Nearly every job hunter has one part of the job application process that they hate – creating a resume, designing a portfolio, preparing for a job interview or writing a cover letter. In preparing for my personal launch into a UX career, creating cover letters has been one the most difficult parts of the process.
| Written by Tara-Lee York, participant in the Design Writing Apprenticeship
These questions might have crossed your mind: What is the right way to do this? Do employers still even read cover letters? Does really make a difference What is the right format? Do I really still need to create one? Is this just a leftover artifact of job hunting?
During my own research, I’ve found the answer to these questions and I want to share them with you to simplify your process.
We’re going to cover:
- Why you should write a cover letter
- Exactly what to include and not include in your cover letter
- Tips for making your cover letter successful
- A UX Cover Letter Template so you can get started customizing your own cover letter
Let’s get started. Here’s your complete step-by-step guide to writing a UX cover letter that helps gets you the interview.
Purpose of the Cover Letter
The purpose of your cover letter is to sell yourself to your potential employer and show them why you are the best choice to hire. The difference between a resume and cover letter is a resume showcases your work experience and history; while a cover letter brings it all together to show how your experience is relevant to the job you are applying for. This means it’s necessary for cover letters to be personalized to each company and job you’re applying for, much more so than resumes.
These comments from Designer News clearly show the difference that a cover letter could make in your job application process:
“I think it absolutely still stands true, as an employer I’ve blitzed through more than a hundred applicants in a few days before, and once you get an eye for it you can absolutely tell if the person wants THAT job, or just A job. Portfolio is whether or not you’ll get an interview, cover letter could be whether or not I even look at your portfolio.” – Dan Sherratt
“…the worst thing you can do is grab a cover letter template and fling in carbon copy boilerplate stuff that pretty much summarises your (attached) CV. That’s not what a cover letter is for.” – Ferdi Wieling
“A great, relevant cover letter can make me think twice even about weak candidates—think what it can do for strong ones.” – Joel Califa
Before we jump into creating your cover letter, let’s cover some basics:
Follow directions – Before writing, make sure you read the prompt – if there is one – and answer it in the application. Some employers test applicants’ ability to read and follow basic directions, with quick prompts like “Please include in your application a response for this question: what’s your definition of UX design?”
Length – make sure your cover letter is short and focused. Keep the length of your cover letter to one page maximum.
Common Types of Cover Letters
- Application Letter – used when applying for a role via job application.
- Referral – used when you mention the name of the person who has referred you for the position.
- Prospecting – used to let the company know you’re interested in any job positions that are open.
- Networking – used to ask for help in your job search. You may not be asking directly for a position at the company but whether or not they of any job openings in your industry.
Additional resources about cover letter types:
When not to include a cover letter
- The employee has stated in job application that they do not need one.
- You have no way to include it such as an online job application.
- You are applying using a email pitch instead, which is like a cover letter but usually used for applying to more temporary or informal job types, such as freelance assignments.
Creating A Cover Letter Outline
We’ll cover the basic structure of a cover letter. All sections are standardized except for sections noted as [Personalize section] – this is the “meat” of your cover letter that displays your unique experience as a designer, and as such these sections should not be taken as standardized formats, but rather suggestions on what to include.
Heading & Greeting
Your heading will start with contact details – your own info followed by the company’s contact details. If you know the person that you are applying or the company culture is more relaxed you may not need to include a heading. When applying to a larger or corporate company, however, you’ll want to keep the letter formal and include the header information.
- Your Contact Information
- Date of Letter
- Your Name
- Your Email address
- Link to your portfolio or relevant personal website
- *Note: Removed “address” as a required header component. If you’re applying to a position, it’s assumed you looked at the location of the job.
- Hiring Manager or Employer
- Hiring manager’s name (if available)
- Position at the company
- Company’s Address
Make this greeting as personal as you can. Do your research find out what the name of the hiring manager of that company that you are applying to. You’ll make a stronger impact with a personalized address like “Hi Sarah” than with generic greetings like “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”.
