(Last Updated On: 21/03/2017)

Cover Letters for New Grads – An Employer Perspective

As a former hiring manager for a large HR company, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being the one who receives the hundreds of resumes and cover letters submitted for job postings. It was up to me to decide who to bring in for an interview based on these documents, and I’d like to share with you my thoughts from an employer point of view.

A Cover Letter Tells Me You Are Interested

One of the best ways of putting yourself in the running for an interview is to actually write a cover letter! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a resume in response to a job opportunity, with no cover letter attached. You can imagine what happens to those (nothing. Absolutely nothing, other than going straight to the recycle bin!). The act of writing a cover letter tells me you are interested in the position and not simply submitting your information because it’s “one more job to apply for.” Are you really detail oriented like it says on your resume? If you are, you will have taken the time to not only write a cover letter, but to customize it specifically to the job. If you can take the time to do this, it shows me you will pay attention to those important details on the job.

A Cover Letter Tells Me You Can Do Your Research

Have you included information specific to my company? With so much information out there on the web it doesn’t take much to learn just a little about the organization you are applying to. If you take the time to visit my web site and learn about the mission, vision and values of the organization, it speaks volumes. You don’t have to spend a lot of time here, but by including information specific to my company and how it ties to your own interests and values, it tells me you have done some research and want to work here because you think it would be a good fit for both of us. Alignment of values is one of the most important aspects of job satisfaction, and I want to hire someone who will truly engage with the company and enjoy their work!

A Cover Letter Tells Me You Can Sell Yourself

Being a new grad means that you may not have a lot of formal experience. That’s okay! I know you are fresh out of school, looking for that experience to add. Success in the working world depends largely on your ability to showcase your unique talents. A cover letter gives you a chance to expand on the skills you may have outside of your formal work or school experience. For example – do you have volunteer experience? Have you organized a family reunion? Planned a community event? Tutored a neighbor? A cover letter is your chance to highlight these things, especially if the skills are relevant to the job you are applying for. Take the time to really think about all that you offer. If you struggle with this, ask your family and friends, “What are my strengths? What am I good at?” It’s easy to overlook things that we enjoy doing.

A Cover Letter Tells Me You Can Write

Communication is key in the workplace. You may not be an English major, but you’d be surprised at just how much writing is involved in the work world. Emails, reports, status updates, project plans…they all require strong writing skills. Cover letters are a chance for you to show off these skills. If you’re not comfortable or struggle with writing, you can research examples of cover letters online and ask friends to proofread.

And finally…

A Cover Letter Tells Me You Are Excited to Work Here

An employer posts a position because they need help. Are you the right person to provide that help? More than that, do you WANT to be that person? It’s easy to apply for jobs because you need the money and you need it NOW. But have you taken the time to determine if the employer’s environment is the kind of place you really want to be? More than internet research, do you know anyone that works there who can give you a “behind the scenes” taste of the culture? After doing all of this research, are you truly excited about the possibilities? Let it show! Relaying the enthusiasm you feel for the job is not a bad thing!

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Erika is a career development professional with over 15 years of experience in both corporate and higher education settings. Her current role is Assistant Director of Career Education at a private university in Chicago, Illinois. She also works with individuals on strengths discovery, interviewing skills and networking. She can be reached at careerplayground (at) gmail.com

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