Applications / Job market

Essential graduate cover letter dos and don’ts

After three years of essay and research paper writing, addressing employers can feel a bit alien for recent graduates. If you’re preparing your CV and are ready to email it to lots of companies, you’ll first need to create a short and snappy cover letter.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV. He is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany. Here he explains how to introduce yourself in the most professional and interesting way:

Do address the recipient directly

letter writing intro text on retro typewriterIf you know the employer or recruiter’s name, speak straight to them. Your email will be landing in their inbox, so a generic ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ can seem indirect or even a bit too formal. Starting with ‘Hi Sarah’ or ‘Hi Michael’ is much better.

Check the job ad for a name to address. If you’re sending a speculative application, the appropriate person to contact should be on the company website or on LinkedIn. Make sure you add a brief “I hope you’re well” too. It’s an expected level of politeness, whatever industry you’re trying to break into. 

Don’t attach your cover letter as a separate document

This is your first introduction to the employer and it should be immediately visible. Opening an attachment might seem pretty low maintenance, but it’s important to bear in mind that files corrupt and people are busy. To improve your chances of being noticed, paste your cover letter into the main body of the email. If you’re applying through a job site or form, there should be a specific box for you to copy and paste it in.

Do remind them what you’re applying for

It helps to give the recipient a brief reminder of which role you’re applying for, just in case they’re recruiting for a few things at once.

Helpful tip! Keep your opener simple.

keep it simpleStart your cover letter with something like “I am writing to apply for the role of <job title>, as advertised on <job site>.”

Don’t send them too much information

Most recruiters and hirers skim read everything they receive. Your cover letter should be brief and to the point, with a basic layout and clear font. 3-6 sentences is plenty, even if it doesn’t look like very much.

Things to include:

  • Your most relevant or recent experience.

“Earlier this year, I completed a 3-month internship with X, where I…”

  • Crucial skills you know they’re looking for.

Re-read the job description for specifics! Focus on hard skills like languages, specific qualifications, and practical things you’ve picked up from work experience or internships.

  • Your experience level and what you’re currently doing.

Let them know if this will be your first graduate role, and when your degree finished or will finish.

  • Why you’re applying and why you’d be a great fit.

Motivation is important. Tell the recruiter why you want this role and what you’re going to bring to it.

Your detailed job history should be left strictly for your CV; it’s simply too much information to put in your cover letter. Instead, focus on keywords and qualifications the reader will be skimming for.

Don’t forget your contact details

contact icons pushing keyboard with finger 3d illustrationYour phone number is already on your CV, but put it in your email signature to make life a bit easier for the reader. A professional signature is a simple, effortless way to demonstrate you mean business. It’s much easier for them to pick up the phone to you too!

Searching for the right graduate job takes time, particularly when competition is high. Impress them with a carefully crafted cover letter, that shows off your enviable skills, and your chances of scoring an interview will go up significantly.






One thought on “Essential graduate cover letter dos and don’ts

Leave a Reply to Jack Katler Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s