Are you looking for tips and tools to help your job applications stand out? You’ve come to the right place.
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding infographic resumes over the past few years. After all, creating a visually engaging resume can be an effective way to set yourself apart from other job candidates.
But a resume is just one part of the job application package. Another equally important part is the cover letter.
In most cases, your cover letter is an employer’s first introduction to who you are–your personality, your qualifications, and your goals.
A creative cover letter is a great document to bring with you to an interview and to publish on your portfolio site.
This guide will show you how to design a creative cover letter, along with some cover letter writing tips from career experts. I’ve also included cover letter templates to help you get started.
How to create a cover letter template
Just like companies have brands, you can also develop your own personal brand. A professional design in your cover letter, resume, social media pages and portfolio site will help you seem more legitimate to employers.
So let’s talk about cover letter design. Let’s be clear, you should write a unique cover letter for each position you apply for. But coming up with a completely new cover letter design for each position is time consuming.
That’s why it’s a good idea to create and stick with a cover letter template. Using a template will give you a framework for each unique application. Plus, once you’ve got your template, you can tweak the design slightly for different positions.
To create your own custom cover letter template, follow these steps:
- Select a pre-made cover letter template that fits your creative vision (or make one from scratch!).
- Add your own text, including a header, description, body text and your contact information.
- Customize the color scheme, fonts, icons and images to fit your personal brand.
- Save your customized cover letter template for future job applications.
- Download your cover letter in high quality.
Here are some essential cover letter design tips to keep in mind. For cover letter writing tips from career experts, jump ahead.
1. Give your cover letter template a decorative border
This is a simple way to add some creativity to your cover letter, while still maintaining a more traditional design.
An easy and eye-catching approach is to use a background image for your border. Look for an image that reflects your skills, your hobbies or passions, or the industry you’re in or applying for. The meaning of the image can be literal or symbolic–that’s up to you!
For example, this cover letter template uses an image of a map for the border. This could represent the applicant’s career path, their sense of adventure, or the places their experiences have taken them:
You can create a border using an image by placing a rectangle over the background image. If you would like your border to be see-through, simply adjust the opacity of the rectangle.
2. Add a custom header that illustrates your personal brand
What impression do you want to make on readers of your cover letter? Do you want them to think you’re inventive and take risks? Do you want them to think you’re competent and reliable?
Similar to how you can use an image as a border, you can also create an image header.
When picking an image for your header, look for an image that isn’t too busy. Too much going on will distract from your header text–and the text is the most important part!
For example, this cover letter template uses a tranquil lake scene in the header to show off the applicant’s photography skills:
3. Use a column layout to divide your cover letter into sections
Typically, when you write a cover letter you will include your contact information in the header or footer. But a visual cover letter offers you the opportunity to use a different page layout.
For example, you could put your contact information in a spinal column at the side of the page. To do this, simply divide your page into columns:
Take a look at how columns are used in the page layout for this cover letter template:
4. Include a personal logo to make your cover letter more memorable
Creating your own logo might seem like a big task. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Your logo design could be as simple as a writing your name in a specific font, or combining your initial with an icon or shape.
Take some time to draft a few mock ups of your logo. What shapes and font style reflect your personality? Which designs are the most eye-catching and easy to use in other places?
For example, this cover letter template uses a logo created by putting the applicant’s initial inside a triangle. Simple and sleek:
5. Use icons to illustrate information like your experience, skills, or passions
Icons are simplified vector graphics used to represent concepts. They’re perfect for adding a bit of creativity to your cover letter design.
You can use icons in a number of ways to enhance your design, including:
- Drawing attention to section headers
- Creating your own custom logo or illustrations
- Emphasizing key points like your contact information
- Replacing bullet points in lists
“Using bullets points where applicable also help to make it a smooth read.”
– Brandon Thompson, Recruitment and Hiring Manager at 1-800-Got-Junk?
In this cover letter template, icons are used in the header to add a bit of color and illustrate the applicant’s experience:
6. Highlight your contact information using a bold footer
While a bright, bold header will help grab the attention of readers, a footer will help make sure your cover letter ends on an impressive note. A bold footer can also help highlight key information–like your contact information and availability.
Take a look at how the footer in this cover letter template mirrors the color in the header, while also emphasizing the applicant’s contact information:
7. Round out your cover letter design with an image
An image can add that final touch to your cover letter design. You can use an image to fill up empty space and to reinforce themes in your cover letter.
If you want to show off your creative chops, you could include a photo you’ve taken yourself, or a custom illustration. But when in doubt, a stock photo can work too–as long as it isn’t too cheesy.
No matter what the image is, it’s important that you integrate it cohesively into your page design. That could mean using an image frame to give your image a unique border shape, or using an image with a transparent background.
