Advice on my cover letter?

Writing was never my strong suit, so the cover letter has given me more difficulty than the layout of my entire portfolio. In this case I was unable to get the name of an HR director or lead designer. When I called, the receptionist said I don’t need to address it to anyone specifically, so it is addressed to the design team. (my information has also already been stated on the page) edit: like most places I’ve looked into, they did not post a job opening, so this is unsolicited


I am writing to you because after reviewing the process Design Central utilizes to develop products in the business, consumer, medical, and industrial sector, I am interested in joining your team as an intern. I know we are going through tough economic times, and employers may not be seeking new hires even when there is no shortage of work. This is why I am applying for an internship instead of a full time position- I would contribute the high caliber work expected of a college graduate, while costing less than a full time position. It is the perfect opportunity for Design Central, as well as an outstanding learning experience for myself.

As a recent graduate from the Ohio State Department of Design, I have developed a variety of consumer products during my studies. I approach projects with a user-centered methodology, focusing on improving the user experience through functionality and semantic cues while maintaining a strong brand identity. As part of a team and as an individual, I have found innovative solutions to design problems through extensive research, sketching, 3D concepts (both virtual and physical), user testing, and further refinement. I also instructed introductory workshops in Photoshop and tablet use while employed at the Ohio State Digital Union, further refining my communication skills.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss joining the Design Central team. I am eager to learn while contributing solid foundational and critical thinking skills. The following is a visual résumé and my contact information, but please let me know if there is anything more I can provide. I will contact you soon. Thank you for your time.

Thanks for any constructive criticism you share.

I just very briefly read through your resume, and it looks OK.

I say OK because it looks and reads like the most generic, right out of design school cover letter I’ve ever read.

I have developed a variety of consumer products during my studies. I approach projects with a user-centered methodology, focusing on improving the user experience through functionality and semantic cues while maintaining a strong brand identity. As part of a team and as an individual, I have found innovative solutions to design problems through extensive research, sketching, 3D concepts (both virtual and physical), user testing, and further refinement.

Every single recent design graduate on planet earth can and has done this. It’s like applying to be a Plumber and saying “I fixed a sink once”.

Actually, it sounds a lot like my cover letter right out of school, and I wish someone was nice (mean) enough to tell me what I just said.

Set yourself apart, show who you are, add a bit of your personality, and what you can BRING to the table to a company. Remember, companies don’t care about what they can do for you, they want to know why they should give you a little bit of their money, and the reason is value in design, and creating things they can sell. I’d recommend mentioning a noteworthy project of yours, or mention your portfolio or body of work somehow, talk about how many group projects you were in and if you played a key role, mention your GPA or Summa Cum Laude if you were, something, anything, to spice it up. You have the pork chop, now you just have to creatively season it and sell it.

IMHO, too long. Also, as Taylor said, it lacks personality or any stand out messages.

Keep it brief. The background on the economy bit doesn’t help any. You don’t need to explain why you are going for an internship as opposed to a full time position, if they are hiring interns, fine. If not, it’s all moot. By internship, are you asking for a reduced salary, or want to work for free. If free, let them know, it’s a good selling point! (who doesn’t want a lacky for free?).

Sell yourself in a way that differentiates you compared to other candidates. As Taylor said, your generic description of skills is just that, generic.

I’d suggest to add -

  1. something specific about the company you are targeting. It reads like like a form letter that you just copy and pasted the company name into. Mention one particular product perhaps they did, and why you like it. Make a good observation, and you’ll maybe be able to impress them with your viewpoint.

  2. mention something specific/interesting you’ve done that might relate to their work. say, if you’ve done a medical device for a major product, something that they do, elaborate on it. ie. “for my major project, I designed a blood flow flux capacitor, in particular paying attention to an integrated communication system for doctors and patients”.

  3. Photoshop workshops sounds interesting. maybe add more about this your proficiency and or mentoring skills.

best of luck,

R

PS. posting up here your visual portfolio might also be a good thing to get comments on. more often than not it’s the portfolio content that gets the job, cover letter or not.

I’d recommend mentioning a noteworthy project of yours, or mention your portfolio or body of work somehow, talk about how many group projects you were in and if you played a key role, mention your GPA or Summa Cum Laude if you were, something, anything, to spice it up.

So the cover letter should preview what is already listed in my resume? Awards, GPA, and job accomplishments are listed on the next page in resume format- you’re suggesting I repeat the most pertinent details?

add something specific about the company you are targeting. It reads like like a form letter that you just copy and pasted the company name into. Mention one particular product perhaps they did, and why you like it. Make a good observation, and you’ll maybe be able to impress them with your viewpoint.

I’ve reviewed their website extensively, looking over their projects, clients, and process. Unfortunately, the online portfolio of a design firm is often limited to a few glamor shots and a blurb about who contracted it. It is hard to find a meaningful relation between their work and mine. How do I express interest in their work while shortening the cover letter to how I would contribute to the company?

PS. posting up here your visual portfolio might also be a good thing to get comments on. more often than not it’s the portfolio content that gets the job, cover letter or not.

What I’ve been doing so far is including a portfolio ‘preview’ with the cover letter/resume- 1 page per project with minimal process work, instead of a full portfolio, following the logic that we would review my portfolio in an interview. I didn’t want to give them everything and show up with nothing new to discuss, and I didn’t think an HR director would read through 6 page spreads for a single project. Is this a good or bad strategy?


Thanks for the critiques, I hope you don’t mind if I post a revised version for additional feedback here soon.

edit: would it be arrogant to comment on their work in a constructive, ‘what if’ manner, instead of remaining strictly complimentary?

Ok, here is my second shot at this. Let me know if I’m at least heading in the right direction.

I am applying for an internship at Design Central because the user-centered approach you emphasize resonates with my studies at Ohio State. The Engenico eN-Touch Series caught my eye specifically. Being a former cashier, I can appreciate how a customizable touch screen UI reduces the number of oft-unused and confusing physical buttons. But in my experience the ambiguous credit card direction can be just as confounding. I wonder if clearer orientation cues could be implemented.

As a recent graduate Magna Cum Laude from the Ohio State Department of Design, I have developed a project from identifying the problem and conducting user research to the synthesis of a visual prototype. As part of a team of three, I generated a semantically focused pressure washer concept which placed 1st in the sponsored competition. My studies at HFG Schwäbisch Gmünd gave me first hand experience in designing for varying cultural factors instead of working within the familiarity of my own background. And while employed at the Ohio State Digital Union I instructed introductory workshops in Photoshop and tablet use, further refining my communication skills.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss joining the Design Central team. I am eager to learn while contributing the solid foundational and critical thinking skills expected of a college graduate. The following is a visual résumé and my contact information, but please let me know if there is anything more I can provide. I will contact you soon. Thank you for your time.

First glance, what jumps out is the last two sentences in the first paragraph. Ditch those, and use that in the interview if they ask you to elaborate on your thoughts about their projects.

The second paragraph is a bit long and wordy, but I see where you’re going with it. It’s not quite there though.

Nice closing paragraph, but the blunt sentence “I will contact you soon.” reads like a secret mission briefing. Something like “I will follow up with you this week.” will motivate you to call them, and at least know when they will expect to screen your call.

This round is much better than your previous “Cover Letters that Knock-em Dead” version.