The ultimate cover letter guide for grads

Posted by Andrew Purchas

Cover letter

What is a graduate cover letter?

A cover letter is like the elevator pitch on not just you as an awesome new graduate or intern but the elevator pitch on why you would be a great fit for the company you are applying for. Put yourself in the shoes of a graduate recruiter who must look at hundred’s or thousands of applications – they appreciate a concise well written cover letter which is a sure-fire way to get into their good graces.

When are they used in the application process?

It depends on the kind of employer that you are applying for. A small employer going through a handful of applications might look at this right away, but in a large graduate recruitment process, it might be the later stages where someone takes the time to read it.

Either way, it can make or break an application and is extremely important as it can be a majot input in to a yes or no decision on whether to keep evaluating your application.

How to write a great graduate cover letter?

We can’t tell you exactly what to write, but we can tell you how the hundred’s of graduate recruiters that we work with assess cover letter’s and what they love guaranteeing you’ll breeze past this step.

Below we’ve put together a handy table to use a check list – if you’re scoring 80 points or less, you’ve got some work to do, ideally you should be aiming for 100%.

LengthDescriptionPoints
LengthKeep it brief but informative. General rule of thumb if between half a page and a full page but never more. The cover letter isn’t to get you a job, just an interview or to the next stage of the recruitment process and recruiters use this as a tool to quickly assess you. If they have to spend too long reading it, it becomes hard to achieve their goal of moving fast.20
UniqueCover letters should be unique for every application. Recruiters can spot a templated cover letter a mile away and if they detect that, more often than not it can go in the rejected pile. They want to make sure that you know exactly what you are applying for and why you are a good match for this specific opportunity. Templated Cover Letter’s can’t achieve this.10
Correct company detailsDo not get the company name wrong! A common error is to address the cover letter to the wrong company through copy and paste errors. It’s a harsh reality but indicates a lack of attention to detail and can sometimes be a deal breaker10
Proofreading and GrammarBasic errors don’t make you look good and are easy to avoid. This step, like getting the details wrong does indicate a lack of attention to detail and is easy to avoid with most word processors having very powerful spelling and grammar checkers10
PersonalisationAdding personalisation to a cover letter goes a long way to showing you are interested, engaged and up to date with both the company and the opportunities available and helps to establish if you are a fit for the company worth pursuing. There are a number of ways that you can personalise your graduate cover letter such as:
  • Current events
  • Team Structure
  • Past, current and upcoming projects the company is undertaking
  • Knowledge of the company's offerings and how it resonates with why you want to work there
  • Why current experience you hold is relevant and matches key areas of the graduate job description
  • Any industry or current employee contacts who have helped your interest and understanding of this role
20
Tone of Language & WordingSomething that can feel un-natural to a graduate recruiter is overly formal or outdated language with such phrases like “To whom it may concern”, “I wish to express my sincerest interest acquiring this position”.

Cover letters should be treated in the same light as if you ran into a senior manager in the lift and you are having a chat to them – formal to a degree but polite with a casual nature.

Read your cover letter out loud to yourself and if it feels un-natural to speak, chances are you are making some easily fixable wording mistakes.

10
Format & StructureWhite space is your friend! Correct formatting and structure of your text is a minor detail but goes a long way to making your cover letter pleasurable to read by flowing naturally. Make sure your:
  • Text is broken up nicely into 2 – 4 paragraphs splitting up key areas nicely with logical spacing
  • All text and font sizes are consistent (a common error seen in copying and pasting text between cover letters)
10
Important Personal InformationImportantly you want the grad recruiter to remember you and not have to hunt for important information such as who you are, what degree you study, location and contact information to name a few.

Make sure that this is separated and highlighted nicely at the beginning of your cover letter.

10

Remember – graduate recruiters are some of the busiest people on the planet when hiring is in full swing due to assessing thousands of applications at a time. Making sure everything you do as part of the graduate job application process helps them get what they need from your documents and application efficiently will go a long way to helping you become a front runner for that dream grad job.


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