Okay, you’ve written a killer resume, your portfolio is ready to go, and you even have a personal website that showcases your work. Now it’s time for the cover letter. Lemme show you what worked for me.
Missing one of the above? Check out my other guides for some help on those topics:
Good to go? Alright, let’s go.
Cover letters are hard. Really hard. You want them to be specific to the studio you’re applying to, but you have to write so many of them. In my experience, templates don’t work. They’re lazy and the hiring director or recruiter can see right through them. Instead, I want to show you how to use a framework to make a compelling cover letter.
First, what is a cover letter? What should a cover letter be?
A cover letter is not a restatement of your resume. It is not an expanded resume. It’s not a place to expand on your interests or how well you did at your last project. A cover letter is also not a college application — appealing to how you’ve been creating since you were a kid is cool, but ineffective and irrelevant. Talking about your recent projects and relevant skills will show your passion more than talking about how long you’ve been creating ever will.
A cover letter is an appeal to the hiring manager and the studio team as to how and why you are the best pick for the job you are applying for. You use your existing experience to demonstrate your skill, passion, and applicability for the position.
So, let’s get into how you write a great cover letter.
First things first, frame yourself as a professional. If you are a recent grad, this may be intimidating and feel odd. You have been a student for the past four years— maybe you still are a student, technically. That’s okay! You are also a professional in your field. Look back at your resume; all those projects and experiences are proof to yourself and your future employer that you have the skills to apply. So, present yourself as a professional in your letter.
As an added note, stay away from most “I” statements when talking about your goals and skills (ex: I feel, I believe, I think). These statements weaken your voice and argument. Compare:
“I feel that I will be a perfect fit as a narrative designer at Inspired Studios.”
“I am a perfect fit for Inspired Studio’s narrative designer role.”
Next, customize each cover letter to the job and studio you are applying to. The main body of your letter may remain the same since it focuses on you, but the first and final paragraphs are your opportunity to show that you’ve done your research about the studio. This is when you have to put in the work to understand the company. I’ll come back to this point, but want to emphasize it at the outset as something to think about throughout your writing process.
The header and salutation are fairly simple. Write your name and contact information at the top. Your salutation should be to the hiring rep, the lead for the role, or, if you can’t find that information, the studio team (ex: “Hello, Inspired Studios Team”).
Essay formatting is incredibly effective for cover letters and when done correctly provides a base for the rest of the letter. Your opening paragraph should state the position you are applying for and a thesis for the letter. After stating the role you are applying for, get as specific as possible and state why. This is crucial, because it provides the framework for the body of your letter.
Remember, you have three aims: highlight the skills you already have, tell them how you can apply those skills to benefit the company, and illustrate that you have the same value set as the company. (e.g. you have XYZ skills that make you the perfect fit for the role.)
Now you can get into the body paragraphs, and since you listed your main skills above, now you have space for a paragraph on each skillset! Notice that I lead with skills, not experience. Why? Because each experience from your resume can showcase different skills.
While you can reverse this formula and highlight various skills in each paragraph about a different project, I often find this causes applicants to simply restate everything listed in their resume rather than expanding on their hard and soft skills. Focusing on skills and giving examples from various projects and experiences keeps the emphasis on the competencies that employers want to see. Each paragraph should open with what skill you will highlight and close with how you can apply those skills at the company (specific to the studio’s projects, for instance!)
Finally, write your final paragraph with the studio’s culture and mission in mind. State how your values and goals align with the companies — and once more, get specific! You can use this paragraph to highlight how well you did your research. If you have any referrals, you can name them here, too.
Is this a lot of work? Yes, absolutely. However, once you have your base format and body paragraphs chunked out, it is relatively simple to adapt each letter to the studio you are applying for. Don’t just copy and paste! Always be genuine — find something you love about the studio you are applying to and appeal to that.
I hope this guide helps you in crafting a cover letter that demonstrates your strengths, no matter what role you apply to. Please note that this is intended as a guide and an example of what worked for me. This article reflects my experiences and my own opinions. What worked for me may not work for you. Take what’s useful and leave the rest. This is also intended for new grads looking to get into narrative design, but I hope it will be useful for anyone else looking to get into game dev.
I wish you all the best in your job-hunting, and please feel free to reach out at email@example.com or LinkedIn if you have any questions. I do provide specific resume and cover letter help if you feel necessary.