How long should your cover letter be? A simple question, right? But if you ask different people, you might get a different answer each time.
While there are exceptions, in general, a page is fine. Of course, there is a lot to cover in a page. Alison Green of Ask A Manager has some great advice on how to ensure your cover letter stands out without being too long:
The litmus test is this: Does your letter make a compelling case for why you’d be awesome at the job, without repeating your work history?
If your letter does that but it’s longer than a page, look for ways to edit it down without losing its essence. If it’s half a page or less, you should just be damn sure that it’s truly passing that litmus test. It’s hard to meet that test if you’re writing very short. Not impossible, but a lot harder.
Read the rest of her advice here.
Determining how long your cover letter will be is just one aspect of crafting an application. You have to figure out what will be in it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Follow any and all directions: Sometimes employers will ask you to answer questions in your cover letter. Regardless of how long your cover letter is, if you don’t follow directions, you risk not getting a chance at an interview.
- Demonstrate a genuine interest in the mission: Hiring managers value commitment to the cause and experience. Showcase both in your cover letter without simply repeating your resume. This also requires that you craft a unique cover letter for each position.
There are examples of standout cover letters (and resumes) and a step-by-step guide to crafting a cover letter in the presentation below.
What cover letter writing tips have worked for you? Share them in the comments.
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The one-page resume vs. the two-page resume
Your resume should be tailored for those who read for speed and those who read for details.
Resume length is one of those issues that vexes job seekers. So we asked a panel of experts to weigh in on the matter: “Should a resume be one page long, or is it okay to have two pages or more?” Here’s what they said.
Pro: One-page resume
“Ideally, your resume should be one page, because recruiters and managers have short attention spans,” says Jennifer Brooks, a North Carolina–based career counselor. “It’s your ad; it doesn’t have to be comprehensive. If you feel the need to write down everything you’ve done in your entire career, you’re not thinking about the buyer, who just needs to know what’s relevant.”
Her tip for keeping your resume short and easy for the “buyer:” Use a summary statement. “It’s better than a career objective,” she says. “It’s what you want me to know about you in a nutshell. That makes it easy for recruiters to know your focus and your skills.”
Dani Johnson, author of Grooming the Next Generation for Success, agrees. “If you have a long work history, know that most people don’t read what you did 10 years ago,” she explains. “Put the focus on your most recent accomplishments, and if you have skills that repeat from one company or job to the next, state ‘same as above as well as these’ to save room.”
Pro: Two-page resume
While everyone agrees shorter is better, it’s a fact that some of us will need longer resumes. If you’ve got a lot of varied experience or a long career, you may well need more space to tell your story.
“Two pages may be OK,” says Paul C. Green, a former hiring manager and the author of Get Hired. But three or more pages is too much. The best way to present your career information is through a chronological resume format with bulleted skills listed below each position.” One exception: Any skills that are relevant to a particular employer or are in demand in today’s workplace, like critical-care nursing, nanotechnology or eliminating environmental hazards, for example. For maximum impact, list these skills in your resume's career summary.
Kim Isaacs, Monster's resume expert, says even if you’re going long, stay focused on what’s most relevant to prospective employers. “Let go of information that doesn’t help win job interviews,” she says. That includes positions held long ago, outdated accomplishments, old training, and hobbies.
She also suggests putting effort in your presentation. “Design is equally as important as resume length and content. A one-page resume that’s crammed with information is less desirable than a well-organized two-page resume that is easy to read and digest.”
Compromise on resume length
Like any good argument, there is a middle ground solution, according to Chris Laggini, vice president of HR for DLT Solutions, an IT reseller and service provider in Herndon, Virginia. “Recruiters read for speed," he says. "They are on a minute-long word hunt for certain titles, skills, and years of experience. Hiring managers read for detail. So, we recommend that you have both a one-page resume for the recruiter and an in-depth resume format to be shared with the hiring manager. In your short version, make certain to highlight keywords and titles referenced in the ad for the position. In the long version, provide the hiring manager with enough detail for them to get an accurate picture of you, what you are capable of accomplishing and what you want from the career path.”
The final word on resume format
All our experts agree that the key to writing an effective resume of any length is to choose elements carefully. “A good way to filter your experiences is to survey your network on the needs of employers, and sample business articles for common themes of discontent in the workplace” Green explains. “List 10 ways employers are hurting today [and] describe 10 of your skills that you can deliver solutions. Use your resume to convert what you have done in the past to what you can do in the future—then your phone will ring.”
Your resume is your first introduction to a recruiter or hiring manager, so you need to make sure it tells the best story. Become a Monster member so you can upload up to five resumes for recruiters to find you as soon as they post jobs. Members can also submit their resume for an evaluation from our Resume Writing Service to determine the best length, language, and format for you to land that job of your dreams.