Crafting an articulate cover letter is challenging for all job seekers. But if you have little or no work experience, the stakes are higher. It’s more challenging to prove your value when you don’t have a series of professional accomplishments to back up your assertions.
On the bright side, you probably have more to offer an employer than you realize. You just have to package your strengths in an appealing and sensible way. Let’s explore cover letter writing to understand its purpose, structure, and how you can leverage your experiences to date to prove that you’re the best candidate.
How To Write A Cover Letter With No Experience, Step-By-Step:
Why Write Cover Letters Anyway?
The purpose of a cover letter is to complement your resume. You may refer to your resume when writing a cover letter for a job application, but you must expand upon points made in the resume when writing the cover letter. The cover letter should breathe life into the points made in the resume, and create a compelling—or even emotional—narrative around your career hopes and aspirations. It’s your chance to tell your story and show that you have the passion and the drive to come into a job and make a difference.
Step 1: Contact Information
When beginning a cover letter for a job application, start with your contact details in the top left-hand corner of the page. Include your name, city of residence, phone number, and email address. (To preserve your privacy, do not include your physical address). You should also include your LinkedIn URL. Next, write the name of the company you’re applying to, and its city of residence.
Step 2: Salutation
Ideally, you address your reader by name in your salutation. Internet sleuthing may reveal the name of the hiring manager. If you can’t find a name, you have two options: call the organization and ask to learn more about the position, or write “Dear [Company Name]” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Step 3: Introduction
Use this section of your cover letter to introduce yourself and share your enthusiasm for the position. Start with your name and provide some background on your strengths. Always identify the position you’re seeking and how you learned about it. If someone at the company told you about the job, then mention that person’s name (only after asking their permission, though). Aim for one to two sentences in your Introduction—keep it short, sweet, and precise.
Example Cover Letter Introduction:“Hello, my name is Grace Addington, and I’m a goals- and details-oriented civil engineering graduate from Petaluma College. I was excited to learn about the Junior Engineer internship at Bay Area Rapid Transportation through my former classmate Katie Heinz.”
Step 4: Body Paragraphs
Here comes the most critical part of writing a cover letter with no experience. The purpose of your body paragraphs (one to two brief paragraphs, tops) is to prove that you’re the best candidate for the position. Seeing as how you have little or no previous professional work experience to fall back on, you’ll want to place emphasis on soft skills—attributes of a personal nature that say a lot about your work ethic and ability to work in sync with others.
Now your resume likely consists of part-time jobs or school activities or memberships in school associations that maybe aren’t 100% related to the job you’re going after. Look closer, though—you’ve probably garnered skills in these experiences that can carry over to the job you’re applying for. Below are two examples of cover letter body paragraphs that hone in on two key phrases noted in a job advertisement as requirements: “strong interpersonal skills” and “positive work ethic.” You should be able to figure out pretty quickly which example hits the mark.
Example 1:“I am Twig & Twine’s ideal office manager. As my resume states, I served as an RA at my dorm. I know how to manage an array of things.”
Example 2: “You’re looking for a candidate with strong interpersonal skills and a positive work ethic. While serving as an RA at Porter College’s main dormitory, I planned monthly social events for over 200 students, settled two to five student disputes per-week, and mentored a select group of students in Composition. The experience taught me, rather quickly, how to efficiently multi-task, and how to effectively settle conflicts of all types in a calm, level-headed manner. I feel confident stating that I can bring these talents to Twig & Twine’s office manager position.”
The second example takes the duties that likely appeared in the RA position on the resume and then digs deep, illustrating how the tackling of those duties turned into accomplishments, and led the applicant to grow the crucial skills needed for the office manager position.
One last thing about body paragraphs—remember to frame your message around the employer’s needs, and not yours. Focus on what you can bring to the job, and how your talents will translate into success for the company. That’s important in any cover letter, and becomes even more crucial in a cover letter with no previous work experience.
Step 5: Closing
End your letter by reiterating why you’re the best candidate and express your interest once again in the position. Thank the reader for the time they took to review your application. To close, sign off formally. Try “Respectfully yours” or “Sincerely.”
