Few written documents possess the same power potential as a UX cover letter. Get it right, and your design career could be propelled along.
Get it wrong or don’t include one at all, and landing a UX role often becomes a lot trickier.
We’re here to help you avoid the pitfalls, and walk you through how to write a UX cover letter that will make a great first impression.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a UX cover letter?
- Do UX designers need a cover letter?
- What should a UX cover letter look and feel like?
- What should a UX cover letter include?
- Final thoughts
1. What is a UX cover letter?
A UX design cover letter is a letter you submit—along with your resume and all-important portfolio—when you apply for a UX designer job.
The goal of a cover letter is to make your application stand out and convince the hiring manager or recruiter that you are the best candidate for the role, or at least that you deserve an interview.
A good cover letter will show them you have researched the company and the role, how enthusiastic you are about both of these, and why your experience and achievements make you a great fit.
We’ll go over what should be included in a UX designer cover letter later in the article but, in a nutshell, your cover letter should include:
- A customized greeting
- A strong opening line to catch the attention of the hiring manager or recruiter
- A brief explanation of why you want the job
- A brief explanation of why you’d be great at the job, with evidence
- An invitation to reach out to you and a thank you
2. Do UX designers need a cover letter?
As you’ve probably guessed by now: yes, UX designers do need cover letters.
More specifically, they need well-written and well-designed UX cover letters that are tailored for each company and job they apply to, as well as drawing attention to suitable elements of their portfolio.
Recent research by ResumeLab showed that 83% of recruiters agree that a well-written cover letter gives you the opportunity to show you’re a great fit for the company.
The same percentage of respondents also agreed that a great cover letter can secure you an interview even if your resume isn’t as strong as others. And 74% of recruitment decision-makers preferred to receive applications with cover letters.
Why is including a tailored cover letter so important? There are several reasons, but let’s look at the key ones. A strong cover letter will:
- Show the recruiter or hiring manager you’re genuinely interested in their position and give you a chance to tell them why
- Show how your accomplishments and experience make you a great fit
- Show them your application is not a generic, copy-pasted version (this will immediately set it apart from the majority of other applications)
- Add character and context to your resume and portfolio, tying them together in a relevant way for the job
Writing a tailored covering letter to go with every application you submit might seem like more hassle than it’s worth. But when you’re applying for jobs in UX design, the quality of your applications is more important than the quantity.
This means you should choose the jobs you apply to carefully, and prioritize them.
A strong, tailored UX designer cover letter is not something you can write quickly—you need to give yourself enough time for thorough research, writing and editing, and getting feedback from a friend or family member who’s good with words.
But before you get started writing, let’s explore what the content should be like.
3. What should a UX cover letter look and feel like?
By “look and feel” we mean how the content should be written and designed to make the biggest impact.
Your UX design cover letter should be written and designed to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager or recruiter to read and understand. This means it should:
- Fit on one page
- Get straight to the point
- Use common (and ideally short) words
- Be clear and flow logically from one sentence and paragraph to the next
- Be scannable with short paragraphs and plenty of white space
- Be visually designed to be consistent with your resume—this can mean using fonts, styling, and formatting that match your resume (just make sure it’s still identifiable as a cover letter)
Following these basic principles will stop your letter being discarded because of avoidable issues, like being too long or using overly complex language.
It will also increase the chances of the hiring manager or recruiter finishing the letter, and you’ll hopefully find your way to the recruiter phone screen in no time.
Now we’ve covered how your cover letter should be written and designed, let’s take a look at what the content should actually include.
4. What should a UX cover letter include?
As you only have a maximum of a page to work with, it’s crucial to make the most of your space. Sticking to this structure will help:
- A customized greeting
- The job you’re applying for
- A strong opening line to catch the attention of the hiring manager or recruiter
- Explain what appeals to you about the company and why you want the job
- Explain why you’d be great at the job, with evidence (reflected in your CV or portfolio)
- Invite them to reach out to you and thank them
Let’s dive a little deeper into each component of the structure.
