Cover letters can be a chore to write. A lot of cover letter doubts stem from uncertainty. Questions such as how ‘businessy’ should they be, can you use contractions or should all words be completely spelled out, should a cover letter look like a business letter? stump many. And on top of all those questions, what the heck can the new grad who has no relevant experience, no co-ops, write about!?
Let’s start at the beginning. The cover letter is not strictly business; it is a piece of self-marketing. I know that some schools continue to push a business letter style, but that is fading and you’re not breaking any rules if you don’t stick to this. For my new grad clients I format the cover letter to look like the resume – same design, structure, font, margins etc. That way, I am building a professional portfolio look.
Next, I use language appropriate to both my client and to the position. An engineer grad won’t sound like a marketing grad and the human resource grad is distinct from the finance grad. All will use terminology appropriate to the subject and all will use language that I heard my client use in the fact-finding interview that I conduct with all clients. Sometimes I use contractions! No client goes unhired because his or her cover letter holds a “that’s” rather than “that is.”
For those who have no work history to speak of, no problem! I simply focus completely on their schooling and character. For example, speaking to the role the student played in a team-structured school project or assignment can prove “team player” qualities. It can also include jargon typical of that student’s field. And adding some information related to “dependably meet my project deadlines and haven’t missed one deadline in four years of education” demonstrates a transferable skill useful in the workplace.
There are so many ways to prove that you are an excellent candidate! It’s up to you to find a way around what another person might say is an insurmountable obstacle. (To which I say “nonsense”!)
If you need resources, Cover Letters for Dummies is an excellent choice.
If you need help with finding a way around, New Leaf is here to help. Recently awarded a Master Resume Writer designation, your resume and cover are in expert hands.
- creating masterful resumes and cover letters, Stephanie