So, when I said that we would be blogging with job seeking advice once a week, I guess I really meant twice a month…The next nugget of wisdom in our installment on Design Job Tips is on crafting a suitable cover letter that you send with your resume and portfolio when applying for graphic design or account management positions.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for adding just the right information into the letter:
1) Draft a template that you will use when you apply for multiple jobs. Save this template in Word, Illustrator or InDesign depending on where you are crafting the letter. You will want to customize each letter a bit as we do circulate good letters and resumes from firm-to-firm so you don’t want it to be completely the same. However, it’s easiest to start with a format you have in place and will save you time in the long run.
2) Remember that your e-mail to the firm, is not your cover letter. The letter should be included in your .pdf with your resume. The actual e-mail you send the firm should just be a few sentences of who you are and what you’re applying for.
Cover letter Format:
• Senders Address & Contact Information (This is you) Preferably in a beautiful letterhead or resume lay out you’ve thoughtfully designed to show us you have tasteful design chops and its not just laid out in Microsoft Word. If you are applying for a design job, we don’t want to see your cover letter and resume in Word. If you’re an account manager and you really want to knock my socks off, try to design your cover letter and resume in InDesign. These days, most account managers will be asked to learn or work in InDesign for writing proposals, research etc. You need to know it anyway.
• Define Objective - what position are you applying for?
Internship (clarify if it needs to be paid or unpaid) Pre-economic meltdown, most firms could pay their internship $10 - 18/hour. This usually isn’t the case anymore. Most internships are going to be unpaid.
Senior Designer so on and so forth. Help us to know your level of design experience.
• Date the letter and Add the Addressee Contact Information (This has to be customized.)
• Dear Addressee (It’s better to have someone here like the creative or account director then no one at all. If it’s not personalized, we know you didn’t take the time to go to our website and research who we are. If you don’t put in the effort, chances are the firm you’re applying to won’t put in the effort either. )
• Paragraph One - The Introduction
In a creative and brief manner, introduce who you are, what you’re applying for and why you’re applying to this firm. It should be professional but conversational.
• Paragraph Two through Three - Body Content
Why should we consider you for this position? What is it about our firm that attracted you to us? Why should we hire you? OR
If you’re an experienced designer and you want to discuss a particular project you worked on and how you were challenged but succeed, we love hearing stories about how you work and tackle challenging projects.
Share your personality here.
• Paragraph Four - The Closing
Always close humbly. Thank the addressee for their time. Let them know you look forward to hearing from them and you know you could learn a lot of the firm. Don’t assume the position “Here’s why I’m the best candidate for the job.” Be humble.
• Sincerely & Sign
• Résumé and Samples Enclosed (Always highlight what you’re including in your .pdf so we know what you have.)
3) Rule of Thumb if you are mailing your cover letter, resume and portfolio. Yes people still do this and firms REALLY appreciate getting your work in the mail. But, I would only encourage you to invest in mailing your portfolio if you’ve really put in the time to design the package as a self promotional piece of your work and you’ve been able to print or burn your portfolio to disc in a way that is affordable for you. This can get pretty expensive if you’re applying to multiple places.
4) If you are printing your materials, make sure you print your cover letter and resume on fancy paper. It can be resume paper or something you’ve purchased specifically for your self promotion. If resume paper - make sure you print your watermark correctly. When I was a young designer, one of my future employee’s held my resume up to the light. When I asked what she was doing, she said she was checking my watermark. “If you’re applying for a print design position, I want to see if you’re detail-oriented.” Luckily, I printed the sheet of paper with the watermark correctly placed. You can never be too careful.