Include a customized greeting
A customized greeting will make a great first impression. Occasionally the recruiter or hiring manager’s name is included in the job advert. If not, they’re often findable using a combination of Google, LinkedIn, and other social media.
If you can’t find the name of the recruiter or hiring manager, a simple “Hello,” or “Hi there,” is better than “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “To Whom It May Concern,” — these are way too formal for 2022.
Include the job you’re applying for
It might sound obvious, but you should include the name of the job you’re applying for. This can either be in the cover letter title or in your opening sentence.
Include a strong opening line
Your opening line is the one you should think about the most.
A good one will probably mean the rest of your cover letter gets read. An extremely strong one can actively grab the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager.
Amy Gallo, a workplace dynamics expert and contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, recommends being direct and dynamic, but not trying to be funny.
A great opening line—for a Product Designer position at Wise for example—could be something like:
“I’ve used Wise 43 times over the last 5 years and I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than a minute or two going through your flow, so I think it’s fair to say I love your product.”
This is obviously dependent on you having used the product in question (it should go without saying, but your UX cover letter must be accurate). If you haven’t used the product you could start with something like:
Here are three reasons I’d love to join Volvo as a UX Designer:
- Reason #1 that shows you’ve done a lot of research
- Reason #2 that shows why the job and company appeal to you
- Reason #3 that shows why you’d be a great fit because of your skills and achievements
Although using a list like this in a covering letter is slightly unconventional, it shows the recruiter extremely quickly how passionate and well-suited you are about the job and company. Listicles are also quick and easy to read and digest, which is why they’re one of the top content types.
In fact, this approach is well-suited to a UX designer cover letter, as it shows that you’re applying some psychological principles of design to it. Why not practice what you preach?
Explain what appeals to you about the company and why you want the job
This is a chance to show you’ve done your research. Give yourself plenty of time to understand the company’s needs and goals.
For starters, you can:
- Familiarize yourself with their mission and values.
- Read interviews with or profiles of their executive team.
- Review their recent PR and new stories about them.
- Check out their design blog (or even better, their design system).
- Watch their videos or YouTube channel.
Ultimately you should use this space to show them that you understand the problem they’re trying to solve and why it resonates with you.
Explain why you’d be great at the job, with evidence (reflected in your CV or portfolio)
After showing you understand the problem they’re solving, now you need to show them why you’d be great at the job. In other words, why you’d be able to help them solve the problem through the context of the job you’re applying for.
The key here is evidence. After you’ve read the job advert several times, try to understand the core underlying themes.
Don’t just tell them you’d be a great fit, show them exactly how a key achievement in your resume is directly relevant to what they’re looking for. Clearly link it back to one or two of the key themes in the job advert.
Make it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to see the unique value you’d bring to the team.
Invite them to reach out to you and thank them
The final section is fairly self-explanatory, but inviting them to reach out is another way of showing your enthusiasm for the job and openness in general.
Thanking them for their consideration shows an appreciation of how busy they are—most recruiters and hiring managers are extremely busy.
Perhaps the art of the UX cover letter is balancing the hard and fast rules (keep it under one page, get straight to the point, avoid overly complex language and long paragraphs) with the more personal elements.
A truly great cover letter will present a compelling case without being generic. It will engage the reader by showing some of your character and personality, without being over the top, desperate, or arrogant.
Try to tailor your letter to the company’s tone and voice. If it’s a quirky startup, try and make them smile with a line or two. For a corporate law firm, you might want to keep it more straight down the line.
If you aren’t a super confident writer, ask that wordsmith friend or relative to give it a read and scrub out any typos. Write it ahead of time, edit ruthlessly, and sleep on the results.
Maybe most crucially, a winning UX cover letter will allow your authentic passion and suitability for the role shine through.
Nailed the cover letter and now need some advice on polishing your portfolio? Check out this professional video review of designer portfolios:
Hopefully that gave you some inspiration and an insight into best practices! After that you can start working on preparing for interview questions.
If you’d like to read more about getting hired as a UX designer, check out these articles: