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We all know that a picture worth a thousand words. Visualization is even a branch of science. Since the job I intend to work is in quantitative analysis, I think adding visualizations in my cover letter is completely suitable. In my recommendation letter, it also mentions that I'm very enthusiastic in making information easy to swallow.

However, after drawing them, I think that they are more artistic than problem solving. Part of this is because in a cover letter, you don't really solve any problem. The only problem it's trying to solve is how to introduce myself best. To be the best, you need creativity. And I think bringing creativity to my drawing is a perfect choice. This is why I think my drawing is more artistic.

For example, when talking about how relevant the field I study and the skills the job require, I use this Venn diagram: image description

But when I say that I can use Python to code, it's no longer problem - solving: image description

And when I say that I have the ability to teach myself with the help of Google and other resources, the relevance of the drawing is even less: image description

I'm afraid that I will send the wrong message. Of course I know that creativity needs to be childish (open mind), but I also want to reduce any bad impression.


Some notes:

  • When I say "grammar is not a big stuff", I didn't mean that I didn't care at grammar at all. In fact, I am quite a grammar nazi, and I read a lot of linguistics articles. Right after asking this question, I immediate ask What is the adjective for “problem solving”? in ELL SE. Because English is not my mother tongue, I can make some mistakes. What I mean is the recruiters are also like me, so they may not notice the errors I make, and if they do, they may sympathize for that.
  • I have this idea after reading the book The Back of The Napkin of Dan Roam. Some main ides of the book:

    • Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. Isn't cover letter a place for you to sell yourself?
    • The hand is mightier than the mouse. The rusticness and simplicity of the drawing makes it dear to the readers, and they will react more positive. If this is about presenting real data, I agree that the visualization should be professional with proper programs. But since the cover letter doesn't present any data, only ideas, so I think it is better to draw by hand.
  • Hat tip ff524 for linking this article: Informal Tone Of Cover Letter Sets Job Applicant Apart From Seriously Considered Candidates. However I think I have a different method to catch the eyes. He uses informal tone, while I use creativity (shows by adding the drawings) and keeping the formal tone.

  • I have asked a similar question in Writer. The answers there are thoughtful either. Should I put diagrams into a formal essay?

  • 37
    Why the downnvotes? While the idea expressed in the post might indeed be terrible, there's nothing with asking the question, is there? Can we stop behaving like we are on meta.SE, where you upvote or downvote stuff based on whether you agree or not? – Masked Man Jul 8 '15 at 16:05
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. And remember to keep it professional. – Monica Cellio Jul 9 '15 at 17:50
  • this is now my favourite question on the workplace. it has heart and soul, and i wish the OP the very very best! – bharal Jul 10 '15 at 21:24
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    If you are a professional graphic artist or designer, these types of drawings are better suited for a professional portfolio, which is something you would submit with your cover letter and resume, or include in a link on your resume if you have a digital portfolio. Even then, I would only include these if the job you're interviewing for specifically and intrinsically involves graphic design, or if the application requires a professional design portfolio. – Zibbobz Jul 14 '15 at 17:28
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    Just checking :) you understand that the article I linked, in The Onion, is satirical, and indicates that being too informal in a cover letter makes you stand out in a negative way. Right? – ff524 Jul 15 '15 at 6:59

11 Answers 11

78

Is it appropriate to include drawings in a cover letter?

When the job you are applying for involves a significant amount of drawing, then it might be appropriate to include a drawing in a cover letter. Otherwise, it's inappropriate.

Your sample drawings may indeed be artistic. But to some eyes, they certainly look immature (or perhaps even childish). That's likely not an attribute you want to convey in a cover letter.

I'm guessing that quantitative analysis places far less emphasis on "artistic" qualities than you might suspect.

Save the drawings, artistic or otherwise, for an interview where the hiring manager invites you to use a whiteboard and show how you would create a visualization to express a particular situation.

I'm afraid that I will send the wrong message.

