The last piece of the application process is the cover letter. It’s best for the cover letter to be last because it’s the most personal and most thought out document of all three which will naturally take you more time. I believe all of the documents that you send, like an application for a job, should be crafted for a specific company.
Of the three, the cover letter is probably the one that requires more time than the others. Whereas the CV and Portfolio are “silently” crafted to fit the company you want to work for, a cover letter should be “openly” crafted to do that.
Pick the right format for your letter
There are multiple types of cover letters, but I’ll just cover the three that I believe best fits the needs of UX designers.
Sometimes you know exactly where you want to work — you’ve done research on the company, you know it’s a perfect fit for you, and you know that you are the perfect fit for them. Unfortunately, you cannot find a listing for the desired position on their website. Not all is lost. You can still send them your inquiry. Sometimes Companies do need your profile, but they haven’t published the position online yet. It might also happen that the company is impressed by your application and would consider giving you a job even though they weren’t really looking to fulfil a position.
If you want to send a speculative letter, try and find the right department to send the letter to. Many times companies will have an email available for applications like yours and they might list an email you can use.
The goal of this type of a cover letter is to get the company’s attention. There is a high chance that you won’t get your chance fast, but it might be a good conversation starter with a company that you want to work at some point.
Focus on presenting yourself as an asset for the company to achieve their mission and your openness to work for them at a later stage even if they don’t have any available positions at this point.
When a company has an open position that you’d love to take, you want to focus on the specifications of that job ad. What are they looking for? Make sure you address their needs and requirements listed in the ad. How do your professional experiences relate to that? How can you satisfy their requirements?
Do not duplicate your resume content, but do include keywords that talk about your soft skills, expertise, certifications…
“A friend of a friend is also my friend.”
Studies show us that hiring through referrals goes through faster and cheaper. Besides that, it has an effect on both the referee and the referee, as referred tend to onboard faster and stays longer, and the referee tends to stay longer. Being referred by someone might help to spark the interest of hiring managers due to those facts. Knowing someone that can vouch for you can, therefore, be extremely helpful.
But there is a catch. Do not use this type of cover letter if you haven’t asked a person you are listing as a referee for permission.
When you do have the permission, mention this person in the opening paragraph. List the full name and add a bit of context to how you know each other. You can add why this person thought you’d be good for this position.
Best practices for all types of cover letters
Unique for every application
Companies are different and so should be your every application. Do not make one application that will fit them all. It never does. Sure, don’t go making the portfolio completely different every single time, and CV will most likely sit more companies, but cover letter…do yourself a favour and make it different for every single job.
To whom it may concern
Avoid phrases like “to whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”. Do your research and find out who is going to be receiving your application. If you cannot find that information, “Dear Hiring Manager“, “Dear Human resources team”, “Dear Recruiting team”… is better.
Skip the known
Don’t start the letter with: “Hello, my name is…” They get it. Your name is in the email at least twice, they don’t need it again. Jump right to the point. There is no need for you to star with “fluff text”. Start with a little story, something that speaks to them. They know you are applying for a job. Be interesting.
Discover the company’s voice
How does the company communicate with its clients? Go through their social media, website, blog… anything that you can find where they communicate with the outside world will give you an insight into their voice. Adapt to their style when communicating with them.
It’s not about you
This is your story and you should be the hero of this story. Show the Company that you are the right person for them. Focus on them. What will they get if they hire you? How will you help make their story a success? Do research on their vision and values. How can you help them reach that vision?
If every paragraph starts with I, you did something wrong. Rethink the content.
Expertise over your education
The hiring manager and everyone involved can learn all about your education from your CV, talk about what you can do and how you can help them with your experience and expertise.
Spellcheck is your friend
Make sure there are no grammar mistakes. Run your text through a spellchecker and ask a friend to take a second look.
Short and dynamic
This is a letter, not a novel. Keep your cover letter to 3, maximum of 4 paragraphs. Write an introduction in the first, use second and third to discuss your expertise, and the last one a thank you and a conclusion.
Attach the letter or put it in an email body?
Now that you’ve written your own cover letter there is only one big questions left. How should you send it? A file or right there in an email? To be honest it doesn’t really matter which version you choose. I suggest you choose an email just because it instantly gives hiring manages an insight into who you are and who they are dealing with. The cover letter will be the first key. If they decide that there is a potential, they’ll go deeper and will also look into your Portfolio and CV. If the Cover letter will not convince them, your portfolio and CV do not stand a chance no matter how good they are.
Let’s do this!
I know this all may sound overwhelming, but don’t give up, you can do this! Keep it simple, keep it yours, and make it focused on them. That’s it. And if you are still confused or just want to have a laugh, look at some of the worst cover letters the Business insider received.
Until next time know that you’ve got this!