Cruise around online and you will find tons of different cover letter formats. Some feature bold banners and a variety of text colors; others are more reserved in their design. But how can you gauge how much is too much when it comes to color? We talked to experts to find out.
An argument against multiple colors
"If you're in a creative field, there's an expectation that you're going to demonstrate your talent early on in your application process," says Nancy Small, CEO of Tourism Richmond, a destination marketing and business development organization in Richmond, British Columbia. But that doesn't mean it needs to be in your cover letter, which probably isn't the best showcase for your capabilities anyway.
Small recommends keeping the cover letter simple with minimal usage of multiple colors and fonts. "Just keep it really professional. No pictures of yourself or your dog. No superfluous design that hurts the eyes or makes it difficult for the reader to know where to start."
Demonstrate that you know how to be professional in your communications, recommends Small, and then use something like an online portfolio or website to really show off your creative skills.
Another argument against multiple colors
Applicant tracking software does not always pick them up. So, any colors you might add to jazz up your cover letter before uploading it to a job portal will most likely show up in shades of gray and black when it reaches the hiring manager. Instead, save the embellishments for an in-person meeting.
"A couple of colors and some design in the header and body is a nice touch on a resume that's being hand delivered or left behind after an interview," says Nicole Liddell, a Vancouver-based Human Resources executive with over 20 years of recruiting experience for the telecom and construction industries. It presents well, and leaves a great impression.
Above all, the key to a successful job hunt is getting your foot in the door. "A cover letter is an introduction," explains Small — and you don't want to imply that your experience isn't impressive without being dressed up.
So put your time into the content (i.e. a letter written expressly for the talent acquisition team of this job, not the other jobs you are applying for), and also into making sure the keywords from the job posting are sprinkled throughout your communications. Finally, do not forget to check your spelling.
"Once you get past the gatekeeper, the magic can happen," says Nancy Small. "But you have to clear that very first hurdle. So put a lot of effort into your first piece of communication, and keep it really simple."