The ability to write an excellent cover letter is an important skill for any job seeker, but it's especially important for a recent graduate with very little work experience. Competition for entry-level jobs is often fierce, so a great cover letter can make the difference between landing a job and staying unemployed for several more months. If you are a recent graduate, follow these tips when applying to jobs.
One of the most important things to do when writing a cover letter is to customize it for each potential employer. If you send the same cover letter in response to every job posting, you can't highlight your skills for each particular job. Employers are able to recognize when they are reading canned responses that have been recycled over and over again. Instead of sending generic cover letters, customize each letter by using information from the job description. Explain how your education, volunteer work and internship experience prepared you to excel in the open position.
Just because you don't have any experience in your field doesn't mean you have no experience at all. Take time to highlight the experience you gained working during high school or completing an internship for college credit. If you didn't have a chance to develop technical skills, focus on your soft skills. Perhaps your job at a fast-food restaurant prepared you to resolve customer issues in a timely manner or prioritize several tasks at a time. If you volunteered for a nonprofit, tell the hiring manager if you developed any professional skills while doing your volunteer work.
Writing a cover letter is especially difficult for high school graduates who are entering the workforce immediately instead of attending college. If you didn't have a part-time job during high school, use your cover letter to explain why you are a good fit for the job opening. Use examples from your participation in athletics, academic competitions or musical groups. If you served as a section leader for your marching band or the captain of your soccer team, explain how these activities prepared you to lead others.
Many new graduates make the mistake of sending two-page cover letters to potential employers. Unless you have a decade or more of experience in your desired field, your cover letter shouldn't be more than one page. You should also avoid rehashing the information from your resume in your cover letter. You can include some of the same information, such as your most recent job title, but your cover letter should include additional information that convinces the hiring manager you would be a good hire.
Writing a high-quality cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd in a competitive job market. If you recently graduated, be sure to customize each cover letter, proofread it carefully and make sure you address why you are a good fit for each job opening.
Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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