How Long a Cover Letter Should Actually Be and Other Tips to Standout

how long should a cover letter be

Cover letter writing may seem like a necessary evil when you are looking for work, but it’s just as important as preparing your resume. Crafting an awesome cover letter will help get your foot in the door and land that job. But what actually makes a good cover letter? How long should a cover letter be? Who should I address it to?

Don’t worry- we got you covered. Here are some cover letter writing tips that will help you stand out from the rest.

Having an awesome cover letter as part of your job search process is an important first step in getting an interview.  The answer, of course, depends on several factors and there is a delicate balance to creating a cover letter that is the right length and conveys key information for the hiring manager.

What is really come down to is making a compelling case for why you’d be awesome at the job, without repeating your resume.

Hiring managers and recruiters spend, on average, 7 seconds on a job application when first scanning it and deciding if the candidate is worthy. With this in mind, your cover letter must be spot on, laser targeted and very very compelling.

1. So, how long should a cover letter be?

It should be longer than a couple of lines but do not waste your time writing a novel either. 70% of hiring managers said the shorter the better. Somewhere between 250 and 400 word count is a good amount. However, you should focus more on the content than how many lines on the page you are taking up.

How will a job seeker catch the attention of a recruiter, headhunter or hiring manager when they receive tons of resumes? The cover letter becomes the single most important document in the “attention-getting” process. Your cover letter is your best option to stand-out and get noticed.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”            – Dr. Seuss

Instead of focusing on how long your cover letter should be paying attention to your writing style. Be sure your paragraphs are short and to the point. You want your cover letter to be enjoyable to read.

Far too often job seekers focus all of their attention on creating (what they perceive to be) the perfect resume and 1% on the cover letter, which ends up being a simple form letter sometimes just stating “here is my job application”.

2. Cover Letter Format

Treat your cover letter as the most important document of your job application process. This is the very first document the hiring manager will see! Your cover letter must be compelling enough to convince the reader to review your resume.

Use a basic block style format that is easy to follow and always looks professional. Once you’ve got the basics, you need to include an explanation (why are you writing it), who are you and why they should look at your resume. How long should your cover letter be? No more than 1 page in length and should be targeted to the job application.

Your cover letter should be split into 3 sections:

  1. Intro part: Why are you submitting your application?
  2. Fit: What makes you exactly the one and only person that the hiring manager is looking for?
  3. Skills and Experience: What are the unique qualities you can bring to the table that no-one else can?

3. Dear Hiring Manager (not recommended)

Do some research and try to get the name of the senior managers (or head of HR) and address your cover letter directly to them. Leverage LinkedIn, articles on the company and company annual reports to get some specific names.

If you don’t have the person’s name you could use,  “Dear Sir or Madam.”, but generic cover letters do not get much attention. If your Internet search fails, it’s worthwhile to make a phone call to the company to find out the name of the person you should be addressing your correspondence to and the correct spelling of his or her name if you are not sure.

4. Why should they hire you?

While you must meet most of the basic requirements for the opportunity, now is the time to stress the value can you bring in terms of experience and successes from past and similar responsibilities.

Hiring managers don’t just want to know what you have done. They want to know what you have achieved and how that can be leveraged into future successes. You should be specific – e.g. “managed to increase market share by 20 pp in a very depressed market moving my company from 4th to 2nd position in 18 months” – just to give one example.

how long should a cover letter be stand out

The hiring manager is looking for someone who can increase earnings, improve processes or save the company money. While a cover letter should be short, you want to get the hiring manager’s attention. Your resume will tell the full story. Be sure to include highlights of your experience that is specific to the company or industry.

5. Honestly is the best policy.

It might be tempting to exaggerate your qualifications and experience but it is not worth the risk. Don’t put anything in your cover letter that is not true and that you can’t back up.

If the employer finds out that you lied, you’re finished even before you have a chance to be interviewed. You can even be fired if the company finds out that you lied on your application after you land the job, so be very careful when you are presenting yourself to an employer.

