Searching for your first job after graduation can seem daunting, but with the right tools, like a polished cover letter, you can stand out from other candidates. Here are five tips to craft an impressive cover letter as a recent graduate.
1. Showcase relevant academic achievements
Don't worry about having limited professional experience. What you can do instead is mention important academic achievements you’ve cultivated that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. Of course, in your cover letter, you can talk about any internships you've had, but you can also talk about relevant coursework or projects from college related to the position.
For example, if you're applying for a marketing role and you led a successful fundraising campaign for a club or organization in college, highlight how this experience equipped you with hands-on knowledge of campaign planning, execution, and team management.
2. Leverage practical experiences
When crafting your letter, think about your time participating in clubs or associations, volunteer work, or fieldwork. Then think about the skills, hands-on experience, and industry exposure that you acquired through your involvement in these activities.
It’s important when discussing your practical experiences in your cover letter that you don't forget to spotlight any notable accomplishments you've earned. Did you fill a leadership position, win an award, or gain recognition for your work? Ensure that you list this information, as well as the skills that you gained along the way. If you were part of a debate team, for example, share how it enhanced your persuasive communication skills and how this characteristic would be beneficial for roles in sales or consulting.
3. Highlight soft skills
Your academic years have certainly provided you with skills that can translate to your professional career. So, as you put together your cover letter, point out the skills that you gained from your practical experiences and how they translate to the position you want. When doing so, elaborate more on your soft skills that were developed indirectly as a result of your academic work. Think about when you collaborated on projects or worked in a team, and highlight any teamwork skills, leadership skills, problem solving skills, and conflict resolution skills you gained as a result. And if you coordinated tasks in a group project, this is an opportunity to show off your project management skills.
4. Demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for the industry
It’s important that your cover letter conveys your excitement for the field you’re entering. So, you might discuss experiences that ignited your passion for the field and helped you decide which way you want to go in your professional career. For instance, if attending a technology conference sparked your interest in artificial intelligence and led you to take additional courses, be sure to include it.
In addition, showing your genuine interest in continuing to learn and grow in the field is a great way to make a positive impression on the recruiter reading your cover letter. So, you might mention what you’re looking forward to in the future to continue your professional development in the field. This could mean talking about a graduate degree or just a single class you want to take to boost your industry-specific skills.
5. Use keywords and tailor them to the job description
As you plan out your cover letter, hop on job sites and go over descriptions from similar roles. Take note of important key words or phrases that you see in multiple job posts so that you can bring them up in your cover letter. For example, if you notice that data analyst roles often list Python, SQL, or Tableau, and you have experience with these, include them in your cover letter. Tailoring your letter in this way shows that you understand the job requirements and have the skills to meet them.
Also, while it might seem tiresome, personalizing your cover letter for each role or company you apply to is incredibly effective. When applying to two different companies for similar roles, you’ll likely have skills that overlap. Even so, emphasize the skills that are more important for each specific role or company. This personalization demonstrates why you’re a good candidate for the position that you’re applying for and that you took the time to research the role and explain why you’d be an excellent fit.
Eva Chan is a Career Counselor and Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) at Resume Genius, and has a background in the education management industry. Eva graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in English. She’s since coached a variety of people at different stages of their career paths: interns, undergraduate and graduate students, managers, and C-suite executives.
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