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Never underestimate the importance of a cover letter.
Although they may not be required for every job application out there, it is an essential skill and you should be able to produce one when required.
They are not just a formality or a way of telling an employer about your hobbies. They may be the difference between you getting – or not getting – the job.
These simple steps will show you how they can boost your chances of getting the job, and how to write the perfect entry-level cover letter.
Why A Cover Letter is so Important
Cover letters are a way of introducing yourself to a potential employer and explaining why you are the right candidate.
In today’s competitive job market, so many entry-level opportunities rely on faceless paper applications in the first stages.
This could be your only chance to make a good first impression, before getting the chance to meet or even talking to someone over the phone.
Some people can waste this opportunity because they don’t know what to write, or because they make easily avoidable mistakes. You need to make it as hard as possible for an employer to pass over your application.
So, when you have the option to submit extra documents – whether they specifically request a cover letter or not – you should include one.
A Cover Letter is a Letter – Write it Like One
An entry-level cover letter should be addressed to the company – make the effort to find out their address and the name of the hirer if possible.
The opening line should say what job you are applying for, followed by neat paragraphs which address different parts of the job specification.
Don’t forget to choose an appropriate font style and size, and save it as a PDF. With little effort, you can immediately appear professional and show an employer you care about the role.
You probably wouldn’t show up to an interview wearing slippers and a T-shirt, and it’s the same principle with a paper application.
First impressions may last only a few seconds, so make it count!
See our downloadable Entry Level Cover Letter Template below to help you get started.
Make every cover letter relevant for the job you’re applying for
Employers aren’t stupid – they know you will be sending out tons of applications, and they can recognize if something has been copied and pasted.
They’ll also notice if you’ve made extra effort to refer to their company or job specification in your cover letter.
This is your chance to show them you care. Do some research on the company, say why you want to work for them, and include details of why you’d be a good fit for the role.
Demonstrate you are the right person by giving examples of when you’ve met tight deadlines, managed a project, or used a specific skill.
You can also include any additional points, such as voluntary experience, side projects, and hobbies that may be relevant.
This may sound painstaking, but once you have written a version you are happy with it’s not difficult to make small changes for each application.
Just think about all the time wasted sending out hundreds of duplicate applications, only never to hear back from them.
Trust me, the small amount of extra time you spend will be well worth it.
Matching your cover letter to the job specification
Companies often have two documents:
– A job description – which outlines the responsibilities of the job and what it entails.
– A person specification – what qualifications, skills, and experiences candidates need to be suited to the job.
You need to address both in your entry-level cover letter. The employer has taken time to outline what they’re looking for, and they want you to respond to this. Make sure you carefully read through and understand the requirements – this is crucial.
Some employers use the job specification as a checklist when reviewing candidates. You can make it easy for them by writing an entry-level cover letter in the same order, so they can score you as they read through.
This will help you stand out, and it will be clear that you have taken the time to read and fully understood their job advert. When reading through hundreds of applications, they will really appreciate you making it easier for them.
Compliment your CV
A cover letter is a good way to flesh out the information in your CV.
You don’t need to explain all of your previous work experience. Describe those which are most important and relevant to the role.
Include extra details of your previous achievements, or occasions where you overcame a problem.
You can also include links to examples of your work. This can be extremely valuable – especially if it helps demonstrate specific skills. Show employers that you can do the job you are applying for.
For help and advice with your CV, read our How To Write An Entry Level CV.
Aim for one page and don’t over-complicate
The best entry-level cover letters are concise, well-written, and easy to understand.
Keeping it to one page helps you to only include the most important information and not ramble on (unless they specifically ask for more – be sure to follow the instructions to the letter! No pun intended…)
Simple words and sentences are always best, you don’t need to use fancy language to impress anyone – just make sure it reads well.
As harsh as it sounds, employers don’t want to hear your life story – they don’t have time.
They don’t want to spend time trying to understand a complicated sentence. If you start to bore yourself writing it, they will be bored reading it.
Make EVERY sentence count
There shouldn’t be any information in your cover letter that isn’t useful.
Once you’ve written it, read it back several times. Ask yourself if any words can be removed or sentences rewritten, and check for correct punctuation and grammar.
Grammarly is a really useful free tool that can help with this.
Avoid repetition. This is more common than you think. If you have said something more than once – even if the points are spaced far apart – try to remove it.
Remember, employers may be sifting through hundreds of paper applications, finding every tiny excuse to reject them. Don’t give them an excuse to want to put yours down!
The one thing people almost never do that can help you get the job is calling a potential employer before you apply for the job. Find out how you can do this and make yourself stand out here.
This is your entry-level cover letter, so make it your own. This is a chance to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through – including details about your background, what led to you applying for the job, or any additional interests.
This can be especially useful if it’s relevant to the role, whether it’s speaking a foreign language, graphic design, or even building robots.
Use these to your advantage, don’t just include for the sake of it, and give yourself every chance that they will remember you.
It’s good to be prepared, find out how in our How To Get The Job article.