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Should a cover letter ever be more than one page?
February 21, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Should a cover letter ever be more than one page?

I've heard conflicting opinions on this. My colleague on a search committee where I work said two pages is fine as long as you're addressing the job and your qualifications for it. Others have said one page max. Oh hive-mind, what is the truth?
posted by Fister Roboto to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's too long. Leave the length for your CV or resume. The cover letter is just supposed to be a hook that makes employers read auxiliary documents.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:11 PM on February 21, 2012


The truth is different people have different standards. There are some people who wouldn't love your two page cover letter. There are some who would discard it immediately. There are some who would only read the first page regardless of how much you gave them. There are some who would be a little annoyed that it was long, but wouldn't have it affect their decision. There are some who would read the whole thing and subconsciously or not dock you for your desire to not be concise. Therefore, the best bet is to keep it to one page, because that will make the most people happy.
posted by brainmouse at 2:13 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one will ever say that a one-page cover letter is insufficiently long just because it's one page. Many will say that a two-page cover letter is too long just because it's two pages. Unless you're absolutely certain that the person you're trying to impress isn't one of those many, stick to one. Personally, I'd like to know that an applicant is capable of distilling his or her qualifications into a single page. Always leave 'em wanting more.
posted by Etrigan at 2:13 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


As the person responsible for hiring people at my company - one page. And make it DAMN GOOD. If your cover letter doesn't catch my attention, I might not be bothered enough to go the next step and read your resume (but I work in an industry where great writing, interesting backgrounds, and personality make a difference rather than technical skills).
posted by HeyAllie at 2:14 PM on February 21, 2012


For what kind of job?
At what level (senior, junior, entry)?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:16 PM on February 21, 2012


And in what country?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:16 PM on February 21, 2012


Depends on the profession. Find out what the norm is in your field.
posted by yoink at 2:17 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The job that I'm applying for is in the US. It's in a different field from the one I'm currently in, so I'm finding myself taking space to explain how my skills translate. I feel that they really do, but my field is kind of obscure, so I'm concerned the HR person won't understand how.
posted by Fister Roboto at 2:19 PM on February 21, 2012


Bonus points if someone wants to take a look at this thing, for sure.
posted by Fister Roboto at 2:21 PM on February 21, 2012


Two pages isn't going to seem to long to everyone, but it will seem to long to some. Unless I was absolutely sure that it would be OK submitting two pages for a cover letter, I would stick with a single page. As oceanjesse said, the cover letter is an introduction and a means to get them to your resume. Save some good stuff for the interview.
posted by Nightman at 2:25 PM on February 21, 2012


No - only one - the point is that it's succinct.
posted by mleigh at 2:29 PM on February 21, 2012


Succinct=efficient=a trait that tends to be valued in the workplace.
posted by sugarbomb at 2:32 PM on February 21, 2012


I would think a cover letter longer than a page (or even 3 paras, really) was strange. You should use the cover letter to get in the door, and make the pitch for yourself in the interview.
posted by yarly at 2:36 PM on February 21, 2012


Two suggestions:

(1)
Keep it to one page.

(2)
Use bullet points to enumerate the most important ways your skills translate from your current field to the new one.
posted by cool breeze at 2:41 PM on February 21, 2012


If the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address could both fit on a side of paper then so can your cover letter. Be concise.
posted by rongorongo at 2:47 PM on February 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Cover letters and resumes are often skimmed rather than read in detail, so a long letter won't make you stand out. Consider a T-letter which lists the job requirements in one column and your qualifications in the other. It'll do what you're looking for, and it's easy to read.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:47 PM on February 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


No.

I've read many and written many. I remember applying for a law clerk position via fax, and my mailed version coming into the office after I was hired. The boss got my attention and said "great cover letter."

You can say it in one page. Writing something short should take longer.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:43 PM on February 21, 2012


In academia, your CV or resume can be long. If your cover letter is more than a page, your CV/resume is probably incomplete.

Outside of academia, keep your resume under 2 pages, and your cover letter to 1 page. Use a really good resume format to get your qualifications across.
posted by theora55 at 3:55 PM on February 21, 2012


One page max. If it takes two pages to explain why you might be a good fit, you probably aren't a good fit.
posted by sm1tten at 4:09 PM on February 21, 2012


This is field-specific. In most cases, keep it to one page. In some fields - academia, think tanks, etc. - you can (and should) go longer.

I just MeMailed you - I'm happy to take a look at yours and provide some feedback.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:12 PM on February 21, 2012


There is no truth, not on this criterion. I have seen plenty of two-page cover letters that are easier to take in than crammed, ill-formatted single page letters. Creating that boundary has caused a lot of people desperate to say more to worsen their presentation.

The best letters are clear and succinct and say everything that needs to be said in one page. Some stick to one page and blather at that. Some go longer, and I have kept reading. It all depends.

That said, in some fields, you may encounter readers who stick moronically to a one-page rule and figure you don't know what you're doing because you went over . . . like you're a puppy that's not housebroken.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:46 PM on February 21, 2012


Keep in mind that (at least in my experience) only HR actually sees the cover letter. As an engineer, I've conducted phone screens and interviewed candidates dozens of times over the last decade for three different companies and I've never actually seen a cover letter, just the resumes. So make sure that everything that you need to say is on the resume itself.
posted by octothorpe at 7:16 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keep it short. People responsible for recruiting for a position have to plough through a lot of applications, and what they want is to find out as quickly as possible whether or not you look like a good fit. Most of those little details about your situation that you think are possibly important to state are of no interest to them at this stage, so make it concise, accurate and well-written, but aim for one page as a maximum.

CVs (resumes) can be rather more field-specific with regard to length but I truly do not think a covering letter should ever be more than a succinct statement covering why you, personally, are right for this position and possibly briefly clarifying any oddity on your CV that you feel needs to be clarified. But don't go overboard on that last one. The main thing is to quickly grab the recruiter's attention with something that will make them say "Ah, this person looks interesting/relevant". Then you go on the "Possibles" pile as opposed to in the bin.
posted by Decani at 1:24 AM on February 22, 2012


The only job i've ever gotten with no contacts on the inside already was because of my one page cover letter that said, in huge type, "I am a Photoshop Ninja." That got me in for the interview.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:04 AM on February 24, 2012


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