Elizabeth Nientimp, the director of brand design for General Mills, was asked by Inc. magazine (in its May 2012 issue), “What are the most important considerations when designing food packaging?” Her answer: “Three things. First, make it simple. Resist the urge to tell consumers everything about your brand on the front of the package.” Allow me to interrupt Ms. Ninetimp. A couple of months ago I was at a career fair. There were thousands in attendance. One would-be candidate came over to me and handed me his resume and cover letter. I took one look at the cover letter, an eight by 10 single spaced sheet covered from top to bottom with his employment story and told him, “It’s too long. No one is going to read it.” “But it’s all important,” he replied. “No one is going to read it.” “But it’s important. You have to know this.” “It’s too long!” “It’s important.” “Give it to me.” I didn’t read it. When the crowd eventually cleared, the gentleman at the booth next to mine, a hiring manager from a Fortune 100 company, asked me, “Remember that guy with the long cover letter?” “Yup.” “He didn’t listen to me either!” Keep your cover letter short. No need for more than five paragraphs and no paragraph longer than a sentence or two.
- The position you are applying for and where you heard about it.
- Why you should be considered.
- The answers to any questions asked (presuming you're replying to an ad).
- Reference to your resume.
- An appreciative close.
- Why should you be considered for the position and not any of the hundred others applying for it?
- What makes you so special?
- What’s that one thing you did that sets you apart from the crowd?