to cover letter or not to cover letter

Why use a cover letter? Why not just put it all in your e-mail? it seems so old school, and doesn’t make much sense. :bulb:

Others may disagree but I don’t see a problem with an email cover letter BUT the email version should match the conventions of a cover letter (things like putting your contact info first.

But on your other note, old school does not always mean bad or inappropriate. You have to show respect when asking someone to think about giving you a job. Casual attitudes are not helpful here, as you will be expected to act as a professional.

I can’t tell you how many portfolios I get emailed at me, huge files, with little to no cover letter, and what is there is riddled with casual grammar and misspellings. I typically just delete those. All a person has to do is spend 5 minutes to type up a quick bio, why I should care, and proof read… it could be 5 lines.

There are levels of formality. For example, when someone types up a post in TXT SLNG on the boards it drives us all nuts. Emailing a hiring manager or director your work should be treated differently than posting a question in a forum.

Ditto to all of that.

You may think you’re being judged 100% by your portfolio, but you aren’t. An employer is looking not just for someone with strong skills, but also someone with good ideas, a passion for what they do, and the ability to communicate those things. A thoughtful, well-written cover letter shows those traits in a way that portfolios cannot.

More specifically, a cover letter is where you explain to the employer that you want to work for them, not just anyone, and that you’re familiar with what they do. Portfolios can be tailored to specific companies, but this doesn’t give the spark of “hey, they really want to work for me” that a directed letter does.

most important tip i’d give in the coverletter/application process is to do your research and be focused.

i just received an “application” the other day from a student in my area looking for an application, and while it had a portfolio and CV attached, i didnt even get that far as the email just turned me off.

  1. “dear sir/madam” intro. these days with the internet its not hard to find a person to address it to. esp. for a small consultancy like my own (i’m the only one there, and my name is listed prominently on the website). if you can’t find a name to send it to, at least “dear hiring manager” or something of the like is OK.

  2. the application was looking for an “industrial designer position”. again, my firm is pretty focused in footwear, so i wouldnt really have such a position. i dont think the applicant even looked at what i do before applying.

  3. the letter didnt even mention anything about my firm (company, product area focus, etc.)…why would i even think of hiring someone that doesnt even have a clue what i do?

  4. the letter did give a brief bio, but nothing relating to anything that would be useful in my consultancy. ie. human factors, like to play backgammon, etc. again, do your research.

the best approach i believe in coverletters/emails (which as Yo said are almost more important than portfolios (given that nobody will see your portfolio if your intro is not appropriate), is to be specific, focused, and to the point.

a. address it to who you are targeting (ie. HR, studio manager, sr. designer, etc.) and have the letter body focused on language and things this person would respnd to.

b. open with your name and the position you are applying for. if its a posted position, reference where you saw the posting.

c. give a brief bio of where you are currently, and highlight the relevant experience/accomplishments specific to the job you are looking for. if its a design manager position, talk about your management experience. if its a position specific to a product category, or industry, talk about your experience in that field. be to the point, as specific as possible (ie. not just “i designed some X”, but “i designed 4 models of X that were successful in the market selling Y units” , etc.)

d. specifically mention some aspects/requirements of the job posting and how you are capable in those regards (ie. if sketching ability is mentioned in the posting, talk about those skills, or CAD, etc.)

e. close with a mention of the attached portfolio (ie. please find attached my portfolio which contains further samples of my Z abilities, projects, etc.) and reiterate your bottom line contribution you feel you can make to the company/position (ie. “I feel I would be able to significantly improve the efficiency and market potential of XX brand working as sr. designer, due to my proficiency in sketching and quick model making given my experience handling many projects at a time”).

f. also be sure to clearly note your contact info ("if you have any questions or qould like additional info, you may reach me at or 555-555-5555

g. best regards, with thanks, etc.


ok, that makes a lot of sense. but should cover letter be part of the email or a separate document?


you have to write something in the email, so the cover letter contents would work. at the same time though, it’s nice to have it as the first page of your CV attachment so it gets printed with the rest of your stuff.

or, you could do a shorter version of the coverletter in the email and then attach it in the CV doc.

I’ve done both myself. If its a more formal application (ie. to HR dept. as a result of a posting), i tend do do more the “both”. If its less formal (ie. you have a hook up, or are following up on previous communication), i’ll write a coverletter type email with less structure and just attach a portfolio/CV.


“to cover letter”

nuff said.

yeah i agree… you’ve got to have a cover letter. I know you want a job, that’s why you sent me your portfolio, but tell me why I should give a crap. I get a lot of portfolios with good work in them.

and dont try to be too smart in a cover letter… its like a “pre interview”… be yourself, be honest, be succinct.

granted having a good cover letter and a shitty portfolio wont get you a gig, but a good cover letter can make a good portfolio stand out in a crowd of other solid portfolios.

I like that. Know your audience. Designers have short attention spans and busy days, put all in simple terms. No 5 paragraph design philosophy diatribes… not in the cover letter that is. Plenty of time for that later.

Agree with yo. Keep it simple, engaging and accurate. Cover letter should be tailored to the position and recipient. Some things to consider: how you discovered the position, why you are interested, understanding of company/position, where you are in your career, a gracious thank you for consideration, and open invitation for further discussion or review of creditentials, and the best way/time to connect with you.
Drop everything in ONE pdf file, so the recipient just has one document to open, read, save or print, possibly from a sea of 30, 40, 50+ enquiries. My biggest pet peeve, aside from typos etc, is the “I’m interested in the position, check out my website”…DELETE!

I was shocked to learn how many people don’t think about this I’ve gotten many application emails with 20 random jpegs attached, no consistent format, no name on the files.

