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. You must take the time to write a letter that is tailored to the company you’re applying to. The extra time you spend on your entry-level cover letter will showcase not only your writing ability and organized thought process, but also your determination to earn the job. A well-written cover letter creates a positive impression and makes it that much more likely for the employer to read your resume. Let’s take a look at how to write an entry-level cover letter.
First, in the upper left-hand side, is your contact information—name, address, phone number, and email address. (Exception: If you're sending an email cover letter, your contact information should be below your signature at the end of the letter.)
Next is the date, and then the employer contact information. This goes directly below your contact information. Always be as specific as possible in your salutation. If you have a contact person, be sure to include their name. If not, 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 to be safe. Address women as “Ms.” rather than “Mrs.” Here's an example:
222 Nace Street / Unit F
NY, NY 10012
May 17, 2016
213 E. 43rd Street
Dear Hiring Manager,
In the first paragraph of your entry-level cover letter, you introduce yourself. You also identify the specific job posting you're applying to, and mention why you feel you’d be a good fit for the role. If you were referred by someone, and you've gotten their approval to use their name, do so. Here's an example:
My name is Gregor McConnell, and I’m writing to express interest in the Assistant Editor position available at CityScape NY. CityScape’s Assistant Copy Editor, Sarah Caldwell, forwarded me the job posting, and encouraged me to apply. I recently received my B.A. in English from Howell University, where my passions for grammar, spelling, and punctuation blossomed and developed to great degrees. My skills in all three of these areas lead me to believe I’d be a great fit for the job.
The second and third paragraphs of your entry-level cover letter should show the hiring manager why you would be a good match. Note some of the key 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 interest and knowledge about the position. Here's an example:
I understand the primary focus of the position to be writing and editing the weekly theater, movie, and live music listings for the site’s Entertainment section. As an intern at Back Stage Weekly, I was tasked with ensuring that the dates, times, and cast details for all Broadway and Off-Broadway shows were accurate and up-to-date. Due to my success with accomplishing this task, I began writing plot summaries for shows in the final two months of my internship.
In addition to my command of the English language, I’m an excellent communicator who thrives in an environment where multi-tasking is a necessity, and making deadlines is of the utmost importance. These skills were sharpened not only at Back Stage Weekly, but at The Observer, Howell's student newspaper, where I served as copy editor during my junior and senior years.
The fourth paragraph of your entry-level cover letter should reiterate your interest in the position, and note a bit of knowledge of the company you’re applying to. You don’t need to reiterate their mission statement, but consider touching on something they do that you like, and that aligns with your interests. Consider mentioning that references are available upon request. And don't forget your manners. Always include a thank you for their time and attention, and remember to sign off with your full name. Here's an example:
Cityscape NY’s goal of providing its readers with thorough coverage of all aspects of New York City life is one I can definitely get behind. I’m excited about the prospect of contributing to the site, and growing my career in the Assistant Editor role. My resume is included for your review, and references are available upon request. Thank you for taking the time to consider me.
Grammar and/or spelling errors must be avoided. If you want the employer to get to your resume, you must first impress with your cover letter. Use spell check, but remember—spell check doesn't catch everything. Read your letter out loud! See how it flows. Consider asking a grammar-minded friend to read it before you send it out, or use an online grammar checker like Grammarly.
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 can spot a generic cover letter in seconds—the chances of your application ending up in a recycling bin skyrocket when you send one out.
Don’t undersell yourself. Sure, you’re going out for an entry-level job, which likely means you’re a bit green when it comes to professional work experience. But this doesn’t mean you should be overly modest in your entry-level cover letter, or worse, negative. Don’t start sentences with “I can’t do this yet,” or “I’ve never done this before.” You must always move in a positive, can-do direction when selling yourself in an entry-level cover letter.
The impact of an entry-level 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.