When done right, cover letters can play a vital role in the success of your job application. But let’s be honest, it’s not exactly everyone’s favourite job to do, is it? When you’re writing a cover letter, you’ve probably got a thousand questions spinning round in your head like ‘What should I include?’ and ‘How long should it be?’.
As a rule of thumb, cover letters in the UK should be no more than a page long, and should include 3-4 paragraphs. Hiring managers lead busy lives, so you want your cover letter to be short but concise. Your cover letter should expand on the main points from your CV, and provide more examples and detail about your most important achievements.
How to keep your cover letter to one page
Only talk about your most relevant experience
You might have a lot you want to highlight from your experience but cover letters aren’t the place for that. Cover letters should include only the most relevant and impressive parts of your background and experience in relation to the job description. Everything else should wait until the interview. You want to get across your point as quickly as possible – and only the most relevant experience is going to grab the hiring manager’s attention.
Don’t use lengthy sentences
Your cover letter isn’t the place to write descriptively. Keep it simple and use as few words as possible. Yes, use sophisticated and professional language, but don’t mistake sophistication for long sentences.
Get the right font size and spacing
One of the most practical ways to save space in your cover letter is to make sure you’re typing in a size 11 font (Times New Roman or Arial) with just single spacing between lines.
Use 3-4 paragraphs
A good rule is to only use 3-4 paragraphs in your cover letter. Each paragraph could contain somewhere between 2-5 sentences, but try not to write any more than that.
Cover letter layout
- Paragraph 1: Introduce your reason for writing the letter, which position you’re applying for and where you found the vacancy.
- Paragraph 2: Give a brief overview of your most relevant skills and experience. Create a compelling argument as to why you’d made a great candidate for the position by drawing on your past achievements.
- Paragraph 3: Talk about why you want to work for them specifically and what draws you to the role.
- Paragraph 4: Thank them for their time and let them know you look forward to hearing a response.
What NOT to include in your cover letter
Make sure your cover letter isn’t simply echoing your CV. You want to provide new and persuasive information in your cover letter that supports the information in your CV, but doesn’t duplicate it.
Your cover letter should include text only. There should never be any images of you in your cover letter (or your CV for that matter!)
Don’t use any fancy word art in your cover letter. This looks unprofessional, takes up space, and makes the page look more busy. Just stick to classic black font text!
Short and simple does the trick
It’s important not to over-complicate the cover letter process. In a nutshell, you want your cover letter to prove that you have the key skills and experience listed in the job description, and to convince the hiring manager that you deserve an interview. Don’t run away with the writing – hiring managers don’t have time to read long essays. Keep it short and to the point to maximise your chance of getting an interview!
If you’re writing a cover letter, make sure you head over to our article on what to include in a cover letter.
Bagged yourself an interview? Don’t miss our tips for standing out in an interview!