If an employer requests a CV to apply for a graduate job vacancy you should always include a graduate cover letter. What’s this? Well, this is your opportunity to introduce yourself and explain your suitability for the role - preferably on one A4 page. You must take time over this document and adapt it for each role because this is your one and only chance to impress, so make sure that it is immaculate. With over 80 applications per graduate job, creating a compelling cover letter married to a tailored CV should increase your chances of going onto the next round.
In order to create a successful cover letter the advice below should to be taken into account for each job you apply for. Not to mention, getting into this frame of mind will make tailoring your CV a lot easier. So if you’re wondering how you can go the extra mile, show you are the person for the job and beat the competition, then think about these five key successful ingredients below:
1) First impressions count
It’s not an option to just send a CV – a cover letter is mandatory – and a great opportunity to sell yourself so use it! The first impression you make is key, and firstly you should pay attention to the layout. Make it easy to read so no more than 3-4 paragraphs. Remember selectors spend less than 40 seconds scanning cover letters and CVs, so good presentation is vital. Use a business typeface like Verdana and keep the font size no less than 10. (If your handwriting is neat maybe consider this for your letter as this is a really good way to stand out plus it can be posted which add to its impact as no-one posts anything anymore!)
2) The Job Reference number
An obvious one but sometimes overlooked. A reference number is there for a reason so make sure it is bold and clear to see, otherwise the employer won’t immediately recognise which job you are applying for. If there isn’t one refer to the job title or scheme. If you are applying speculatively then leave this out as your tailored letter will take a different tone. After all, you are asking them to create a job around you so you better have done your research!
3) Addressed to a person not Sir/Madam
You need to have your cover letter read by the selector not a junior so, check before who this person is by looking at LinkedIn or calling the reception. It is a basic marketing rule that you must personalise your message to the correct addressee. It shows you have made the effort and done the research - It’s the little things that count, right?
4) Mention where you saw the job advert
This is important for the recruiter to know as they will record how all the applicants came about and they will be able to trace it back to certain marketing initiatives and see if it was money well spent. An appropriate place for this ingredient is in the initial opening lines.
“I wish to apply for the post of Graduate Retail Management Trainee as advertised in the Manchester Evening News on 27 October 2011. At present I am completing an honours degree in Management and French at the University of Manchester.”
Reiterating this will keep you focussed on the purpose of your cover letter and the role that you are trying to secure.
5) The middle paragraph is the most important
Get this right and you can guarantee a call. Before this you’ll have your introduction stating why you are interested in the role, and after, in your concluding paragraph you’ll finish positively by looking forward to an interview. Therefore, the middle paragraph is the heart of your cover letter. This is where you summarise and highlight your skills, qualifications and major accomplishments - the essence of your suitability. Pay close attention to the job description so you know precisely what skills to talk about, bearing in mind that you are not repeating what is already on your CV. Most importantly, explain why your qualifications and the job requirements are a good match to fit the role.
6) End with a call to action
Finish off your cover letter by saying you look forward to hearing from them and will call during the next 10 days for their response to your application. This shows your enthusiasm and reiterates your interest in the role. It leaves the door open to make another impression on them with a phone call.
Finally below is a check-list of some of the important dos and don’ts of a cover letter. Make this your check-list and use it before hitting send!
· make your graduate cover letter tailored to the company and to the role.
· make it concise.
· make it persuasive and eye catching.
· proof read. Read it once then read it repeatedly. If possible get someone else to read it for you, this will ensure you catch every little typo or grammatical error.
· use an appropriate format; it must look professional i.e. for business purposes.
· make it generic.
· waffle! Think about what is relevant to the company and particularly the actual position/role.
· make it more than one side of A4.
· leave errors that will make it easy for the company to reject your application.
· forget to put the address of the company at the top of the cover letter and to sign it with you name. It is a formal letter so it must be in the correct format.