Though the debate rages on regarding resume length, many people are in agreement that your cover letter should be short and sweet – no more than one page. There are always exceptions, but this is the general rule of thumb. If you’re onto a second page and still have more to add, chances are you’re missing the point. Furthermore, employers don’t want to read a novel. A cover letter is your way to quickly and succinctly grab their attention. It is not an autobiography, nor should it rehash your entire career or resume.
Start by carefully reading the job description and determining what the top two or three skills or abilities the employer is seeking. What would make the greatest impact in that role? Then consider how your own experience aligns with these targets. While you may want to recount all of the vast accomplishments you’ve achieved, zero in on those which will have the strongest influence. What makes you stand out from others and shows that you have what it takes to succeed in the role?
Don’t forget, the employer will have a copy of your resume too. You’re not ignoring other accomplishments in your cover letter, simply focusing on those that will entice the employer to want to learn more because they see how you may be a great fit. Figure out what makes you pop and what value you would add.
Avoid the temptation to use miniscule margins and microscopic fonts. Stick with the standards. Cramming more information in but making it harder to read is not going to motivate an employer to keep reading. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. If you’re having trouble deciding what to keep and what to cut, have someone else read the job description, cover letter, and resume. See what aspects jump out to them regarding what you bring to the table.
Before you send it off, don’t forget to:
- Proofread and then proofread again. You don’t want simple spelling or grammar errors to send the wrong impression.
- Double check your contact information to ensure that it is 100% correct. One missing letter in your email address or a wrong digit in your phone number can mean the difference between hearing from a potential employer and not.
- Double check the company’s contact information. If you’re updating a previous cover letter for a different job, make sure you’ve changed all of the pertinent information such as company name, contact person, position, and date.
A well-written, targeted cover letter can be an asset to your application package. Unless the job opening expressly notes not to send a cover letter, take the time to create one. You never know when an employer will read it.