How to Write an Entry-Level Cover Letter
Don't underestimate the importance of your cover letter. It may be for an entry-level position, but it's the first thing employers see and evaluate. If you take the time to write a custom letter, it will showcase your writing skills and your ability to organize your thoughts. A well written entry-level cover letter creates a positive impression and makes it more likely the employer will read your resume.
The format for an entry-level cover letter is the same as a typical business letter.
First is your contact information (name, address, phone number(s) and email address. (Exception: If you're sending an email cover letter, your contact information should be in your signature.)
Next is the employer contact information. If you have a contact person, be sure to include their name. If you don't, you can use a general salutation like “Dear Hiring Manager.” If the name you have isn't gender specific, use both the first and last name in the salutation. Address women as “Ms.” rather than “Mrs.”
The body of your letter will have three distinct sections.
The first paragraph should identify the specific job posting you're responding to. If you were referred by someone, and you've gotten their approval to use their name, do so.
The middle paragraphs should show the hiring manager why you would be a good match. List the job requirements from the posting, and identify your corresponding talents and accomplishments. Analyze the skills required, and mention those keywords, where appropriate, in your cover letter. You want to project strong interest and knowledge about the position. Skills and experience that pertain to the position should be included along with volunteer experience, related classes or extracurricular activities.
An entry-level cover letter, while still a business letter, is more personal than your factual resume and can enhance your image in this critical and hopefully positive first impression.
The concluding paragraph should reiterate your interest in the position and include how you plan to follow up. You can also mention that references are available upon request. And don't forget your manners. Always say thank you for their time and attention.
Common entry-level cover letter mistakes.
Grammar and/or spelling errors tell a prospective employer a lot about you and it's generally not good. If you want them to read your resume, they need to be impressed with your cover letter. Spell check doesn't catch everything. Read your letter out loud. Ask someone else to read it before you send it out.
Don't send a generic letter. You need to be specific about the job, the requirements, and your corresponding skills. With a generic letter, you run the risk of addressing it to the wrong person or referencing the wrong company. Employers know junk mail when they see it.
Clear communication is critical at every stage.
The impact of a cover letter cannot be stressed enough, yet writing it can create its own kind of stress. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. For additional help, including templates, samples and guidelines, take a moment to visit LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder. It will walk you through the steps to create a finely crafted letter that will compliment your skills and professionally introduce your resume to the hiring manager.