How to write a good cover letter – advice for new graduates

Tracy Luo May 22, 2015 3 mins read

It’s that time of the year again – thousands of new graduates are about to leave their universities, and everyone is burning with the desire to get a great job, one that will be admired by everyone.

Writing a good application letter and resume is a stepping stone to successfully landing that coveted job and making yourself stand out in the ranks of the applicants.

In essence, writing a good cover letter and resume is answering the so what question. You have done a lot of things, so what? This is the question that the employers will be asking when processing your application. If you give a good answer to the so what question, then getting an interview is not difficult at all.

Let’s talk about the cover letter first. Usually you can separate it into three different sections.

In the first section, you must explain why you are applying for the job. It is standard for the emphasis here to be put on the training the company provides, its corporate culture, the company’s performance as well as the nature of the job itself.

In the second section, you must make it clear why you are qualified for the position. Take the job description as a reference and select two or three personal qualities you think the company would consider important, and elaborate on them. In addition to listing your outstanding achievements and submitting a glowing resume, you must also add a touch of something original and personal - something that would have the power to move people would be especially suitable here. You can tell a story, in a style similar to writing a letter to somebody close to you, but it must be succinct and to the point, and it must move the reader. After having written it, you must ask yourself the so what question, in other words, how can the company benefit from you having had the experience that you just described? Also, the HR people reading through your cover letter expect to find information which is not included in your resume, and you must avoid giving them the impression of having wasted their time reading the same thing twice.

The third section is where you express your gratitude and leave your contact details. In addition, this is where you should make it clear that you are willing to follow up on your application. Many opportunities come out of having followed up on your application, and, besides, this gives the impression that you are a sincere person and that you really want that job.

There are several things you should be aware of:

There is a standard format for cover letters that you must adhere to. A serious, highly professional firm will want a professionally written cover letter. The content might be very good, but if the format is not proper, such a cover letter simply won’t do. For this reason you, should download a cover letter guide to consult what formats are acceptable. Finally, your cover letter must carry your electronic signature.

I would like to emphasize this point again - you write different things in the cover letter and the resume.

The cover letter must be individually tailored for each company you apply to. Adjusting and making changes to the cover letter is a slow process, you should give it to several people to read through, and then ask them if it actually stands out and is interesting.

Tracy Luo's picture
Associate Director | Finance & Strategy Recruitment
tluo@morganmckinley.com