How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

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In an age of 140-character tweets and the brevity of social media status updates, the traditional cover letter appears outdated and excessively wordy. With more applicants vying for fewer jobs, hiring managers are inundated with resumes, which reduces the amount of time devoted to each applicant's submission. To capture the desired attention and hopefully receive an invitation to interview, keep your cover letter length to a single page and as short as possible.

The cover letter is a crucial component of your job search since the ideal letter provides context for your resume, connects your capabilities to the position, communicates your interest in the company and catches the attention and interest of the hiring manager. Your task is to accomplish all of these goals as succinctly as possible. According to career experts the ideal cover letter length should be only a few paragraphs that are short enough to be read in about 10 seconds or less.

Do not use your cover letter to simply summarize your enclosed resume; rather, briefly introduce the resume, which details your skills and experience, by highlighting one or two noteworthy and relevant accomplishments. Use the cover letter as a bridge to connect the contents of your resume with the job description. Illustrate to the reader how your particular talents and experiences relate to the job you are seeking.

The cover letter is your first introduction to the hiring agent and as such needs to entice the reader to keep reading through to your resume. Countless surveys of hiring agents indicate most reviewers of resumes spend mere seconds scanning each. Chances are high that if a recruiter is presented with a verbose cover letter he or she will not likely be compelled to continue wading through words and will set your application aside. Invite reading of your cover letter through use of white space, insertion of bullet points and lack of overly long sentences. If reading your letter is burdensome and adds to the busy recruiter's already overloaded job, then he or she is not likely to be left with a favorable impression of you.

Use the cover letter to generate curiosity about you as a possible candidate. Toward that end, do not attempt to cover all your applicable history or winning qualities, and do not attempt to explain all the reasons why you should be hired. Leave room for the recruiter to remain interested in learning more about you later through that coveted in-person interview.

Capture the interest and attention of recruiting managers with your cover letter. Keep that interest by keeping your words succinct and relevant, revealing enough to draw some connections between you and the position you seek but remaining brief enough to leave the readers' curiosity intact.


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