How do I write a graphic design cover letter?
- Know your audience
- Sell yourself
- Have a voice
- Keep it brief
- Get interesting
When it comes to writing a graphic design cover letter for an awesome-sounding job, chances are you're no rookie.
Let’s face it; the job market is saturated. Creative jobs often provide awesome perks, like working remotely and DIY schedules, which means competition for these careers is rampant.
With so much saturation in the market, writing cover letters can feel a little like throwing spaghetti against the wall.
That’s why we’ve written a few tips to help you master your next graphic design cover letter and land a job you’re actually excited about.
Know your audience
Let’s start with a question. When you go to the mailbox and grab your mail, are you more likely to open an envelope that says, “Current Resident,” or one with your name?
You’re going to open the mail addressed to you, of course. You don’t want to waste your time reading something, especially if the sender couldn't even bother to print your name. It’s impersonal. It’s junk.
For businesses, your cover letter is just more junk mail. In order to know your audience and get positive attention, you need to research the company.
What's the culture? Trendy? Traditional? Who’s doing the hiring? Learn names. Research LinkedIn. Once you know your audience, you’ll have a much better sense of both what to say and how to say it. Use this opportunity to get the proper attention your skills and personality deserve.
Once you target your audience, it’s time to perfect yourself for that audience. After all, you’re advertising your skills, so your campaign needs to be exciting.
Picture a restaurant that advertises its food by saying, “It's okay!”
You would probably never go there.
Regardless of how truthful the claim is, at the end of the day, we want compelling promises, like hot, fresh fries and ice-cold milkshakes. But wait—you’re not a combo meal. You’re a multi-faceted person with a wide breadth of experience.
How can you fit your entire personality into one measly cover letter?
Well, you can't. But you can brag on your very best skills and your most impressive business experience. (Just make sure you're actually being truthful, unlike that fast food flyer.)
Good cover letters (like good ads) aren’t spammy, yet they still get the point across. You need to explain why this company should hire you—how you will grow the business.
What are your most marketable features? Flaunt them. Show you know the company mission and appeal to it. And remember, the business needs you. Confidence is a lot flashier than pleading for a job.
Have a voice
If you follow any snarky tweeters or funny bloggers, it probably has something to do with how they write. This is not to say you should be snarky in your graphic design cover letter (really, don’t do that), but there’s something to be said for a strong voice.
Take, for instance, the humble cover letter that circulated Wall Street a few years ago, or this person who wrote a super chill email. In both situations, the cover letters had strong voices and received colorful reactions.
Depending on how you use your voice, some people may admire your gumption, while others may deem it unprofessional. If you want to be remembered, however, you might not care so much about the latter reaction.
Plus, enthusiasm and initiative are among the top reasons employers hire certain applicants over others. So, consider taking a chance, and give your letter a unique sound.
Keep it brief
Let’s pretend you submit a cover letter that adequately sells your skills. Not only have you written it in a distinct voice, but it’s also appropriate to the company’s mission. Sounds like a good cover letter, right?
There’s a catch, though—it's a long, essay-sized document.
Sadly, that beautiful, multi-page letter containing your blood, sweat, and tears will probably get trashed. Employers simply don't want to read long cover letters.
Excessive, flowery writing is extra time employers must spend dissecting your credentials. They don’t want to do that.
The truth is, professionals—even the ones in your industry—aren’t reading your graphic design cover letter for leisure. (But wouldn’t it be cool if they did?)
Most likely, employers are barely squeezing in time to review applications, because they’re overwhelmed and really need to fill a position. Wasting an employer’s time with superfluous details could equal dwindling interest in you.
Are you creative? Of course you are, so show it. If you’re applying for an artistic field, there’s no reason you can’t be a little artful in your execution.
In the same way a strong voice sets you apart, interesting art allows a visual connection to be made.
For example, if you’re applying for a design job at Blue Apron, you might format your cover letter like a recipe. When I wanted to apply for a writing job, I formatted my cover letter like clickbait. And it worked.
I don’t have to tell you how challenging writing cover letters can be, and unfortunately, writing a graphic design cover letter may be even worse. (It's the plight of creativity.)
And yes, even though personalizing each cover letter for each application is comparable to filing taxes, that doesn't mean each graphic design cover letter you write can't be awesome.
(Way more awesome than all the other cover letters those competing chumps will write… but you know, best of luck to them, anyway.)
The point is, you have something to offer. Applying for jobs is a numbers game, but even the right cover letter can improve your numbers.