Remember, this email represents you. This is all the hiring manager has to go on. When you are sorting through 50-150 applicants, it is easy to knock people off the list quickly who get the small stuff wrong. Get the easy stuff right and you exponentially increase your chances of making it to the next round!

arrgh, i hate when i get 20 random jpegs. almost as bad as a bloated 20mb powerpoint presentation!

personally though, i prefer to send/receive my CV separate from the portfolio (but also include it on the last page of the portfolio PDF. This way, its easy to print the CV alone, which may be done for HR or management, and the portfolio can be printed or viewed on screen if a hardcopy is not needed.

i fully agree though with the file naming thing. nothing worse than “portfolio.pdf”, except maybe (and i’ve actually seen this!) “untitled.jpg”.

another thing to note (this is getting more into portfolio stuff, but also applies to coverletters or any other files:

learn your apps, use the correct one, and know what you are doing with file types. as great as a portfolio is, if i see a coverletter made in PS and sent to me as a TIFF, i’d be very hesitant about hiring someone who doesnt know the tools of the trade. likewise i dont want to see 3page, 20mb PDFs, portfolios in Excel, 400dpi images, or resumes in powerpoint.


This thread is hilarious. I was going through the same problems… particularly getting e-mails directed at “Sir/Madam” when if someone even bothered to phone they would quite quickly understand there are only 2 people in our company… both of whom are hot blooded males.

I was dumbfounded once when someone sent in an employment request WITHOUT any images of their work. So I replied at length as to why, as a designer, you need to show visually to other designers, who are very visual people, what you can do.

Are schools not teaching how to contact companies correctly these days…shouldn’t it be part of the course ?

I’ve always seen it as someone selling themselves as a brand or product, it has to be spot on every time.

When I read this post today, I was excited to see the question I asked my myself just yesterday. As I am about to start sending off my portfolio, CV and resume off in hopes of securing a summer co-op position.
But going through the responses left me with a few more questions:

Firstly, if the CV is added as an attachment, what would one write in the email body? Or is it acceptable to put the CV in the Email body and then add attachments?

Second, What would be a suitable subject title for the email. Im sure if you know who its to be sent to you may have something along the line of “ATTN: [Insert Name]”. But if you don’t know exactly who is receiving the message what would be a fitting header?

Lastly, What if one’s portfolio is posted on the web(like a site like coroflot, or their own personal website) is it alright to just have a link in resume/ CV or is it preferred to send an actual file?

I thank you all for the information you’ve all shared earlier in the post.

All I can say is that I have got interviews off the back of my cover letters. Including one for a job that did not match my training or experience but through the letter I expressed enough interest in that area of design for them to want to meet me. I suppose the letter is the best way for you to express a passion for the particular area of design and that company, whilst also showing your general (not simply design0 inteligence. Noticed about people sending generic applications, I do not run a company (or even really do freelance) but I’ve recieved a number of aplications for work placements and actual full time positions. Considering my website used to purely say new site soon I can only imagine what these numpties were thinking when they described how ‘after seeing my work…’

The cover letter is how you introduce yourself, explain who your are and why you are looking at that specific job. For the employer it is a way to screen out people who are not serious or really interested or can’t communicate well with words.

It is rare that I read a well written cover letter, and when I do it stands out, and helps form an image in my mind of the person whose resume I am reading It separates them from the dozens of generic, characterless, error-filled letters I have to read.

You can email it and YES, put a link to your on-line porfolio, and include your correct address and phone number.

To a person who is about to finish his degree, I am sure to follow the tips given. I guess following this procedure gets ur foot in the door to hopefully the next stage of the job searching proces, an interview.

Thanks for all your posts. Cheers

My answers marked **

Firstly, if the CV is added as an attachment, what would one write in the email body? Or is it acceptable to put the CV in the Email body and then add attachments?

**Standard cover letter along with a quick paragraph about why you think you’d be a good fit in the company your c.v. should be concise, you pad it out a bit in your cover letter.

Second, What would be a suitable subject title for the email. Im sure if you know who its to be sent to you may have something along the line of “ATTN: [Insert Name]”. But if you don’t know exactly who is receiving the message what would be a fitting header?

** something like c.v from (insert your name) for (insert position) so we know what the email is about before we open it.

Lastly, What if one’s portfolio is posted on the web(like a site like coroflot, or their own personal website) is it alright to just have a link in resume/ CV or is it preferred to send an actual file?

**No, don’t assume the person you are sending to is at all web savvy, this especially applies to people who work in recruitment, they often have no idea how to take screen grabs, or print from the web. I have my own website, agencies do not want to tell their clients about this, because the client might go direct, so they don’t have to pay the agency fees. Your c.v. should be in word format, send a selection of jpegs, screen resolution made into a multi page pdf. Always keep the attachment under 5mb, you have no idea what the emails limits are at whatever company you are applying to, you might find they don’t receive it if you send massive attachments.

I have no landline, because I work from my boat, I use a HSDPA+ modem for all my web/email so large, unsolicited attachments really really annoy me and use up my data download allowance!

My other pet hate is uninteresting interests on a c.v. if everyone who put ‘swimming’ on their c.v. really meant it, the public swimming pools would have queues down the street. :laughing:

Finally, I’ve mentioned this on here before, but please avoid sending a ‘comedy c.v.’ - I know your job is creative, but I do not want to recieve c.v.s or cover letters made of candies, that are knitted or that are size A0. I used to get this all the time when I worked at a funky footwear company (Shellys shoes). Leave it to the kindergarten, please. We cannot file them or copy them or save them to the hard drive and they take up too much space or go moldy (that was what happened to the candy c.v.!) so they get filed in the bin (actually the dumpster - the bin is often too small! :laughing: )

Another great read…

Both informative and hilarious!