As a student or recent graduate, it can be tough to figure out how to make your application packet stand out from other candidates with similar backgrounds. Use our helpful guide to create the perfect cover letter to highlight your education in the most marketable way.
1. Read the Job Description Carefully
If you are applying for an entry-level position, the hiring manager will expect a minimal work history. Look through the job listing carefully to find references to educational accomplishments and general skills you possess.
2. Tell a Story with Your Educational Background
Your cover letter shouldn't simply list your university, major, and courses completed. Discuss your passion for your field of study. Present marketable skills in terms of educational experiences such as serving on Student Council, or working on community outreach projects.
3. Highlight Practical Knowledge
Employers want to see what actual skills you are bringing to the table. Highlight practical knowledge such as proficiency in programming languages, familiarity with laboratory procedures, or experience working with industry-specific equipment or computer programs.
4. Be Cautious About Including Educational Achievements
Your cover letter isn't the place to include your GPA, semesters on the Dean's List, or a laundry list of your educational awards. Only mention achievements that actually relate to the job requirements.
5. Don't Exaggerate
It can be tempting to overcompensate for a minimal work history by exaggerating your qualifications, but this isn't necessary and certainly isn't wise. Be honest and confident about your abilities without going over the top.
6. Keep the Right Focus
The perfect cover letter highlights what the company stands to gain from hiring you, not the benefits to your own career. Pick one or two examples of how your skills meet a specific need stated in the job listing.
7. Be Concise
Cover letters should be about half a page long with straightforward writing. The reader should be able to glean most of the information from a quick perusal.
8. Avoid Overused Phrases
Don't fill your letter with buzzwords such as "people person" or "hard worker." Instead, use a concrete example of how you've exhibited those qualities in your educational and work background.
9. Use a Professional Tone
One common mistake is using a tone that is too informal. Try to create a personal connection with the reader but don't come across as too chummy.
10. Tailor to the Company
Make sure every cover letter you write is personalized to the position and the company. Do some research on the company's website or social media and include something specific in your letter about what drew you to the company.
Take it a Step Further
It can take some practice to learn what makes a great cover letter and to feel comfortable writing one. If you've followed the tips above and want to refine your letter even more, there are a few additional elements that make a perfect cover letter. When discussing your skills, try to frame them in the context of a story or include a specific accomplishment or indication of success. Use quantifiable data if possible. It's also a good idea to read through your letter and verify your word choice. You want your writing to be both concise and descriptive, so ensure you are including strong verbs and not overusing modifiers, especially adverbs.