6. Tell them why you are applying.

This may sound a bit obvious but hiring managers see hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes and cover letters. Don’t make the person guess which job you would like to be considered for when you apply. If you are responding to an ad, use the exact title so the hiring manager can match your cover letter to the position.

Some resumes and cover letters are sorted by computer software. If yours doesn’t use the same keywords, it will be overlooked. In the event that you are presenting your resume but are not applying for a specific position, use a title that the manager will understand- such as Sales Manager or Shipping Supervisor.

7. Summarize your qualifications, don’t rewrite your resume.

Tell the reader why you would be a stellar candidate for the position, without rehashing the contents of your resume. The cover letter is meant to encourage the hiring manager to invite you to a meeting. Take this opportunity to convince him or her why getting face to face with you would be a good idea.

“Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away”                                                       – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

8. Proofread your writing. And then do it again.

Go over your letter in detail and use a professional spelling and grammar checker. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to take a look at it for you as well. You don’t want to leave anything to chance when you are introducing yourself to a potential employer.

This is your chance to make a good impression. Writing with spelling and grammar errors will immediately relegate your application to the bottom of the pile. It won’t matter whether you have excellent skills or the right educational background for the job at that point.

Forgetting to include your contact information is another detail that you may overlook. If you are mailing the letter, put pen to paper and sign it. In a case where you are emailing it or applying via a website, make sure you put your name at the bottom of your correspondence along with your cell phone number and email address.

Indicate in your cover letter that you will follow-up with a phone call within a week. End your letter on a positive note, be sure to thank the reader for his or her consideration.

9. Get their attention.

And a final practical note. Spend time on your cover letter in terms of design and less on how long a cover letter should be. Be neutral, avoid fancy fonts, excessive highlighting, bolding, underlining etc. And, needless to say, do a spell, grammar and syntax check at least three times. Don’t rely on your word processing application which never ever can distinguish “advise/advice” or “their/there”.

In terms of process, when you have made your cover letter, print it out, sign it and scan it with your signature. Then upload it and send it. The absence of a signature makes it too computer like, i.e. impersonal and that is exactly what you want to avoid.

Taking the time to craft your cover letter well will increase your chances of getting that all-important interview – and a job offer. Here are some short, sweet, and to the point cover letter writing tips to chew on to help you reach your goal.

Keep it Short

Remember, this is a cover letter designed to get the hiring manager’s attention so that they will read your resume. Don’t go over one page. Your goal is to encourage the hiring manager to invite you for a personal interview, not eliminate the necessity for one.

Tell Them Why You Are Applying

Hiring managers see hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes and cover letters. Don’t make the person guess which job you would like to be considered for when you apply. If you are responding to an ad, use the exact title so the hiring manager can match your cover letter to the position.

Summarize your qualifications

Your cover letter is meant to encourage hiring manager to invite you to a meeting. Take this opportunity to convince him or her why getting face to face with you would be a good idea.

Follow-up Request

Indicate in your cover letter that you will follow-up with a phone call within a week. End your letter on a positive note, be sure to thank the reader for his or her consideration.

Contact Info

Ensure you include your contact information and make sure you put your name at the bottom of your correspondence along with your cellphone number and email address

Proofread your Letter

Go over your letter in detail. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to take a look at it for you as well. This is your chance to make a good impression, and writing with spelling and grammar errors will immediately relegate your application to the bottom of the pile.

Resources

Cover LettersKnock 'em Dead Cover Letters: Cover Letters and Strategies to Get the Job You Want
Interviews15 Minutes to a Better Interview: What I Wish EVERY Job Candidate Knew
Job Search PlanningJob Search: Career Planning Guide, Book 2
Get OrgainzedGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Resume WritingThe Resume Writing Guide: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Writing a Winning Resume
Resume TemplatesKnock &039;em Dead Resume Templates: Plus 110 Resume Templates, the Knowledge & Tools to Build a Killer Resume

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Good luck in your search,
Joey

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Joey@careeralley.com
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