How to Write Effective Cover Letters
You should always accompany your resume with a convincing cover letter when you apply for a graduate job. It’s an extra opportunity to highlight your most relevant skills to recruiters, and also demonstrates your motivation and sincerity for the job and employer.
A cover letter shouldn’t be longer than one page, so keep it short and sweet! Not to worry, though. Here’s our four-step guide (with an added bonus!) to effectively sell your skills in such limited space!
Step 1: Get your opening right
After your salutation, tell the recruiter which job, internship, or scheme you are applying for. Mention where you saw it advertised, and why you’re applying for it. If the position has a reference number, it’s always good to include that for their easy reference.
Step 2: Answer the question “Why you?”
The first paragraph or two should be about you. Convince the employer why you are well-suited to the role by referring directly to the job description and concentrating on how you have the skills, abilities and/or knowledge to excel in this job.
At graduate level, it’s still fine to refer to work experience that isn’t directly related to the role you’re gunning for, so long as you can show how that experience “transfers” into the job, you’re good to go! Mine examples from part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and academic work to demonstrate how you used and developed these skills.
Step 3: Tell them “Why them?”
The next paragraph or so should explain why you are interested in both the job and the organisation.
What was it about the employer and/or the job role that made you apply? Customise your cover letter so that the recruiter knows you are interested specifically in the job and company.
Read the job advertisement or description again and do some background research into the organisation. This will help you tell the recruiter why you want to work for their company and why you’re interested in this particular job.
Step 4: Have a clear ending
Your closing paragraph should be strong, clear and short.
Reaffirm your suitability for the role and your enthusiasm about the idea of working for the employer. State that you look forward to hearing from them, and will be happy to provide any further information they need.
You should always write a cover letter when you are invited to submit a resume over e-mail. There are two acceptable ways to send your cover letter:
- Attach both your resume and cover letter to your e-mail. Write a brief message in the e-mail stating your interest in the specific role and your attachments. Don’t go for the “Please find my CV attached for your consideration” one-liner and leave it at that.
- Write the e-mail itself as your cover letter. You could include your contact details as your signature at the end. Don’t forget to attach your resume!
Here are some other tips!
- Make sure you check the job ad carefully to see if there are any specific instructions. Different employers may have different preferences
- Keep your writing professional and formal
- Use specific filenames for your attachments (e.g. David Lim_cover letter.doc) so that recruiters can identify them easily
- Use a subject line that looks professional and makes sense to the recipient (e.g. Vacancy – FT786_PW Trainee Accountant)
- Keep sentences straightforward and simple. Using action verbs and the active voice will help (i.e. “I accomplished X”)
- Match your skills and experience to the specific requirements in the job description
- Always check before sending anything out!
- Before you send out a cover letter, check it for spelling, grammar, and the flow of your points
- Get a trusted friend or career advisor to help you proofread it before you send it out!