Economy & Jobs

4 Tricks to Writing a Cover Letter (Even If You Have No Experience)

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You just graduated from college, and although you have no work experience, it’s time to go out into the real world and look for a job. There’s just one thing. How do you stand out among the other thousands of recent graduates?

Your cover letter is your chance to tell prospective employers why they should hire you. How do you go about writing a cover letter when your most valuable asset is just yourself?

Here are four tips for writing a cover letter that focuses on the things you have rather than the things you don’t:

1. Play Up Your Personality

If you don’t have job experience to reference in your cover letter, start by highlighting your personality. What unique traits do you bring to the table? Select one or two specific ones you know to be strengths and let the hiring manager know how you’ve used them in the past to your advantage.

Are you outgoing and good with people? Or are you data-driven and analytical? When looking at each job description, jot down an adjective that applies to you after each point. When it’s time to write your cover letter, use those descriptors to showcase who you are and why those traits line up with the job requirements.

2. Your Story’s Your Brand

You’ve said you’re passionate and a hard worker. That’s great. The problem? Nearly every other job seeker will be using these trite tropes as well. How can you back up your words and show they’re more than hollow rhetoric? To make them more than empty letters on a page, flesh them out with stories.

Describe a situation in which you went above and beyond the call of duty. Discuss a time you were enthralled and got involved in the very thing that your prospective employer does. Because you don’t have concrete job experience, stories build your personal brand and explain to a recruiter, who has approximately 30 seconds to determine if you’re worth their time, why they will benefit from bringing you in for an interview.

3. Describe How You Will Solve Their Problem

One of the most common cover letter mistakes is talking only about yourself. It can be perceived as egotistical and turn off your potential employer. What they really want is for you to help them overcome an obstacle. Identifying the issue is as simple as looking at the job description. Is it to make communications run more smoothly or to design a new software program? Whatever it is, your cover letter is the blueprint for how you would solve it. Expound on what you can do; then focus on exactly how you’ll make it happen.

4. Individualize Each Cover Letter

Cover letters are a dime a dozen, so those that clearly relates to the job you’re after will shoot your name to the top. Be sure to address the job title, company, and specific skills you’ll bring to the position. Each post requires something different, so look at the job description to find keywords to parrot back. Employers will show favor to applicants who clearly understand what the job is about, so using their language and expanding on those ideas indicates your competency. If you treat your cover letter with this level of care and precision, it will leave no doubt in your potential employer’s mind as to how you will carry out the job if you’re hired.

Remember, your cover letter should offer a solution to a problem. Show employers how you will be an asset to the company and why they specifically need you. If you do that, your lack of experience will be the last thing they’re concerned about.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and passionate debt fighter who writes at DearDebt.com. She is currently climbing out of $81,000 in student loan debt and is often dreaming of her next adventure. Her work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Rockstar Finance, GoGirl Finance and more. She has her M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU, loves karaoke, is obssessed with the Wizard of Oz, and is a ceviche connoisseur.