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Poll results: Length of cover letter?

Voters
34. You may not vote on this poll
  • Two pages and thoroughly explain my experience & education?

    3 8.82%
  • Single page - if one won't do it, more won't help.

    29 85.29%
  • Jobs? There are advertised jobs in this economy?

    2 5.88%
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Thread: Length of cover letter?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Length of cover letter?

    I've always thought that keeping a cover letter to one page was ideal. I'm going to be applying for an advertised job that makes me question that philosophy.

    The job description is very complex and thorough. In order to explain how I meet their needs, I doubt that I can fit it all into a single page.

    So?

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    I agree with you, and now that I'm acutally in a position where I've had to review some, I can say that more than a single page cover letter is overkill.
    The cookies are worth the drive

  3. #3
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    Coming form a person that has reviewed many resumes, keep the cover letter to one page. Remember you only have like 20 seconds or something to grab my attention and if it is too long/wordy it goes into the 'no' pile.

    You can refine your skills into one or two paragraphs. Likely many of the requirements of the job will have overlapping skills. Also, tweak your resume to highlight the requirements of the job and the posting.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hullcorey View post
    Coming form a person that has reviewed many resumes, keep the cover letter to one page. Remember you only have like 20 seconds or something to grab my attention and if it is too long/wordy it goes into the 'no' pile.

    You can refine your skills into one or two paragraphs. Likely many of the requirements of the job will have overlapping skills. Also, tweak your resume to highlight the requirements of the job and the posting.
    I totally agree with the '20 second rule'. And while I am far from the world's best speller (obvious if you read my posts), there better not be any misspellings in the cover letter or resume.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I look for a few things in a cover letter:
    • can you write a clear, concise memo, which a cover letter shows - introduction paragraph, meat paragraph directing the reader to parts of the resume that fit the job description, closing paragraph - 2 paragraphs are okay for the meaty section if you are using them to show your direct experience and if there are other experiences/connections you want to highlight (as in, you may recall we met at the APA conference, or a paragraph on an internship or a relevant project, or why you want to work there, what your goals are, etc.)
    • decent sentence structure, editing ability, though I am okay with the meaty paragraph to be bullets if the person is trying to highlight to me some items that they want me to see
    • congenial and confident tone that is not over-bearing and arrogant or almost worse, mushy

    you can't do a cover letter like a posting at a website - memo's and letters still exist in the government/corporate world!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I would say two pages, no more. The reason I say two pages is because you should use at least a 12 font size, remember there may be some old eyes looking at your application and though the 10 font might squeeze it on one page you don't want to have 0" lower margin or 1/2" sides just to make it fit. It should look nice and state everything your resume doesn't such as life experiences and local ties or professional ties that makes you the best candidate.
    @GigCityPlanner

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    There are cases where a two-page cover letter is appropriate. You are rght to want to specifically address a complex position description, although be careful to not simply duplicate what is in your resume. Start out with a one or two paragraph summary, then bullet the most important points you want to address.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    One page is enough. Picture yourself going through a pile of resumes to select the people you want to interview. Get your points across in the cover sheet and make them want to talk to you.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Keep it to one page. There are a few ways to do this:
    • Reduce the margin width from 1.25" to 1".
    • Use 11pt fonts (they are still readable).
    • Put your contact info in a header. Your name should still be full size (11-12pt, or even 14pt), but I have shrunk the address, phone number, e-mail, etc. to 9pt fonts. Yes they are slightly smaller but are still readable. As a personal touch, I have included a horizontal bar in the shape of cityscape. However, my personal letterhead has never kept me from earning a job interview.
    • I sometimes move the header slightly higher (hold the ALT button while adjusting margins). If you use the same letterhead for the coverletter and resume, make sure that all headers, footers, and margins are still uniform for consistency.
    • Use bullet points when possible.

    Content
    I use the same formula over and over again for coverletters:
    1. Introduce yourself and what you are appying for (1 sentence):
    2. Dive right into how you can meet their needs (1 sentence):
    3. Go directly into bullet points. Each one needs to be specifically tailored according to the job requirements established in the job ad. Each of these bullet points should not be more than 1 sentence and should use active verbs. Address ALL requirements. This might take a little creativity in preventing run-on sentences.
    4. Conclusion (3 sentence structure)
    • Sentence One: Indicate any attached documents, portfolio, application, etc.
    • Sentence Two: Tell them you look forward to discussing their needs in person.
    • Sentence Three: Thank them for their time.

    I have used this coverletter format for several jobs, and it has seldom prevented me from earning an interview. People have short attention spans, so I think it's better to be succinct and to the point rather than ramble on and on. Skills, qualifications, and your understanding of the job is going to leave a far bigger mark when choosing candidates to interview. Yes, this format can be harder to pull off if you don't have any or little professional experience.

    Hope this helps-

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for all the comments. I'm still a bit on the fence, so I'll lay out a bit more info...

    If this was being sent to a private company, there would be no doubt I'd keep it to one page.

    That's not the case - this is being sent to a non-governmental organization, a not-for-profit community development corp.

    My concern with a single page is that the initial screening will be done by someone who is non-technical. Their position description is two pages by itself. I've got the experience to do the work, but I'm not an exact fit, and perhaps look different than what they have in mind.

    My concern is that if I don't show how I meet their criteria, I won't get short-listed.

    So, I'm open to more thoughts.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    How many years of experience do you have? A person coming out is school (with or without an internship) that gives me a two page cover letter = placed in tidy circular recepticle behind my chair. A person with over 7 years of experience and has managed projects and wants to describe them for me = OK, I will listen. As a general rule 1 page is sufficient, 2 pages may be appropriate in certain circumstances. The person reading them will look at it for no more than 30 to 45seconds so you have to get your points across fast.
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  12. #12
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I think you can still make your case with a couple of middle meaty paragraphs - you want them to quickly see how you could work in the position.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    IMO, your cover letter shouldn't need to say that much. That's what your resume' is for.
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    In undergrad I took a couple journalism classes which really changed the way I write and taught me to be much more concise. I have found this to be a great asset when writing cover letters and was immensly more valuable than any business writing class or resume workshop or anything like that.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    I am in the process of conducting interviews and sorted through over 100 applications. I can tell you that if a candidate had a two page cover letter, I seriously considered the application suspect because a two-page submitter obviously wasn't a good enough writer to condense their interest and qualifications in the job in one page. No one with a two page interview got an interview.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    i agree with sothsidearmy. The cover letter is garbage. I want the resume and good references

  17. #17
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    I am in the process of conducting interviews and sorted through over 100 applications. I can tell you that if a candidate had a two page cover letter, I seriously considered the application suspect because a two-page submitter obviously wasn't a good enough writer to condense their interest and qualifications in the job in one page. No one with a two page interview got an interview.
    I agree. Not that I have any say over who is hired, but in my opinion, the number one most important thing for a planner to have is communication skills. If they can't write well, I wouldn't hire them. Writing is a reflection of mental organization. If you can't write, you can't think, and you can't make convincing arguments for anything.

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