For the candidate with no prior experience for a targeted position, or for someone just entering the workforce, it is extremely difficult to draft a resume when there is no background history to justify that you are qualified for the job. So it is essential to present your interests and background in a way that aligns with the job description from alternative experiences. In this case, it will be beneficial to add accomplishments or skills achieved while in school, in the community or in a prior job that is not related to the current job.
A Cover Letter should typically be one-half page to a full page - no more than 300-400 words. The greeting should begin by addressing the recipient by name, which shows that you have taken time to research the company. This approach also makes the letter more personal. This will be the first impression that you may make with a recruiter, so opening with a personal greeting and introducing yourself and your objective will generate the best results. Choosing specific, concise language will have a better chance of attracting attention. You should have three or four paragraphs separating the ideas you are trying to convey, and include Keywords sourced from the job description in the language of your Cover Letter.
The first paragraph should state your name and identify the specific position for which you are applying. If you were referred by someone, you should add that information, as well, or let the recruiter know how you found this specific position. Then add one or two sentences describing why you are interested in the company, and more importantly, what you will contribute if hired. Because you have no direct experience, it is best to list skills and attributes you possess that exactly match the job description and where you can make a contribution. Reviewing the job description for keywords and matching skills is essential. An example might be:
Dear Ms. Doe,
My name is XYZ and I am writing regarding the position of (Type the exact job title) which you have posted on your website. I was referred by (Name the person) who indicated that you would be the ideal contact in order to pursue this opportunity. My role as class President during my senior year in college provided me with excellent leadership, communication and organization skills. I believe that my enthusiasm, dedication and high ethical standards will make me an excellent candidate for this entry-level role at ABC Company.….etc.
Many graduates looking for their first jobs are often overwhelmed and nervous about the application process, fearing that they have nothing of value to add to their resumes. However,
to the contrary, a recent grad will always have some very good, relevant experience; it just takes creativity and reviewing your academic history and outside activities. Because you have successfully graduated, your education should be the show-stopper, so that the employer can see that you have recently graduated, and have navigated the numerous courses and responsibilities attendant to all academic endeavors.
Then, it is important to write a resume that speaks to what you have learned in school that matches the job description. Writing a strong Career Objective which includes your major and leadership skills, would be a place to start, such as:
With a dual major in World Affairs and Foreign Languages, I am seeking an opportunity within a global organization where I can apply my knowledge and interests in international financial services supporting the economic development of Third World Countries.
As with this example, your Job Objective should appear right after your introduction of yourself. Here you will include a brief description of your qualifications, and the type of job you are seeking. In this way, the recruiter will understand immediately that you are interested in a specific job and will want to learn more about you.
Writing a Cover Letter when you are a recent graduate, or have limited prior work experience, requires creativity and research. Whether you are early in your career, or possibly in a mid-life stay-at-home situation re-entering the workplace, there is always a way to write a Cover Letter to supplement the resume that will attract a recruiter. If you have education, degrees or certifications, those should be highlighted in the first or second paragraph. If there are specific courses, or seminars that you took that will showcase your knowledge of the position, those should also be listed. You should also include a strong GPA, any honors or accolades, even if they are not recent. Community Service activities, volunteering, serving on committees will demonstrate your work ethic, leadership skills, and participation on teams. These are attributes required by all employers.
During your education, you may have worked on academic projects, sports teams or community service activities that have given you valuable skills. Study groups; tutoring; team participation; managing your personal finances, are all skills that you may want to include.
Additionally, you will definitely want to list relevant course work that you completed while in college (or high school). Adding your GPA - if it is good; Honors or Awards; and Technical Skills should also place prominently. Even though you think you have no experience, your part-time jobs during college; participation in a social group, Sorority or Fraternity; helping to organize activities, community service, writing lengthy papers and solving mathematical problems are all examples of experience that will contribute to your viability as a candidate.
Listing your skills are of equal importance. With a focus on the job description, list skills that could be helpful to the new job, such as: Social Media; Computer skills (Word, Excel, PowerPoint); Research; Public Speaking; and Foreign Languages. To enhance the visibility of your qualifications, using bullet points to list specific information will make it easier for the recruiter to scan and assess.
Your final paragraph should restate your enthusiastic interest in their job, and request an opportunity to follow up with a call or email.
Today, most schools and colleges have career counselors and individuals trained to help you with your Cover Letter and resume, and who may be aware of local businesses anxious to hire recent graduates. So seek out all available assistance, and you will be sure to write an excellent Cover Letter and land the perfect first job.