Ima be straight-up with you — UX writer cover letters are weird.
For the longest time, I just didn’t understand the point.
Recruiters only spend seconds reading your *entire* application, so the math doesn’t add up that they’re actually reading your cover letter, resume, and portfolio.
Some people say you should use your cover letter for keyword-stuffing to please the ATS software. But I tried that, and it didn’t really make a difference, and it also made for a poor user experience.
So if recruiters aren’t realistically reading UX writer cover letters, but it definitely increases your chances of getting a UX writing job, what’s the recipe for a magical UX cover letter?
First, we gotta know who gives a crap about cover letters
According to Jobvite, 74% of recruiters don’t consider cover letters important in their decision to hire an applicant.
On the flip side, a poll Robert Half found that 90% of hiring managers consider cover letters to be invaluable when assessing candidates.
Your cover letter isn’t for the ATS software or the recruiter — it’s to show the hiring manager you’re an interesting, relevant fit for the UX writing job with a good spirit.
It’s your opportunity to show some personality and add (brief) color to your UX writing experience.
The goal of your UX cover letter is to convince the hiring manager you’re a pleasant, passionate, relevant candidate to learn more about.
The key here is “learn more” — your UX cover letter shouldn’t be an in-depth saga of your career. It should be brief, relevant to the specific job, and curiosity-spiking.
How a cover letter works together with your resume
UX writer cover letters and resumes work together like peanut butter and jelly.
Your resume is the peanut butter — it’s nutrient-dense, you can eat it alone in a spoon, but if you eat too much, it’s too rich.
Your cover letter is like the jelly — it adds a burst of flavor to add spice to the sandwich, but no one is eating a spoonful of jelly, and too much can be too sweet.
Whether you’re a UX writing newbie or pro, together, your UX writer cover letter and resume balance each other out to have density and spunk, making a combination that keeps someone coming back.
Understanding where you are in the application funnel
It’s important to remember that your UX writer resume and cover letter are just the first step in the process of landing a UX writing job. You want to peel back your story one layer at a time.
And just like you don’t peel an onion all at once, you should have layers to the information you share in your UX writer application as they’re relevant to your stage in the interview process. If you give everything right away, you’re at risk of failing to land a UX writing job.
At the point of applying, recruiters and hiring managers just need to know you’re relevant and qualified. Brevity is value here. They don't need to know the specifics of your previous role, just the relevancy. You can dive into the specifics in an interview (another layer of the onion.)
Creating a UX cover letter that lands UX writing jobs
A winning UX writer cover letter might not be what you think. Focus on the following when you go to write a cover letter:
Keep it brief
Recruiters and hiring managers are busy. They want to learn about you, but only to a certain extent. You are, after all, one cover letter in a pile of cover letters (sorry, but it’s true.)
Because of that, the best way to hook them is to make your cover letter brief. If it’s brief, the barrier to entry will be lower, and the reader will be more likely to go through the whole thing instead of just skimming keywords.
Focus on short paragraphs, concise language, and use bullet points when it makes sense.
Avoid large paragraphs, over-explaining, and unnecessary context.
Show your personality
At the end of the day, your UX writer cover letter is one of many. Most cover letters are voice-less and vanilla-sounding, because that’s what we’re told “works.”
Well, I’ve landed UX writing jobs at companies like Netflix, Fitbit, Afterpay, and more by adding personality to my UX writer cover letter.
Think about it — since your cover letter is one of many that all sound somewhat the same, a UX cover letter with some spunk and personality is a nice change of pace and reprieve from the tedious task of hiring.
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes — while the point of your cover letter isn’t to entertain, feeling like there’s an actual person behind the cover letter adds a sense of relationship and feeling like you kinda know the candidate. And that’s powerful when it comes to hiring.
Concisely highlight your skills
According to TeamStage, “cover letter statistics indicate that you’re more likely to be set aside if your cover letter doesn’t include a list of skills.”
But, ya gotta be concise and clever about how you include your UX writing skills.
Don’t write a paragraph highlighting your skills — instead, weave them in, so they’re a natural part of the letter. Remember, brevity is value when it comes to UX writer cover letters, so mention your skills, but don’t dwell on them.
Make it specific to that job
A UX writer job description is like the answers to a test hiding in plain sight. The job description is literally telling you what they’re looking for in a candidate. Use that to cater your cover letter to highlight the skills, experiences, and values they’re looking for in a UX writer.
You might be wondering if you should cater your cover letter to every application. My answer is yes, but there’s an easy way to do it.
All UX writing jobs are kinda sorta looking for the same qualifications, skills, and values, it’s just a different mix per job.
I recommend creating a bank of content you can mix and match for different cover letters to make them relevant. That way, you’re not starting from scratch every time.
For example, UX writing job A might be looking for someone with experience with A/B testing and values an empathetic perspective. UX writing job B might be looking for someone with experience working cross-functionally that values an empathetic perspective (see the overlap.)
Your cover letter would be made of fill-in-the -blank lines like, “My approach to _____ start with _____.”
That sentence for UX writing job A would read: My approach to A/B testing starts with an empathic perspective.
That sentence for UX writing job B would read. My approach to cross-functional work starts with an empathetic perspective.
Make it actionable
We’re UX writers, at the end of the day — it’s in our blood to include a call-to-action.
Always conclude your cover letter with a way to contact you, and make sure to link to your portfolio.
Maybe cover letters aren’t so weird. If you use them as a way to connect with and stand out to the hiring manager, the right cover letter can take you far.
Keep learning — head to the next lesson, JB#12: What makes a good UX writer cover letter.
Happy UX writing 🖖
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