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Nailed It! Cover Letter Tips for Recent College Grads


You did it! Papers complete with MLA citations are handed in. Exams are done. Library books are returned. Congrats—you finally completed the hard-won battle of receiving that degree!

After you’ve recovered from all the graduation celebrations and found a place on the wall for your diploma, it’s time to start applying for jobs. Finding your first job in the real world doesn’t have to be a terrifying feat if you’re strategic. Here are some cover letter tips to help get you hired.

Before you hit “send,” don’t forget to run your letter through a paper checker to avoid those “d’oh!” typo moments!

Tailor your cover letter to the job you’re applying for

Sending a generic cover letter to ten open positions definitely saves time, but it won’t impress potential employers. Instead, personalize it! It takes more effort, but it’ll help you stand out in a sea of a thousand cover letters. Hiring managers will notice.

Research (and a little flattery) never hurts  

Who doesn’t love it when their post gets likes? Companies also respond well to attention. If you really want to stand out, research the company you’re applying to and weave something about them into your cover letter. For example, you could look at the company’s website and write, “I am a firm believer in your company’s mission to ‘help people grow well.’ As a student, I lived this by . . .” Or you could say, “I noticed that many of your company’s recent initiatives focus on innovative ways to promote diversity. This interests me because . . .”

Mentioning a specific point about the company and relating it to yourself communicates that you’re someone who’s serious about the company and would fit in. You’ll also be WAY more memorable.

Clearly connect your experience to the job requirements

You’re awesome, we know! But prospective employers may not. Don’t forget to answer the question: What can you bring to the company? Determine what the employer is specifically searching for and write your cover letter to align with those needs.

For example, if you’re applying to a sales position at a company looking for a “go-getter to expand business,” you could mention how you persuaded the university activities committee to allot more funds for you club, or used your networking skills to find sponsors for a new club on campus.

Don’t be shy about echoing words or phrases used in the job description. The person on the other end will appreciate the time you’ve saved them in finding a match!

Remember that experience is not all job-related

Maybe you don’t have the goods to be an executive quite yet, but you still have tons of life cred. If you had an internship, you learned how to work in a professional environment and developed industry insight. If you were a volunteered tutor, you learned how to effectively work and communicate with students of various levels and backgrounds. Or maybe you were part of a club where you developed event and long-term planning skills. Use your list of activities, clubs, groups or accomplishments to demonstrate your skills.

Don’t regurgitate your resume

Your resume demonstrates how you’re technically qualified. Your cover letter can help show exactly how they relate to the specific job, or highlight soft skills that don’t come through otherwise.

Use your recent grad status to your advantage

Being a recent graduate has its advantages. For one, you’re probably familiar with the more recent developments, theories and approaches in your field. You probably also have valuable skills like social media savvy, the ability to work with and visualize data, and even an innovative mindset. Even more importantly, you have energy and drive to get your career started! These qualities are hugely valuable to modern employers. So don’t be afraid to highlight them.

Have someone else read your cover letter

It always pays to have a friend, parent, mentor or someone you trust look over your cover letter and resume before you send it off. Aside from basic proofreading, they can also tell you if you’re underselling yourself, don’t match yourself enough with the job, and provide useful suggestions.

With these cover letter tips in mind, go out into the world feeling confident and ready. Remember, you’ve got a ton to offer! Use what you have and what you already know—they’re your best assets!

If citations are still in your future, try our citing services. You can create an APA reference page, MLA title page, a Chicago style in text citation, a parenthetical citation example, and more with Citation Machine.

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