Researching cover letters
Before beginning to write my cover letter I wanted to look at what the advice was for writing a cover letter specifically aimed at UX positions. I found a great post on Brain Station looking at just that. As highlighted on any publication on how to write a cover letter a strong emphasis is placed on personalising your letter to the company and position you are applying for. I had originally thought that once I had created a template for a cover letter it would only mean changing some areas and it would be ready to go. This was not the case and in the end, re-reading previous cover letters was helpful however it was simplest to write a new cover letter from scratch.
A very helpful tip in this article was to read the job description carefully as they may ask you to include specific information in your cover letter. This was not something I came across in relation to my cover letter however it was something that came up in relation to my CV (we asked to include a list of grades associated with our module breakdowns). It can also be helpful to read the job description in order to find out exactly what skills they require for the role and tailor it to that.
Other tips included:
- Do your research i.e researching the company you are applying with to learn more about their design work and projects.
- Keep it short and concise, it’s important to remember you’ll be including a portfolio as well.
- Find the right tone, you want to keep it between professional and friendly.
- Create a cohesive application, you should apply a similar visual style across your portfolio, CV and cover letter.
- Edit and Proof, check for spelling grammar and typographical errors.
Additionally, questions to consider when writing your cover letter were also included:
- What makes you a great UX Designer?
- What are your relevant UX experiences?
- Why do you want to work there?
- What unique qualities will you bring to help their company?
I felt this was a great checklist that I used to review my cover letters after having written them to ensure I had covered all of the above. The primary areas to include as suggested in the Brain Station Post were to
- Include a heading, I have opted to include the heading I have used on my CV for a cohesive design outcome.
- In the greeting find out the name of the person the CV will be going to and use that instead of a generic hiring manager title.
- Introduction, make this bold either express your passion, mention a contact or state an accomplishment.
- Relevant skills and experience, these should be found in the job description.
- UX design experiences, here the key is to frame your experience in relation to the role
- Reasons for applying, include reasons for your interest in the job and team, this is about showing passion and enthusiasm.
- Closing, end graciously thank the hiring manager and reiterate your interest and skills
Writing my cover letter
Above is my first attempt at writing a cover letter. In this outcome, I used a structure that I had found in my early research which suggested your state at least 3 skills and summarise by restating these three skills. This reads to me as a little forced. As the letter was addressed to Amazon I found myself struggling to really set myself apart which was going to be a huge challenge when applying with a company like this. However, I think my biggest downfall was not emphasizing my previous experience in psychology strongly enough.
Following this first attempt, I found my ‘flow’ in my opinion. I also had the benefit of having contact with someone that works for the companies that were hiring placement students in all other applications. As we received a talk from generally design leads and managers I had a point of contact to refer to at the beginning of each letter. I also had a much better understanding of the job role and what the companies were looking for that I could then address in my letters.
What I found was perhaps the greatest help was a meeting that I organised through the University with a Design Research Manager from a large agency. This gave me insight into how my previous study of psychology was going to relate to the research work I would be doing within a UX role. I was then able to more confidently talk about my previous experience in psychology and link this to my job goals in UX.
Above is one of the cover letters I was most pleased with as I was so excited and passionate about the position and working with the head of design for this particular company. As this was a letter that was actually sent in I have x’d some of the information for anonymity purposes. It is also important to note that I had a mutual contact with the person this letter is addressed to so I felt a more informal tone of voice would be appropriate and opened with “Hi”. This is something I only did in two instances as I felt it was appropriate in all other cases I used “Dear” as a greeting and a slightly more formal tone throughout.
I was very pleased with the above outcome as I felt it adequately displayed my enthusiasm and specific interest in working with the company. I also felt that I better explained my reason for the change in my career direction without downplaying the strong ties psychology has to UX design. My background in psychology is something that I feel makes me stand out from other applicants so it was something I really wanted to emphasize throughout. Also as there is the potential to continue networking with the individual the letter is addressed to due to their involvement in design groups I wanted to refer to this connection as well and set the foundation for building a professional relationship with the designer even in the event of not being successful in receiving a role.
Designing my cover letter
When designing my cover letter I wanted to use the same format as my CV to keep a level of continuity through the design of the documents. When I received feedback on this I was advised to include something other than Cover Letter in the left column as this was stating the obvious.
I began by placing icons I had developed in my original brand icon set. I experimented with different icons and placed them in different sizes. Ultimately I felt none of the icons accurately reflected a cover letter and their inclusion appeared a little misplaced.
I then considered what other content I could place in the left column and began by considering including the date followed by the subject heading like would be found in an email. Finally, I felt that including the position I was applying for would be most appropriate. This would be helpful for the hiring manager looking at the cover letter as they may be hiring for multiple positions. At a glance, they will be aware of the position I am applying for.
Overall I am very please with the outcome. When it comes to a cover letter ultimately the content is the most important part I feel the guidance I have been provided in this regard has been very helpful. I am also pleased that I have created a well structured and cohesive cover letter and CV set.
Final Outcome: cover-letter