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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A cover letter is an important tool to use when applying for a job because it:
- Introduces you to the prospective employer
- Highlights your enthusiasm for the position
- Describes your specific skills and qualifications for the job or internship, and clearly explains why you are a good fit
- Confirms your availability to start a new position
You should always include a cover letter when applying for a job unless you are specifically told not to by the employer. We recommend that you write a cover letter (aka letter of intent) after you have drafted and tailored your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) for a particular job description. For academic faculty and teaching positions, see cover letter instructions in Masters, Ph.D.'s and Postdocs section. When applying online and limited to uploading one document, you can create a single PDF document that includes both your resume and cover letter.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
Use the cover letter template and planner to get started. When drafting your cover letter, keep the following DO’s and DON’Ts in mind:
- Limit the cover letter to one page if possible, unless applying to academic faculty, teaching or research positions.
- Use the same font and formatting in the cover letter as you use in your resume.
- You might also want to use the same header in both a cover letter and resume. See header formatting examples.
- If providing a printed copy, use the same type of paper for both your cover letter and resume. Resume paper can be purchased at the UC Davis Bookstore or at an office supply store.
- Many tech companies prefer the cover letter not be attached, but uploaded as text in an email with the resume attached.
- Use formal, professional language in a cover letter. This is true when sending your cover letter as text in an email (above point).
- Personalize each cover letter to the specific position you are applying to.
- Address your cover letter to a specific person or the hiring manager whenever possible. If you don’t know their name, use one of the following examples:
- "Dear Hiring Manager,"
- "Dear [insert department here] Hiring Team,"
- "Dear Recruiter, "
- “Dear Search Committee Chair and Committee Members:” (used for academic teaching positions)
- "To Whom It May Concern: " Note, this last one uses a “:” not a “,”
- Check for typos, proper grammar and accuracy.
- Use spellcheck, but do not rely on it to catch all errors.
- Have multiple people review your application materials.
- Make an appointment with an ICC adviser to review your application materials before you apply.
- Unless told explicitly not to, you should always include a cover letter in your application.
- Don’t use text abbreviations or emoticons if you are using email.
- Don’t be too wordy or write just to fill the entire page.
- Don’t submit a generic “one size fits all” cover letter; tailor your cover letter to fit each position. Thus, none of your cover letters will be exactly the same, though a lot of content will be similar in each.
- Don’t repeat or summarize your resume in your cover letter. Instead, focus the cover letter on your enthusiasm for the job, excitement about working with that organization, to highlight unique skills that make you qualified for the position and a good fit for the employer.
- Don’t overuse adjectives or superlatives, especially subjective ones (e.g. “You are the best company in the world” or “I am the most hardworking student intern you will ever meet.”).
- Quantify when possible. "I've helped organize three club events, including two successful initiatives attended by 25 people" is a better descriptor then "I've helped organize several club events, including a couple successful initiatives attended by many people."
- Don’t exaggerate your skills or experience.
- Don’t use UC Davis letterhead, logo, or UC seal in your cover letter. [NOTE: For graduate students and postdocs, some departments allow use of department letterhead for tenure-track faculty applications. Check with your department before using.]