How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be?

Generally speaking, aim for one page for all your correspondence, and even shorter when possible. Of course, some circumstances may warrant more than one page, but if you find yourself going over the "limit," first review your letter for anything that can be cut. Hiring managers only spend a few precious seconds on a first glance through a cover letter. A short letter that includes specific, related, and impressive information is better than long letter that addresses general information.

Does everything you have written support your goal and or show how you can meet a need? If not, cut it. Are you using wordy phrasing? For example, "due to the fact that" can be rewritten as "because." Look for any wording that can be rephrased. Also use active phrasing as much as possible, as this also creates tighter writing. If you do find that you need more than one page, use discretion.

Are you one of those students who, on occasion, adjusted margin or font sizes to reach the minimum page requirement on a paper? Everyone adjusts these settings on occasion for various reasons. However, if you are trying to squish a very long letter onto one page and decide to use this option, be forewarned. Just as you want your résumé to have enough white space on the page to make it easier on the eye, so too do you want your cover letter to have adequate white space. Too many words will immediately turn off many readers and land your application in the reject pile before it is even read.

In general, aim for one-inch margins all around. You can adjust the top and bottom margins to as little as a half inch if necessary, but try not to reduce your right and left margins. Never use a font smaller than a 10 point. A range of 10 to 12 is acceptable. Anything smaller or larger makes you look amateurish. Watch for fancy fonts. Some print much larger or smaller than a typical font. When in doubt, err on the conservative side. And just as in your résumé, avoid mixing multiple fonts in the same letter. The exception is the header; use the same header for the cover letter as you do on your résumé. Then use the same or a very similar font in the body of your letter that you used in the bulk of your résumé. Also use the same types of bullet points, subheads, etc. for continuity.