This week I am sharing a series of posts to reach design candidates in far-flung corners of the Internet to fill this UX/UI designer role at Mozilla Foundation, and to improve the quality of design candidates everywhere! Check this post for a listing of all the topics as I post them.

Time I spend looking at your stuff:

Cover letter: 6 seconds
Portfolio: 30 seconds (if I like it)
Résumé: 5 seconds (if I look at it at all, initially)

I don’t say this to be a jerk but to illustrate how quickly you need to get my attention.

Factors that might adjust these lengths of time are where I am at in the hiring process and what level role I am looking for. The position open now is for a mid- to senior-level designer so it’s important I find someone who knows how to communicate effectively. Inevitably, it is the cover letter I look at first to help me figure this out. And for that you have six seconds.

The function of a cover letter is to tell me if a person is human, if they can be direct about what they want, and whether or not they can string together a sentence. It truly does not need to show me that you’re a creative person.

Here is a formula for a good cover letter.

Dear person,

I found your open UX/UI role through ___________ and wanted to apply because ____________. I am crazy excited about what Mozilla is doing because _____________. For the past couple of years I’ve been doing ___________, but this position will help me _________. I would love the opportunity to share my work with you and to hear more about the role. You can see stuff I’ve been doing recently at

Thanks for your time,
Person McPerson

This might look boring to you. So let me illustrate why this is actually good.

  • It’s short and to the point and doesn’t sound like it was written by an egomaniac. It’s friendly, but professional. There are no grammar or spelling mistakes. Shows you’re respectful of our time.
  • It is equal parts you and us. It tells me something about your history and your interests (which I will be able to ask about in our initial conversation) but it also shows how and why you are interested in the role.
  • It includes a link to the portfolio (which is clearly stated in the job description as being mega important). It demonstrates an understanding of what the hiring process is like by making this super easy to access. And it shows you stand by your work. You’re not trying to cover it up with fancy words and ideas.
  • It shows you’ve read the job description and that you know something about Mozilla, yet it doesn’t mention Firefox. (It’s okay to mention it briefly, but that’s not what this position is about).
  • It’s not ranting. I don’t need to hear about why your current job sucks. We can give that the nuance it needs in a conversation, if you must. And if I really want to hear your ranting I can go right to your Twitter account.

I was curious if my own cover letter when I applied to Mozilla holds up so I dug it out of the old gmail archives. Originally sent February 7, 2013. It could be shorter, but the similarities are uncanny! (Pats self on back) Look at what a dork I am:

Hi Ryan and Brett,

Chris Appleton mentioned you’d be hiring a UX Designer for the Webmaker tools. He knows I’ve been looking for a position at Mozilla so forwarded your addresses, and I’m really pleased to submit my résumé (attached) and portfolio for your consideration – I do have more of an interactive design / UI background, but user experience has always been a crucial part of that skill set.

I saw Mark Surman speak at CreativeMornings the other week and really love the Mozilla mission. I am keen to find out more about how things work over there. I hope we are able to meet for a good chat at some point soon!

Thanks for your time,

Cassie McDaniel

I’m definitely not saying your cover letter should sound like me – it should very much sound like you – but you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel for this or spend too much time on it. Keep it straightforward, brief (for crying out loud keep it brief), and be honest about why you’re interested.

The cover letter is just the beginning. It’s getting that foot in the door, which I acknowledge can be difficult. I hope this makes it easier.  Tomorrow I’ll share some tips for improving your design portfolio which will be the real clincher! ‘Til then, amigos.