Searching for a job is a challenge, even for professionals with years of experience in a niche. It becomes an even a bigger challenge if you are a graduate with no internships or cool summer jobs under your belt.
It's discouraging when you apply for dozens of jobs and receive no responses, right?
You have nothing to write on your resume (yet!). You have no portfolio, and you don't know what you can do to impress employers to make them believe in you.
That's where a cover letter becomes your secret weapon and savior. Write it in a way to stand out from the crowd, and your lack of job experience won't be a problem during your job search.
Here are some tips for writing your first cover letter.
Tip 1: Introduce yourself right
The first paragraph of your cover letter is a chance to make a strong first impression. Explain who you are, what job you are applying for, and how you discovered that opportunity. Don't forget to refer to personal connections, if any. For example, if you know someone who worked/works for the organization, mention their name in your cover letter.
Clarify where you are geographically, especially if the work is in a city other than yours. Mention that you are ready to move but don't say that you "could" move: it demonstrates your hesitation, which is not a good sign for employers.
Tip 2: Do research before writing
A cover letter connects you and employers, so make sure you know them well:
· Read the job posting again. What are the buzzwords they use? You might want to incorporate them into your cover letter to build some connection, but consider the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism – don't copy them word for word.
· Check the company's website and blog. What's the voice and tone they use to communicate with their audience? Follow it while writing your cover letter.
· Do they have official profiles on social media? Read and learn their company culture, find out what they expect from employees.
And now, when writing your cover letter, describe how your traits and experience meet their requirements.
Tip 3: Prove you are a good fit
This one is the biggest challenges for graduates on a job search. But the problem is not the fact that you have no job experience but instead, your inability to highlight personal traits that make you a perfect fit for this position.
Most job seekers write that they are great leaders and time managers, but these statements are mere lip service for employers. Use real-life examples that illustrate why you’re a fit, and make sure they are succinct and visual. For example, you can tell a one- or two-line story that shows how your skills match the job.
Tip 4: Add a call to action
Make the final paragraph of your cover letter sound confident. It should encourage a hiring manager to contact you; so it would be reasonable to add a call to action.
For example, write when you are going to get in touch: "I'll try you by phone on Friday, 3 pm and hope we can connect then."
Another problem most newbies face is doubts regarding the words to use for salutation and sign-off in cover letters. Should they sound formal? Is it acceptable to use warmer variants such as "All the best" instead of "Regards"?
Yes, it's fine. But when in doubt – make it formal.
Tip 5: Proofread, proofread, proofread
No matter how well you fit a job position, spelling and grammar mistakes in a cover letter are inexcusable. They are like a red flag for a recruiter, screaming "Don't hire me!"
For both beginning and experienced seekers, the best tip would be checking cover letters and resumes several times before sending. Online tools such as Grammarly, Hemingway, and others allow you to correct grammar and spelling. Also, you might want to ask someone you trust to proofread the document for you.
TIp 6: Wrapping up
Crafting a catchy cover letter is hard. The line between writing about how cool you are and why you want to work for this particular company is fine, so make sure you don't cross it.
What to include:
· Your name, email, and phone number.
· A reference line.
· A personalized salutation: "Dear Mr. Smith" is okay, while "To whom it may concern" is not.
· A brief introduction.
· A highlight of your qualities and characteristics.
· A closing paragraph with a call to action. (Asking to arrange a call or an interview.)
Tip 7: Don't know what to highlight as your key strengths?
You might include hobbies that are relevant to the job, general skills that help you work as a part of the organization, your volunteer work that demonstrates your abilities, or some personal attributes that might help you learn to work professionally.
Attract the reader's interest but don't include too many "I" statements. You can send a cover letter as an attachment or write it in the body of an email, but whatever you choose – stay polite and remember formatting.
Lack of job experience doesn't mean you can't write a nice cover letter. Keep in mind these tips, and you will land your first job in no time!
About the Author: Lesley Vos is a professional from Chicago and regular contributor a variety of publications on career growth and self-development. Her unique background provides an insightful perspective on how to find and land your dream job!