That's a reasonable fear. You should pay attention to that fear.

Looking over your drawings, I had to convince myself to treat your question seriously. To be honest, if I was a hiring manager and received a cover letter with similar drawings, I would laugh, but certainly not invite you for an interview. To my hiring manager eyes your drawings don't convey creativity at all - I just see silliness and immaturity.

Sorry, not trying to be cruel here, just honest and helpful.

We all know that a picture worth a thousand words.

That is completely untrue in an interview setting.

Resumes, cover letters, interviews - all are about selling yourself, the communication of thoughts, and about the words you use. A picture of "my brain on Google" might convey some information about you, but doesn't replace any good words at all.

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    +1 for "Looking over your drawings, I had to convince myself to treat your question seriously. To be honest, if I was a hiring manager and received a cover letter with similar drawings, I would laugh, but certainly not invite you for an interview.". Except that I would not laugh. Depending on the context, mood and phase of the moon it would be a "pffff...." or pity. – WoJ Jul 8 '15 at 20:07
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    This answer actually gives me the solution: save the drawings for the interview. Thank you. – Ooker Jul 9 '15 at 10:06
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    +1 for "That's a reasonable fear. You should pay attention to that fear." – EleventhDoctor Jul 9 '15 at 11:06
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    @Ooker There is a BIG HUGE difference between presenting something to someone in a quick, dynamic live situation face-to-face, and presenting something to someone in a formal, slow method such as email or letters. The hand drawings are appropriate for selling yourself in person, such as the interview. If you must include drawings or imagery in email or other written presentations it must look professional. Hand drawings are not appropriate for a resume or cover letter. Go ahead and use them if you want to - it's your cover letter - but don't expect anyone to take them seriously. – Adam Davis Jul 9 '15 at 13:57
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    @Ooker It's the same reason you wouldn't quickly scribble your cover letter and resume and send them images of it. You have time to do the presentation correctly, so you are expected to do so. In person, you are expected to quickly convey ideas, so hand drawings and writing are ok. In documents, letters, and prepared presentations, you have time to do it professionally, clearly, and cleanly - so to choose hand drawings rather than professionally produced work generally shows laziness more than character. This is not something you want associated with you when selling yourself. – Adam Davis Jul 9 '15 at 14:00
96

If I saw drawings such as you have shown above, I would almost certainly reject the application as unprofessional for almost any profession.

If you need to include graphics in a professional document (and I would argue that it would be rare to need to do so in a cover letter), then the graphics need to be professionally prepared, not hand-done sketches.

You are right that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the picture can be saying a 1000 negative words and, in the case of the drawings shown, they have no positive value. They detract from the application making it more memorable in the bad sense, not the good one.

I am reminded of the resume I saw 15 years ago from someone with a year's worth of experience that was ten pages long and included photos and hobby descriptions. The fact that I still remember it is not a sign that it was successful in landing him an interview. It was even passed around the office so everyone could laugh at it. You do not want to be the person that the hiring officals are laughing at.

In your field in particular, these drawings mark you as an amateur which is never a good thing in a client-facing profession like big data. One of the things you would be evaluated on for these types of positions is how well you would present your information to the client and the answer I would get from these drawings would be - very poorly.

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    Creativity needs to be tempered by professional presentation. It is not a plus if this is not true. I am an artist as well as a data person and I would never include my paintings/fractal art in a cover letter or as an example of my work to show my creativiity. That is simply not appropriate. You might look at a book called Visualize This by Nathan Yao to see how data is professionally presented. – HLGEM Jul 8 '15 at 15:39
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    Hand drawing in a professional context could only be better than computer assisted diagrams or art when the hand in question is attached to a professional artist. – Todd Wilcox Jul 8 '15 at 17:40
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    I could imagine an application where a few slick little illustrations might be a plus but the OP's look like they were done by a 5 year old with crayons. I've seen some particularly good examples of web designers CV's and cover leters which included illustrations and graphics where they very much added to it but they need to be very very slick and professional. – Murphy Jul 8 '15 at 17:55
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    @HLGEM It's not expected in the US; but there are countries where a photo is expected as a standard part of a resume. workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/7019/… – Dan Neely Jul 8 '15 at 21:32
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    I didn't say that I passed it around. – HLGEM Jul 8 '15 at 22:50
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You need to remember what the drawings are for. Yes, a picture can be worth a thousand words, but it can also add nothing.

