Your resume is the most important document in your application, but a cover letter is often a close second. The level of detail in your cover letter can matter for some employers while other companies may not want a cover letter at all. Here are the tips about how much detail is just right for a cover letter from our recruiting and professional resume writers.
Resume v. Cover Letter
To understand how much detail is right for your cover letter, it is important to first understand the different purposes of a resume and cover letter. A cover letter is a one-page document you submit as part of your job application. It should be sent or uploaded with your resume when applying for jobs. Your cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the hiring manager and demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the job.
Your resume is a marketing tool that conveys the details of your experiences that show you are qualified for the job. The resume is parsed by the applicant tracking system for keywords and job titles. Thus, the cover letter is your chance to tell the story behind your resume. But, it does not take the place of your resume in outlining your experiences, results, and skills.
The level of your detail can depend on the type of role that you apply for and where you are applying.
If you are applying for a job that requires very specific experience or knowledge, your cover letter should be highly detailed in order to demonstrate that you have the required experience. This means that you should address exactly how you meet the requirements on your cover letter. You should also reference your resume to explain where those skills or experiences were gained if it is not obvious.
For example, if you are applying for a job that requires expertise in a certain software program, your cover letter should mention your experience with that software.
On the other hand, if you are applying for a job that is less technical or does not require specific experience, your cover letter can be less detailed. In this case, your cover letter should focus on introducing yourself and explaining why you would be a good fit for the position.
When in Doubt, Keep it Simple
The standard expectation is that a cover letter is no more than 1 page. This means that you can (and probably should) include multiple paragraphs. But, you should be clear in your message. Keep your cover letter straightforward in telling your story about why you want the job and why they should hire you.
If you are unsure about how much detail to include in your cover letter, it is better to err on the side of simplicity. A well-written and concise cover letter is more likely to make a good impression on the hiring manager than a long and detailed letter.
What to Include in Your Cover Letter
To make it easier to build an effective cover letter with the right level of detail, here are the standard types of things hiring managers expect to see in your cover letter:
The Basics: Start by including the job title, requisition number, your contact details, and method for application. Also, make sure to address your letter to the right contact person. If you do not have a specific name, you can use "Dear Hiring Manager." Then, in one or two sentences, explain why you are writing and what position you are interested in.
The Hook: Next, it's time to grab the employer's attention with a strong opening paragraph. In one or two sentences, explain what makes you an ideal candidate for the job. You can mention specific qualifications, skills, or accomplishments that match the job requirements.
The Summary: In the next section, provide an overview of your professional history. Include 1-2 sentences about your previous job experiences and highlight any skills or accomplishments that are relevant to this new role.
Why: Explain why you are applying to this job at this company. This means you should customize the letter to the specific job. This section is the most important part of your cover letter, but is typically a paragraph or two (max).
Closer: wrap up your letter with a brief paragraph thanking the hiring audience, express excitement about the opportunity to discuss the open position further, and conclude with "Sincerely" or "Regards" or similar statement.
Should You Hold Details for the Cover Letter?
As a general rule, you should not reserve any information for the cover letter. Remember, the cover letter tells the story behind your resume. It is basically a written interview to tell the hiring manager why you want the job, why you are qualified, and why they should hire you.
As explained above, the resume and cover letter serve different purposes in the hiring process. And, increasingly, the cover letter also may not be read by the hiring manager (or anyone). So, make sure that all details are on the resume. But, tell the story to connect the dots about your experience reflected on your resume in your cover letter.
A well-written cover letter can make all the difference in whether or not you get called in for an interview. This is because a cover letter is a sample of how you communicate. So, build a cover letter with the right level of detail for your audience. Use these tips as a guide when crafting your own cover letter and remember to customize each one for each individual job application. With a little effort (and some practice), you'll be writing killer cover letters in no time!
Not sure where to start or don't have the time to customize your cover letters? Have an expert build your cover letter for you. Submit your information below and one of our professional cover letter writers will be in touch.