My friend Sue got an interview with a trading company in response to her cover letter and resume, as well as answers to an on-line questionnaire. When I looked at her cover letter, I crowed with delight to see a TWO-PAGE letter!
I explained that some of my clients think my cover letter samples are way too long, and they resist sending something that length. Sue told me she sent the letter because it was responsive to what the company founder said he wanted. She also told me that she changed her resume to mirror EXACTLY what he wanted to see in a resume. He outlined it in his book, which she is reading. One of the things he also said is that he wanted people to talk about him and his company - because it is his company and he wants to know you want to work for him. So she did.
All of this was music to my ears. Because employers often will tell you exactly what they want you to do when you apply, if you pay attention.
1. Job descriptions contain language, concepts, skills that is particular to the company. Use the language they use - not copying verbatim, but using some of their terms, phrases and words. The skills they require are the key words their software and human reviewers will look for. Oh, and mention the title of the position at least twice in the cover letter - at the top and in your closing paragraph.
2. Websites are a treasure trove. Go to the "About" or "For Investors" page to find the company mission or purpose, its vision and values, its annual report. Refer to the purpose, the kind of business they are in, the impact they have. Sincere flattery based on facts goes a looooooong way toward telling employers that you want to work there - and that you did your research. Use the name of the company at least twice in the letter, too, so it's clear you know where you want to work..
3. Public profiles and news items also contain a lot of information. Many companies have LinkedIn profiles now, and you can often see who works for them. Maybe you can connect with people there, and maybe you are already connected. Did the company or one of its top people achieve something recently? You can refer to that when you make contact.
4. Who leads the company? Again, the "About" section of a website has a lot of information. Did one of the leaders write a book? Read it. Do a search for the CEO and COO, and division heads, at least. Do any of them show up in the news? Maybe s/he attended a charity event or serves on the Board of a charity that you also support. Put the affiliation in your resume. You never know what will catch someone's attention.
Again: do what you are told to do. A long cover letter answers questions about how appropriate you are for the position. So do your research and include tidbits in your cover letter. At very least, a longer cover letter tells the employer you have something to say and it might be worth reading.