Matching Mode can help you not only identify keywords in the job description, but recommend which to add based on which existing skills align with the open role.

Teal's Chrome Extension surfaces the top keywords from a job description.
Teal's Chrome Extension surfaces the top keywords from a job description. Teal Matching Mode reveals all job description keywords.

To tailor your cover letter, return to the job description and ask yourself:

  • How many years of experience is the job asking for?
  • What education level does the job require?
  • What soft skills and technical skills are mentioned or emphasized?
  • What are the primary responsibilities of this position?
  • What unique skills and experiences separate me from other candidates?

Then review your own experience and qualifications and make detailed notes about how you check each of those boxes. Going through the job ad with a fine-tooth comb will help you surface cover letter keywords that should be included in your document.

3. Adjust spacing

Lastly, adjusting the spacing on your cover letter can help you keep all of the content on one page. To maximize the real estate on your resume consider adjusting:

  • Line spacing
  • Margins
  • Leading
  • Tracking
  • Kerning
  • Font size
  • Typeface

For more tips, check out this guide on resume spacing.

4. Keep it straightforward

While a cover letter is a formal business document, you don’t want to stuff it with run-on sentences, filler words, and eye-glazing jargon. In fact, simpler is usually better.

Your cover letter should use:

  • Simple formatting that is easy for the hiring manager to skim and process
  • Short and straightforward sentences
  • Bullet points to highlight qualifications and achievements
  • A reasonable font size (10 to 12 point font), single-spaced text, and plenty of white space to visually balance your content

Ultimately, the easier your cover letter is to read, the greater the likelihood that HR people will actually do so. 

5. Ask for feedback

Not sure if your cover letter is making the right impression? Ask a trusted friend or family member to review it and offer constructive feedback.

When you do, don’t just give them your cover letter—share the job description too. That context will help them give you more pointed feedback that will hopefully get you closer to your dream job.

How to write a cover letter fast

Whether you need to create a short or long cover letter, it’s easy to get started with Teal’s AI Cover Letter Generator.

Here’s how it works:

1. Choose one of your resumes from the Resume Builder (or import one if you need to)

2. Click the “Cover Letter” tab

Navigate to the cover letter tab from Teal's resume builder
Teal's AI Cover Letter Generator lives within the AI Resume Builder

3. Attach a job description from your Teal Job Tracker

Teal's Resume Builder lets you attach a job description to tailor each resume appropriately
Teal's Resume Builder lets you attach a job description to tailor each resume appropriately

4. Click the “Write with AI” button

To use Teal's AI, "click the Write with AI button"
To write your Cover Letter with AI, "click the Write with AI button" within the Cover Letter Tab of the Teal AI Resume Builder

5. Set your cover letter settings for length and tone

Teal's AI Cover Letter Generator lets you set your preferred cover letter length
Teal lets you set your preferred cover letter length

When you select “Apply,” Teal will automatically generate a cover letter on a polished document that matches your resume. You can easily export this document as a PDF to send with the rest of your application materials.

Want to make some changes? You can hit “Try Again” to have the AI generate a new result or select “Improve with AI” to change your previous selections and further refine your document.

Cover letter example from Teal
AI cover letter example created from Teal's Cover Letter Generator

Even if you don’t use the AI result word-for-word, it gives you a starting point to work with—and it’s a lot less menacing than a blank page and a blinking text cursor.

Write a cover letter that’s just the right length

You don’t want your cover letter to be too long or too short. But writing something that hits the sweet spot while also effectively capturing your most notable skills, experiences, and achievements can be a challenge.

Fortunately, it’s possible. Put the above tips and tools to work and writing your cover letter doesn’t need to be nearly as dreaded and daunting.

Ready to make writing your cover letter a breeze? Try Teal’s AI Cover Letter Generator today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a 500-word cover letter too long?

It’s a little on the long side, considering the “standard” word count range for a cover letter is 250 to 400 words. It’s worth looking to see if there’s anything you can trim. However, if your content comfortably fits on one page with a reasonable font size, you can get by with 500 words.

Is a 150-word cover letter too short?

This word count is a little too short to get your point across. See what additional content you can add to get closer to the recommended cover letter length of 250 to 400 words. Don’t add fluff and filler for the sake of increasing your word count. Adding words should also add value.

Is a two-page cover letter too long?

Yes, two pages is too long. Your cover letter should fit on one page with plenty of white space to balance it out. Take a close look at your content to see what you can trim. 

How long should a cover letter be in the UK?

The UK uses the same recommendations as US cover letters. Your cover letter should be 250 to 400 words in three to five short paragraphs on a single page.

Kat Boogaard

Kat is a freelance writer focused on the world of work. When she's not at her computer, you'll find her with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.

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