An economics degree does not an economist make. First, you must secure a job in the field. And unlike some other industries, where a more straightforward resume and cover letter might suffice, those wanting to enter economics need to apply special critical thought to their cover letters. Here's how to create a cover letter for fresh economics graduates.
1. Generally speaking, avoiding generalities
"For any job, you should avoid putting general work experience in your cover letter," says Cory Werkheiser, the assistant director of career and professional development at the College of Charleston School of Business. He recommends customizing your cover letter for each job you're applying for.
"Any graduate in economics or finance should be sure to study the employer they're interested in. Then use their keywords and phrases, and match your skills, education and experience to those."
That, says Werkheiser, will help a hiring manager see in you what they're looking for. Start right from the top with a great salutation and an opening paragraph where you present your pitch to the HR manager. You'll want to follow the five critical components to writing a cover letter, in addition to Werkheiser's tips.
2. Be honest
"One time a student I had included that he was bilingual on his resume," recalls Werkheiser. "I said, 'I had no idea you were bilingual.'"
Turns out, the student wasn't. He said he was bilingual because the job description included that as a requirement. This is a classic case, Werkheiser says, of what not to do on your cover letter for an economics job.
"It's very important that your cover letter be accurate and true."
While that's certainly the case in almost every field, Werkheiser emphasizes that it's especially important in economics, which is very data and numbers intensive. Accuracy is paramount to the industry. What seems like a minor stretch of the truth could be a deal breaker if uncovered during an interview.
3. Speak the language and back up your understanding
Incorporate skills and experience that are valuable in economics. Werkheiser says including references to a particular software program or using industry terminology can be hugely beneficial. If you have a special economics certification, it's worth including that in your cover letter as well. Or, if you're planning on getting certified, you could share that you're enrolling in a specific program or certification.
4. Share your bona fides
The body of your economics cover letter needs to contain all your qualifications. For many economics graduates, college includes opportunities for working on research projects, presenting on topics and even getting published. What you lack in work experience you can make up for by showing a hiring manager you have field experience via coursework. That doesn't necessarily mean attaching your thesis paper with your resume and cover letter, but do mention any prior research work and be prepared to discuss it in an interview.
5. An answer to the GPA question
Should the resume or cover letter for an economics graduate include a GPA? Werkheiser has a straightforward guide to this question.
"What I recommend with any sub-3.0 is, you can put it on there if you want or you can leave it off. But either way, be prepared to explain it."
The truth is, some hiring managers don't care what grade point average you earned in college as long as you have the soft skills and the enthusiasm to learn on the job. But if you have a less than stellar GPA, leave it off the cover letter and only address it if it comes up in the interview.
6. Ask someone to proofread your economics cover letter
"The biggest mistake graduates make on cover letters and resumes is turning in something that's been poorly proofread," says Werkheiser. "In economics, missing a decimal point can really alter something. It's a very detail-oriented field. If you send in a cover letter that has errors, that's not going to instill confidence from an employer."
Once you find a job you're ready to apply for, use our Cover Letter Builder to get you one step closer to your first full-time economics job. You'll be able to leverage phrases written by our experts to streamline the writing process and choose from templates and formats to customize your cover letter.