A Venn diagram may communicate something, though not much added value, yet there is no added value at all in drawing a picture of a python after saying you can code. If anything it's confusing.

  • Well, about the amount of information that gets transferred, a picture cannot compare to a paragraph of text. That's why you and me talking in words, not pictures. The thing that makes pictures competitive is it helps you easy to swallow that amount of text. If you say that pictures add no information, I will agree. But I don't think that they add no value. – Ooker Jul 8 '15 at 14:01
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    Agreed. The Venn diagram may be helpful (provided it looks nice - the picture above is not of a quality that will impress anybody). The remaining pictures would be seen as silly and would definitely kill the letter's chances of making it any farther than the reject pile. – Kent A. Jul 8 '15 at 14:02
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    The Python picture isn't making anything easier to understand though. An example of that that would work it, "I developed System X using Python" accompanied by a screenshot of the program in use. That adds value by clarifying. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Jul 8 '15 at 14:29
  • What if there is no GUI of the program? – Ooker Jul 8 '15 at 16:04
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    @Ooker The pictures, in this setting, add no value because they contain no information. In some other settings, "fun" pictures help keep a reader interested. But the person looking over your cover letter is not looking for "fun". Depending on who the employer is, "fun" might not even be what they want to convey to their clients. Pictures should only be included if they are the best and most accurate way to display some information - and even then I find it hard to imagine the cover letter as the best place for any information that needed to be conveyed via images. – DoubleDouble Jul 9 '15 at 22:10
8

I would not recommend including examples like this in a cover letter. If you want to provide examples of your data visualization skills, you should offer to provide a separate portfolio that shows concrete, work-appropriate examples of your skills in data visualization, not scribbles that are intended to illustrate abstract concepts like the ones that you show here.

Also, in the comments to @Alex's reply, you mention that you aren't too concerned about grammar. I personally reject many candidates for technology positions because their spelling and grammar are not up to par. I don't penalize for a single mistake - especially if it is something that would not be caught by a simple spelling or grammar check - but, to me, multiple mistakes in this area call into question the candidate's attention to detail. If you can't be bothered to properly vet the most important documents of your professional career, what does that imply for your day-to-day work?

At minimum, you should try to have a native speaker, or someone with a much higher level of proficiency in the language, examine your cover letter and resume before sending it. The more eyes on it, the better.

  • Thanks for answering me. I have update my question, can you come and see? – Ooker Jul 8 '15 at 16:13
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    @Ooker, I don't think your update changes my answer. – Roger Jul 8 '15 at 19:04
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This is highly specific to the job you're applying for... some work cultures would love that show of personality.

But, it's a risk, and unless you at least have some experience with the individual who will be looking at your cover letter and know how they would respond, I'd say avoid it at all costs.

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    I agree about the work culture part, but OP wrote "the job I intend to work is quantitative analysis". Quantitative analysis does not look like a job where you draw snakes as an euphemism for coding abilities... – WoJ Jul 8 '15 at 20:10
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    +1 "Quantitative analysis does not look like a job where you draw snakes as an euphemism for coding abilities" – magma Jul 9 '15 at 1:08
  • @WoJ it's a Python, not a snake – Ooker Jul 9 '15 at 11:05
  • I agree, mostly. Is it inappropriate? Yes. If you want to work for a large corporation that has rules that govern what you say, do, think, wear and even how large your cubicle can be, then this is a no-no. If you work for a small, innovative company that cares about productivity and results and wants to hire smart creatives, then this won't hurt at all. – L_7337 Jul 9 '15 at 11:35
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    @Ooker: a python is a kind of snake. – Paul D. Waite Jul 9 '15 at 15:18
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Speaking as a recruiter I'd say no. A few reasons for this:

  1. As a practical matter there's a good chance that the ATS used by the company you're applying to won't support images. Many reduce a resume to plain text unless the resume is uploaded as a PDF (and even then it may still convert it to text). The bigger the company is that you're applying to, the more likely this is to happen.
  2. Recruiters and hiring managers often have to look at a LOT of resumes. At some of the big tech companies I've worked at it was pretty common to look at over a thousand resumes/week. When you only have a few seconds to decide is someone moves forward or not you develop an appreciation for sticking to a relatively standard format. A resume which differs greatly in format runs the risk of being skipped altogether. This is also why you should avoid the "experience based" resume format even though it arguably is superior.
  3. If you are going to include graphics and those graphics are relevant to the role then you better make sure they're good. I've recruited dozens of UX designers, graphic designers, brand designers, etc., etc. over the years. A hand drawn sketch is going to end up looking very amateurish when put alongside the work of a professional designer.
  • Good point. However, if recruiters have to read thousand resumes every week, isn't that adding drawings raise the chance that they stop longer at your profile? – Ooker Jul 10 '15 at 1:33
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    @Ooker They will likely pause on your letter because it is odd, and it will take an extra moment to reorient their brain to understand what they're seeing. Childish-looking hand sketches and non-sequitur metaphors will not impress them, and they will toss your letter aside because you didn't take the time to do a good job, and you just threw off their rhythm. They won't ever see your resume because your letter was odd and unprofessional in its visual form. – Kent A. Jul 10 '15 at 13:11
  • @KentAnderson good point. But that also depends on their characteristics. – Ooker Jul 10 '15 at 13:45
4

If you want to reduce the chance of a bad impression, then stick to a well written cover letter. Let a well thought out cover speak for your experience and capabilities. Once you're hired, you can show the how skilled you are. To this day, a well written properly formatted cover letter has yet to lose favor in the workplace.

  • I also care for well written. My advisor (who wrote that LOR) said that my writing was very good. Yes, my English is not very good, but the readers of my cover letter are not natives as well, so I think that grammar is not a big stuff. – Ooker Jul 8 '15 at 13:29
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    I think what Alex was trying to say was that you should just stick to a traditional written cover letter, no drawings included. – 404usernotfound Jul 8 '15 at 13:39
  • @404usernotfound why does Alex say "well written properly formatted cover letter has yet to lose favor in the workplace"? If it's well written, isn't it always get favored? – Ooker Jul 8 '15 at 13:53
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    @Ooker Grammar matters. Period. Poor grammar will get your letter and everything with it rejected. – Kent A. Jul 8 '15 at 14:06
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    Focus on both. Stick with a standard cover letter format but well written and in the proper format for your field. I would shy away from visual graphics in your cover letter. – Alex Jul 8 '15 at 16:31
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You could use the pictures, but not to present yourself in a better light, but rather to test your potential work environment. This would only work if your future boss is personally screening resumes (ex. at small companies). Otherwise you're going through a recruiter, and they are 99.9% humorless and see your resume as an obstacle to get through, not an opportunity to get to know someone.

Say you are sending 50 resumes, and you think you will get 25 offers back. (Ex. if you are a rockstar at what you do, or you are applying for jobs that no-one else wants bcs they are located 5h from the nearest city).

If you know you're a funny guy and like making jokes, then adding these pictures will help you get rid of those companies that can't stand a joke on a resume.

Point being: you also have the right to either choose or reject a company, and a too stiff work culture might be a good reason to reject an offer.

You have to weigh this aspect against the fact that recruiters will see you as a non-conformist(at best), which will probably strongly influence their reaction to your resume.

