If you are a fresh graduate, your first priority after finishing your studies is to get a full-time job. When you are looking for work, you spend a lot of time writing and polishing your resume to make it exactly right. The cover letter almost seems like an after thought.
It can be tempting to simply send a couple of lines to a prospective employer with the resume:
“Please find enclosed/attached my resume for the position of [x]. Kindly contact me for an interview”
This is not going to impress a prospective employer these days! If you want to be invited for a personal interview, you are going to have to put a lot more thought and effort into writing your cover letter.
Each job that you are applying for will need its own letter, and you will need to put some care into crafting your response. Taking the time to write a quality cover letter will lead to more interviews and decrease the time it will take to get a job offer:
1. Use language that carefully mirrors the wording used in the job ad:
A number of employers use computer software to screen candidates for available positions. You’ll need use keyword that match the ones used in the description if you want to be matched to the opportunity. Review the ad carefully and underline the main points before you start writing your cover letter.
If your cover letter is being reviewed by a hiring manager personally, he or she is likely going to skim over it briefly at first. You’ll increase the likelihood of getting a closer review of your qualifications if you choose language that closely matches most (if not all) the requirements listed in the ad.
Don’t embellish your qualifications to sell yourself to an employer if you don’t fully meet the requirements the company is looking for. Do present yourself in the best possible manner, though, by covering off as many of them as you can. The employer may give more weight to some qualifications more than others, and you have no way of knowing which ones the company values most.
2. Use an appropriate format for business letters:
Basic block style is easy to read and you won’t get confused about the proper layout. You want the reader to be able to focus on the message without being distracted by a complicated letter writing style. With this set-up, the sender and the recipient’s address are left justified. With the exception of a double space between paragraphs, the entire letter is single spaced.
3. Stick to a font that is easy to read:
Now is not the time to experiment with a highly-artistic font. Even if you are applying for a job in a creative field, keep your correspondence businesslike. Select a basic font that is easy to read in a size that your reader will not have to strain to make out. You also don’t want to select one that is excessively large, since this may come across as being aggressive.
Times New Roman is the standard font used for business correspondence, although Ariel may also be used. Use a 12 pitch size when composing your letter. It’s large enough to be easy to read without being overwhelming.
4. Address your letter to a specific person, if possible:
Try to find out the name of the hiring manager so that you can direct your letter to him or her personally. This is a much better choice than sending your letter “To Whom it May Concern.”If you aren’t sure how to spell the person’s name, contact the company directly to confirm the spelling.
Since some names can be used for both genders, use this opportunity to confirm whether you are directing your letter to Mr. or Ms. [Whoever] at the same time. It’s always a good idea to ask a question, rather than assuming something and being wrong. Making a mistake like that may be enough to get your application put in the rejection pile, no matter how qualified you happen to be for the position.
In a situation where you can’t find a name for the hiring manager or the head of the Human Resources Department, you can address your letter to “Dear Hiring Manager.” It’s still a better choice than starting off with Dear Sir/Madam.
5. Start your letter by stating when and where you found the job opening:
The company may be trying to fill multiple positions and you want to be specific about which one you are interested in. The hiring manager is also interested in finding out where candidates are finding job postings. It helps them in their efforts to target places where quality candidates are looking to find jobs.
6. Focus on your educational background:
Since you have recently completed your diploma or degree, this is an area of strength for you. Lead with it and highlight it in the body of your letter. Tell the employer the full name of the program you have just completed, including the concentration. Don’t expect him or her to refer to your resume for this information.
Do refer to any awards or honors you received that would make you stand out as exemplary candidate for the position. Someone who has the drive to perform well in school can transfer those skills into the workplace.
7. Include any training or internships you have completed:
If you have completed any internships or on-the-job training that is relevant to the position you are applying for, be sure to mention this in your letter. However, if you think about your prior experience and it’s a stretch for you to see how it relates to the work you would be doing if you were hired for this job, the better choice is to leave it off your cover letter.
Don’t make the reader work to have to find the connection. You want to present yourself as the clear choice for the position.
8. List any special skills you have to offer:
Are you familiar with any of the specific computer programs listed in the ad? Mention them in your letter. Do you know how to set up web pages or manage a social media campaign? If these are mentioned in the advertisement or are related to the job you are looking for, do include them in your cover letter.
Be honest about your level of expertise, though. While you want to present yourself as a confident and competent person, you don’t want to oversell yourself either. If you lie about your abilities, you will be found out. It’s the quickest way to get yourself taken out of the running for a job. You can always learn more if you have some knowledge about a subject; it’s not necessary to claim to be an expert if you aren’t at that level.
9. Ask for an interview:
The purpose of writing your letter is to present yourself as the best candidate for the job and to get the employer to want to meet with you. Ask for that meeting! It’s a good idea to explain if there are any dates when you will not be available to meet due to finishing coursework or other commitments. Being honest and up front about your schedule from the outset is the best way to deal with the situation if you are not immediately available for interviews.
9. Proof-read carefully before sending:
After you’re finisher with writing, go over the cover letter carefully a couple of times before you send it to a prospective employer. The little things matter when you are trying to make a good first impression. Make sure that the company name and address are spelled correctly. You should also double check the spelling of the hiring manager’s name to ensure that you have this information right before you send it as well.
By following these suggestions, you will be able to write an effective cover letter that will help you land your first full-time job after graduation. Good luck in your writing!