[Personalize section] Grab the reader’s interest
- The first sentence of your opening paragraph should get your reader’s attention, which can be achieved by providing a good reason (besides wanting a job) for reaching out. For example, your “hook” could be that you’re a power user of the company’s product.
- Avoid starting your letter with “I am applying for” or “My name is ____ and I am applying for current job application position.
- Optional: use your unique value proposition to stand out.
Example 1: I’m interested in joining your team as a UX Designer because I’ve been a fan of your the ACME app for years, and my experience can help your team improve upon this already great work.
Example 2 (unique value proposition): My background as a former nurse has taught me the importance of empathy and attention to detail, which I’ve combined with my user experience skills to help healthcare companies such as yours.
Additional resources to help you get create your own value propositions:
- Elevator pitch to be proud of
- Introduce yourself with a personal tagline
- Build your personal value proposition
[Personalize section] What does the company need, and how can you help them?
In the next 2-3 sentences, you’ll want to answer the questions:
- What are your skills?
- Do you have relevant education or experience?
- How can your skills benefit the company you are applying for?
- Explain how you used this skill – and relate it the position you are applying for
Tip: frame one design experience that relates to what the company needs and offer to show how a portfolio piece that relates to this. You can look at this by picking out skills and experience desired listed in a job posting, then use their wording in your response:
Screenshot for UX/UI posting
Using the above example, you can talk about a portfolio piece in which you’ve created responsive web designs or native apps for iOS and Android.
Example: My experience as a UI/UX designer for the past 3 years includes crafting beautiful web and mobile applications for several clients. I’d love to apply my expertise in design and experience collaborating cross-functionally with product management and development teams to help you build your product.
[Personalize section] Why are you applying for this job?
In this paragraph, address the following questions:
- What interests you most about this job? Why are you excited to apply?
- Why do you think you and the company are a good fit?
- Why do you want to work at this company?
- What specifically about this company that interests you?
- Do you have relevant education or experience that relates to this position?
Example: I’m applying for this job because of ACME company’s culture – your mission statement to protect the environment resonates strongly with my values as a designer. As someone who volunteers for the wildlife preserve and cares and believes in improving the health of our planet, I believe I can be a great cultural fit for your company.
Quick review. A solid, personalized middle section of your cover letter can be built with these components:
- Grab the reader’s interest
- What does the company need, and how can you help them?
- Why are you applying for this job?
Keep in mind that these components can be mixed and matched to build the body of your cover letter, and do not have to be used in any particular order.
Ending Paragraph: Close Your Letter
Limit your ending paragraph to a short 2-3 sentences.
You can use your final paragraph to:
- Iterate your interest in the position
- Thank the company for their time
- Let them know that you want to hear from them
- Let them know of any relevant materials you included – resume/portfolio
- Let them that you will be following up
Example: I’d love to apply my expertise in design and experience collaborating within product teams to help you build your product. You can learn more about my work experience and education by viewing my attached resume and portfolio.
Time for the final touch on your cover letter. You can use phrases like “Thank for your time,” “I look forward to hearing from you,” or simply “Sincerely, Best, or Thank You” followed by your name.
If you’re struggling to come up with sign-off take a look at this article with several examples to end your cover letter.
Best Practices for UX Cover Letters
|Use language found in job app materials||Lie or mislead in your application|
|Check spelling and grammar||Ramble on and on – keep your cover letter short and focused|
|Research company before applying||Use just one cover letter template for each job posting – tailor each cover to the job position that you applying to.|
|Keep personal branding consistent with resume and portfolio – use the same fonts, and colors||Use unprofessional fonts such as comic sans, handwritten, or cute fonts that may be hard to read|
|Keep online job sites and Linkedin profile up to date/consistent with your resume and portfolio||Be boring – show your personality.|
|Follow guidelines if the company gives for creating a cover letter|
|Focus on how you can bring value to the company, not how it will benefit you|
UX Cover Letter Template
To speed up your process, we have created a cover letter template for you to use and edit to your own. Subscribe below to get the UXBeginner email newsletter to get the link.