  • an unexpected answer. Very funny. Are you sure about the 99.9% number? – Ooker Jul 9 '15 at 13:28
  • @Ooker I was about to write the same thing :) picking a proper company for you to spend time is more important then getting a random well-paying job from a people you don't care about. However, there are two more things.. – kagali-san Jul 9 '15 at 16:46
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    Speaking as a recruiter it's less about conformity and more about efficiency. If you're at a large company you could well be responsible for recruiting against several dozen openings across many different fields. Each one of those positions could receive several dozen new applicants each week. You do the math on how much time that allows you to review each one. Now add in several meetings a week and a couple of dozen phone interviews. Being able to quickly scan through resumes is sadly a necessity in large companies. It also explains why hiring in so many big companies is an utter mess! ;) – ChrisL Jul 9 '15 at 20:39
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    @ChrisL exactly, which is why putting things in a resume that have potential personal appeal will only appeal to those who have time to think about it, i.e. not the recruiter. My current Job experience was that my bosses always personally filtered Resumes, not HR, but that is due to the lack of interest in those positions (maybe on avg. 3-4 applications total for the department a month, as opposed to 12 a week for each position as you suggest). – Rafael Emshoff Jul 10 '15 at 10:55
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    @Ooker, in answer to your question to Rafael, the vast majority of resumes are screened by a recruiter or a manager who has less than two minutes per resume to decide which ones to look at further. Most positions I have been involved in hiring for had applications in the hundreds. You need to get that down to a manageable number to interview. The only time that every resumes is read in detail is when there are very few which almost never happens at entry level. Remember the people you read about who succeed with weird resumes are the 1 in a million people. Not the best odds for getting a job. – HLGEM Nov 4 '15 at 21:26
2

@RafaelCichocki's answer is quite good at covering the person's will to test and choose his employers.

However, there are two more options:

  • a company which is oriented to be looking for peoples with certain quirks and high IQ. Some of the bright-minded people I know are a typical.. special kind of people doing special things; like to be online exclusively at 4am localtime, answering only the questions they liked, while yelling and crying at innocent inquiries;

  • a company who wants an otherwise perfect (e.g. educated, smart, of proper look) employee to cover the government-set requirement to hire a number of alternatively gifted, or alternatively capable, or alternatively looking peoples.

And while I definitely can imagine some strange underground company working in a biophysics field and looking for the genius mad researchers.. the chances for the other outcome are much higher.

  • how do I identify such company? Glassdoor? – Ooker Jul 9 '15 at 17:40
2

Let's get back to fundamentals: a covering letter is the channel to convey information not suited for the CV format, which makes your application stand out from the crowd in a good way.

Using crude hand-drawn graphics is going to convey that you couldn't be bothered to put in the time to create something neater. If you can use clean, professional-looking graphics to good effect that might make your application pop if it really is all to good effect.

The down side is that with large companies the graphics may be stripped out and your letter becomes incomprehensible. You'll also want to consider the culture of the organisation you're applying to: larger more conservative organisations will likely not be looking for people who are really thinking outside the box. If this is the kind of thing you think of, you might want to focus your job search on organisations that prize this kind of unconventional thinking.

  • How do I find the companies which prize unconventional thinkings? – Ooker Jul 10 '15 at 14:23
  • @Ooker That's another question. – Marcin Jul 10 '15 at 14:29
0

Your instincts are right: What you have are merely illustrations, not visualizations. Show that you understand visualizations, if you're going to bother with pictures. As a very limited example, color 6 segments of the snake to represent your 6 years of Python experience. Or use the python as an icon next to any job in which you used Python. In other words, your lazy python doesn't have to be so lazy. Make the visuals do useful work - that takes deep creativity. What your drawings currently invoke is closer to whimsy - and what won't be clear to other people is that you know they are whimsical and unexpected for the situation. Know your audience!

protected by Jane S Aug 6 '15 at 1:31

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