For example, look at how seamlessly the image at the bottom of this cover letter is incorporated into the design:
8. Add your signature to your cover letter template
At this point, you may have noticed something that a lot of these cover letters have in common: they include a signature.
While including a signature isn’t a requirement, it can add another personal touch to your cover letter. Personal design touches will help your cover letter be more memorable.
Take a look at how this cover letter template incorporates a signature in the footer:
9. Use up to three different font styles (but no more than that!)
Here’s a design rule of thumb: use no more than three different font types in one design. If you use too many different fonts, your design can look cluttered/
Generally, it’s best to stick to:
- One font for headers
- One font for sub-headers
- One font for body text
For example, this cover letter template uses only two fonts: Poppins for the header and sub-headers, and Merriweather for the body text. By bolding certain headers and using a different color for other, the design has variation while still being cohesive:
10. Add an atypical border for a modern cover letter design
Generally speaking, it’s good to play it safe with your cover letter design. That being said, there are small design choices you can make that will have a big impact on your cover letter’s personality.
For example, you can use borders in unusual ways. A simple border used in a surprising way can make your cover letter design more interesting.
For example, instead of using a border around the edges of your page, you could use a border around one section, like the header. Take a look at how this cover letter template uses a strip of purple along the spinal column and crosses it with a border around the header:
Some expert tips for writing your cover letter
While design will help grab the attention of readers, your text is what will actually sell them on your qualifications.
We asked some career experts what their top tips are for writing cover letters. Here’s what they had to say:
Keep your text concise
“Keep your cover letter concise, easy to skim and be sure to connect the dots as to why you meet the important qualifications.”
– Hannah Morgan, Job Search Strategist at CareerSherpa
Customize your cover letter for each company you apply to
“CUSTOMIZE YOUR LETTER TO THE COMPANY YOU’RE SENDING IT TO. Don’t just provide a list of your skills, or a few flattering paragraphs about your background. Tie your story to what the company cares about! If you’re not sure what the company cares about, go to their website. Read their About Us page.
Try to figure out what they value (this is not hard – a lot of companies share their core values somewhere on their site). Pick which of those core values resonate most with you. Then, tailor your letter to those values. That is: how have you demonstrated that value in your career so far? How would your experience / skill set contribute to that value if you were to work at this company?”
– Claire Suellentrop, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Userlist.io
“Always personalize your cover letter. Explain what you have to offer and how exactly that connects with the vision/goals of the company.”
P.S: Not customizing your cover letter for each job application is probably the biggest cover letter mistake you can make as an applicant!
– Brandon Thompson, Recruitment and Hiring Manager at 1-800-Got-Junk?
Focus on communicating your career goals
“Spend more time explaining your goals/direction and your plan rather than listing off things like ‘good at multitasking and team work’. What is your focus and why do you want the role?”
– Emily Brown, Hiring Manager at Ledcor
Use creative copywriting techniques
“When hiring marketers, I look for creativity and powerful copywriting. Empathy…understand the role your prospective employer is hiring for and what good and bad (very important to have why you might not fit) ways you fit in.”
– Derric Haynie, CEO of Vulpine Interactive
Show you know a lot about the company you’re applying for
“Find a way to stand out and find a way to speak to the first person who will be reading your resume, either that’s a recruiter, HR manager or hiring manager. If you know who you’re writing the cover letter for, talk about why you are actually excited to work for that company.
Talk more about the company than you do about yourself, and tie in a few reasons why you’e the right fit for the role. Reference recent news articles about the company, show that you’ve done your research, whatever you need to do to stand out beyond the copy and paste approach that everyone else is using. The information is available.”
– Martin Hauck, Head of Talent at Coinsquare
Optimize your cover letter design for print
You probably already have a few ideas for creative cover letters buzzing around in your head. But before you race off to start your design, here are a few best practices to keep in mind.
If you’re planning on bringing your cover letter to an interview, make sure that your design will look as impressive in print as it does on screen.
Design your cover letter for standard letter paper
Make sure that the size dimensions of your cover letter template fit standard printer paper. Standard letter paper is 8.5 x 11 inches.
Export your cover letter in a high resolution
You don’t want your cover letter to print out blurry. In general, it’s a good idea to export your cover letter in 300 dpi resolution.
Venngage allows you to download your design in HD PNG or PDF formats. You can also check out this guide to learn how to edit PDFs.
Set bleed marks for your printer
If you want to get your cover letter printed professional, you may want to set bleed marks in your design. “Bleed” is the area around the outside of your cover letter that will be chopped off after printing.
If your cover letter design has a solid background color, or colors and images that touch the edge of the page, you should set bleed marks to indicate where the edge of the page is.
Now that you’re equipped with these cover letter designs tips, it’s time to make your own!
More design guides to power your career growth: