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9 cover letter tips if you don't have experience

Job seekers, especially first-timers, tend to underestimate the importance of cover letters. They think that the resume is what ultimately influences their successful hiring, so they pay less attention to writing their cover letters.

After all, recent grads tend to treat their resume like an essay or research paper and their cover letter as just the brief introduction to prepare readers for what they will read in the essay proper. No exclusive information is presented in the introduction, only the brief gist of the essay. So, the fact that they use a similar approach to cover paper writing is no surprise.

Nevertheless, this approach is wrong. Here's why: Say you're a busy, experienced hiring manager. You know what information people include in their resumes and can instantly spot when the same information is in their cover letter. Such busy people will be mildly annoyed to read the same information twice. Don't annoy the person responsible for your hiring by being repetitive!

Cover letters aren't an essay introduction, so write them with this guidance in mind:

  • BE ORIGINAL. Each cover letter needs to be unique and interesting. After all, it's your first line of dialogue with a company. So, give it your best shot. Answer the question "Why do you want to work in this particular position in this particular company?"
  • FOCUS ON THE FUTURE. When answering the question above, don't go into detail about how great you are for the position, otherwise you will inevitably repeat your resume achievements. Instead, picture your future in the company and what you're ready and willing to bring to your job.
  • REMEMBER WHAT YOU'VE MISSED ON YOUR RESUME. A resume follows a fixed structure with personal data, training, working experience, some interests, and that's about it. Mention relevant details that don't fit into such categories.
  • GO PERSONAL. An example of something relevant not in your resume is a personal experience that you've had with the company or brand. For example, you could share singing along to the company’s jingle when you were a child and how you've dreamed of working for the company.
  • BE BRIEF. Value your hiring manager’s time and attention. Write only valuable and meaningful information. Keep sentences and paragraphs short so they are easy to skim. Optimum length is three paragraphs or about a half a page of text.
  • DON’T BE OVERLY FORMAL. Strike up a conversational, friendly, yet professional tone.
  • STICK TO THE INFORMATIVE. You don't have to be clever with the opening and finishing line -- just give enough information to hook your reader and motivate them to move on to your resume.
  • BE POSITIVE. No one is instantly 100% competent on the job and companies don't expect you to be. Being human, you have flaws and knowledge gaps. But don't emphasize your flaws with phrases like "Unfortunately, I still lack experience in...", "While I have only done,..", or even "I hope to learn more about..." Such phrases draw attention to your weaknesses and reveal a lack of confidence.
  • QUOTE SOMEONE. Surely you've accomplished a task or performed a job that someone has praised you for, so, let those words of praise speak for you by including them in your cover letter. 
The bottom line: Write a strong cover letter to emphasize your abilities and interest in the employer even if you don't have experience!

Guest post by Charles Ebert. Charles is a career mentor, motivational speaker & human resources consultant with over 10 years of experience in HR sector. 

Charles is a lead expert at Professional Resume Solutions. Apart from career mentoring, he loves photography and football. Find him on Linkedin Twitter, and Facebook.


Thanks, Charles! Like you, WiserU is also a firm believer in making the most of cover letters to dramatically improve your job chances.


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