by Michael Cheary
So you’ve just spent three years or more completing your degree…
You spend hours perfecting your graduate CV, but how long do you spend writing the accompanying cover letter? The honest answer for many, unfortunately, is not long enough.
Teaming your shiny new CV with a half-hearted attempt at writing a cover letter (or worse, not including one at all) could count against you more than you anticipate.
A cover letter is often the first thing a hiring manager looks at so it’s crucial to get it right. As well as letting your personality shine, it’s also an opportunity to stand out from all the other graduate applicants. And remember, first impressions count.
We’ve already covered how to write a cover letter, but if you’re still feeling frustrated when it comes to the finer details, here’s our cover letter template specifically designed for recent graduates:
Just here for the template? Click the link below:
Download Graduate Cover Letter Template
Opening the letter
The opening paragraph should be short, informative and to the point. Explain what job it is you’re applying for, and where you found the vacancy.
Feel free to mention the website by name (e.g. as advertised on reed.co.uk) or, if someone referred you to the contact, mention their name in this section.
I wish to apply for the role of Graduate Commercial Analyst, currently being advertised on reed.co.uk. Please find enclosed my CV for your consideration.
Second paragraph – Why are you suitable for the job?
Briefly describe your professional and academic qualifications that are relevant to the role and ensure you refer to some of the skills listed in the job description.
Stating your degree classification and the name of your university is optional, but will help to build a more comprehensive background for the reader. And, if any specific qualifications have been mentioned as pre-requisites, stating this now will help confirm your credentials.
As you can see from my attached CV, I have recently completed a three year degree in Economics at Loughborough University, attaining a 2:1, and I believe the knowledge and skills built up during this time make me the perfect candidate for the role.
Third/Fourth paragraph – What can you do for them?
Use practical examples to emphasise what you can do for the company. These might be performance based (if you have some relevant work experience), but will most likely be focussed on your academic career.
Always make sure your examples are as specific and pertinent as possible. If you’ve completed particular modules which may be applicable, this is the point to include them.
It’s also a good place to include any extra-curricular studies or activities which are applicable to the position, or which help reinforce your skills. Examples could be particular books you’ve read around the subject, seminars you’ve attended, or any qualifications undertaken which are outside your degree.
Other examples include outlining your dissertation (e.g. ‘achieved a first class distinction grade in my dissertation on x’), or more quantifiable achievements you may have attained whilst in previous employment or during work experience (e.g. ‘Increased revenue by x%’, ‘drove x% more traffic to the website during my time in employment’, ‘an increase in students grades by x’ etc.)
The position particularly interests me because of my passion for Analytics. During my course, I studied topics such as Econometrics, Accounting & Finance and International Economics, and the mathematical and modelling skills learned from these modules have given me an excellent foundation for building a career as a Commercial Analyst.
Aside from my degree, I have built upon my interest in this field in a number of ways. Recently I have completed my dissertation on architectures for data-intensive analytics, which allowed me to put my theory for the subject into practice. Further, I have also started an online analytics course, which has given me a much more rounded view on the subject.
Fifth paragraph – Reiterate
Here’s where you reiterate your interest in the role and why you would be the right fit for the company.
I am confident that I can bring this level of expertise with me to your organisation and help Online Retail Company LTD build upon their reputation as one of the biggest brand names in the UK. Add to this my passion and enthusiasm for analytics, and I believe my contribution will have an immediate impact on the business.
Closing the letter
Thank the employer for their time. It is also a good opportunity to indicate you’d like to meet with the employer for an interview.
Sign off your cover letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you know the name of the hiring manager)/’Yours faithfully’ (if you do not), and your name.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my application further.
Remember: Just as with our standard free cover letter template, this is a template, not a ready-made cover letter. Without the proper research into the company advertising the vacancy, and without tailoring it to the role, it will lack the impact for which a cover letter can drastically improve your chances of reaching the interview stage.
And these words hold even more importance when it comes to graduate jobs. Putting the time and effort in to each one will pay dividends, so keep at it. The more research you do and the better written it is, the greater your chance of standing out from the graduate crowd and setting yourself apart.
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Writing a cover letter can seem pointless when online application forms and CVs provide employers with plenty of information. However, for academic jobs, the cover letter is essential. This article explores why you need one and what you should include.
Why bother with a cover letter?
A cover letter can emphasise why you are perfect for the job. It gives you a second opportunity (as well as the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form) to match your skills and knowledge to the person requirements.
But also it gives you an opportunity to display your communications skills so it is vital that your cover letter be perfect in terms of proof reading. This means no silly spelling or grammar mistakes. Your letter will go straight in the bin if there are errors!
Like your application form, a cover letter should be about what you can do for the department and institution. So, don’t make your cover letter all about ‘me, me, me’, but instead talk about what you have to offer them.
What ‘tone’ should I use?
Cover letters must be professional and formal. Do not be tempted to adopt a chatty, colloquial style in order to seem friendly and approachable. The cover letter is not the place to do this.
Equally the font and layout should be in a standard business letter style. Do not try to do anything flash.
Address the letter to the interviewer by name if possible rather than using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. If you are unsure, find out who the head of department is and address the letter to them.
How long should it be?
An academic cover letter should not be much more than two pages. Remember that the selection panel might have several hundred applications to look through: you want your letter to have immediate impact so no waffling!
What should be included?
You need to give a brief summary (a couple of sentences only) on why you should be considered for the job. Then outline your past expertise and your current and future plans in the areas of teaching and research including details and examples. These should be chosen based on the sorts of things the employers are interested in (you’ll find this out on their website and on the job advert). Finish with a snappy short paragraph on why you fit their requirements and asking for an interview.
How should this be laid out?
A cover letter should look like this:
or more like this if you are in a senior lectureship post:
Easy mistakes to make on a cover letter:
- It’s too long: employers won’t bother reading it
- It’s too short (or writing ‘refer to my CV or application’): this shows you haven’t bothered.
- Failure to proofread: looks unprofessional and it will be discarded immediately
- It’s too generic: always tailor it to one particular job rather than having a standard letter.
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