Wait! There Are Two More Steps
First, proofread your document. Read it out loud to catch errors quickly. Ask a trustworthy person to read it as well. Open your mind to constructive feedback. Once the content is finalized, save as a PDF and title it “[Your Name] Cover Letter” to prevent confusion. Voila! You’re done.
About this guest author:
Since 2005, LiveCareer’s team of career coaches, certified resume writers, and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger resumes, write persuasive cover letters, and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free samples, templates, writing guides, and easy-to-use resume-builder software.
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Landing a job is a challenge for many professionals. Landing a job without any experience can be an even bigger challenge.
As a job seeker without any experience, it’s discouraging when you’ve applied for dozens (or hundreds) of jobs and received zero responses from employers. Although you might feel like giving up on your job search, it’s important to persevere and continue writing cover letters that will make you stand out to employers.
Here are some tips for writing a cover letter when you have little or no experience:
First Paragraph: Clearly introduce yourself.
The first paragraph is your opportunity to make a strong first impression on the employer. This section should explain who you are, the position you’re interested in, and how you discovered the opportunity.
[Related: Employers, learn how to get strategic to attract the right applicants by being specific about these 11 things.]
The introduction is also a great opportunity to mention and connections you have with the organization. For example, if you know a previous intern or alumni who worked for the organization, be sure to mention his or her name in your introduction.
“My name is Sarah and I’m a recent graduate from Purdue University. I graduated in December with a B.A. in communications and a minor in marketing. An alumni forwarded me a job posting about your Associate Marketer position at ABC Media Group. I’m highly interested in this opportunity because I’d make a great fit for your agency.”
Second Paragraph: Talk about your relevant skills and accomplishments.
This section is the biggest challenge for job seekers with little or no experience. It’s also the section where many job seekers make mistakes because they don’t know how to highlight their relevant skills and classroom experience.
As you explain why you’re qualified for the position, it’s important to connect the dots with the employer. For instance, if you didn’t have a marketing internship but you’ve gained a lot of marketing experience through a part-time job in student services, you could highlight the communications skills and experience you gained through that position.
“I realize you’re looking for a candidate with strong written and oral communications skills, as well as experience with event planning and strategy development. As an office assistant in Purdue’s Office of Student Life, I was responsible for planning and promoting campus movie nights for students. This project required me to promote the event on social media, send email blasts to students, and design flyers to post around campus.”
Third Paragraph: Highlight your best qualities and explain why you’re a good fit.
Most employers want to hire candidates who are creative, team players, and have strong time management skills. Although you consider yourself a great fit for the position, you need to use examples that illustrate why you’re a good fit for the job. The reality is, simply stating that you have excellent time management skills and a knack for leadership won’t land you a job.
When talking about your qualities, it’s important to talk about real-life examples. The key point to remember here is to make sure your examples are succinct and visual.
“During my final semester at Purdue, I led a group of three students to create a marketing campaign for an animal shelter in Indianapolis. I was responsible for leading brainstorming sessions, communicating with our client, and editing the final version of the campaign. Through this project, I learned how to collaborate with others and work effectively in a team in order to accomplish a common goal.”
Fourth Paragraph: Conclude with a call to action.
The final paragraph is the section that will seal the deal for a job interview. You want to leave a lasting impression on the reader, so make sure your conclusion is confident, upbeat, and encourages the hiring manager to get in touch with you.
“With the combination of my marketing experience and leadership skills, I’m confident I’d make a great fit your this position. Thank you for taking the time to review my application and consider me as a candidate. I will follow up next Wednesday to schedule a time to talk with you more about this position. I look forward to hearing from you soon!”
After you’ve proofread the cover letter and are confident it’s error-free, you’re ready to send it to the hiring manager. Make sure you’ve included a header at the top of the document including your contact information and a shortened URL for your LinkedIn account. Once the document is ready, save it as a PDF and attach to an email for the hiring manager. This will ensure the formatting of your cover letter doesn’t change once it’s downloaded by the recipient.
Just because you don’t have experience doesn’t mean you can’t write a stellar cover letter. By following these tips, you’ll write a cover letter that gets you noticed by employers and land your first entry-level job.
What are your best tips for writing a cover letter without experience?
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