When it comes to job searches, your first impression is everything. Some people can use their stellar reputation to attract attention–but what about the rest of us? Enter: the cover letter, a time-honored tradition that addresses your potential future employer directly.
Many entry-level job applicants struggle to write the perfect cover letter even in the best of circumstances. They recognize the important role that the cover letter plays in their effort to capture the hiring manager’s attention, but aren’t always sure how to accomplish their writing goals. That effort can be even more of a struggle when they have no real work experience to include in their resume.
How do you write a cover letter with no experience? While that can be a challenge, rest assured that you, too, can write a compelling, convincing, and effective cover letter with no work experience.
Who might need this type of cover letter?
There are many applicants who find themselves wrestling with this problem at the beginning of their careers. We all start somewhere. And while there was once a time when it seemed like almost all young people spent at least part of their youth with a part-time job or two, these days it’s more and more common for high school and college graduates to leave school without ever having worked a day in their lives. They all need to know how to write a cover letter with no experience to land an entry-level job.
This also goes for people changing careers who may not have any relevant experience to the position they’re targeting.
The three basic elements of your cover letter
Even though it’s an entry-level cover letter, no experience doesn’t necessarily mean that candidates can skimp on details. There are certain basic elements that must be in this letter, and they are like those found in any cover letter:
Basic contact information – This includes your name, email address, and a phone number that can be used to reach you. While formatting can vary, it’s common to place this information at the top of the page, on the right side of the document.
The company information should go on the left side of the page, and should include the company name and the name of the contact person. If you can’t find the name of a contact person, head over to our post with advice on how to address a cover letter.
You also need a reference line, to define the topic – such as “RE: Application for Office Manager Position”
The body of your cover letter should be relatively brief, containing roughly three paragraphs:
You need an opening paragraph to introduce yourself to the hiring manager.
The second paragraph should be used to showcase all the skills and qualities that match those needed for the job.
Your third paragraph should detail how those traits make you the best candidate for the job.
You can close with a wrap-up that tells the hiring manager that you’ll be following up soon. That can be as simple as “I’ll try to contact you by phone on Wednesday at around 3:00 PM to follow-up and hopefully schedule an interview. I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss the job in more detail then.”
Keep the cover letter length at around half a page to 2/3 page long–hiring managers don’t have time to read through a novel with your job application!
Writing a cover letter with no experience
Paragraph 1: the introduction
Introduce yourself to the employer in one or two sentences by explaining who you are, which job you’re applying for, and how you learned about it. If someone referred you to the job, feel free to mention that (if you’re already using LinkedIn, that can be a great place to get these types of job referrals). For example,
“My name is Sarah and I’m a recent graduate from the University of Southern Alabama. I learned about your company’s job opening for an XYZ operator from Smith Smithington on LinkedIn. I’m very interested in applying for that position, and am confident that I have the requisite skills and characteristics that your company is seeking.”
Paragraph 2: your skills
The next paragraph is critical. For your cover letter, no experience is available. That means that you need to focus attention on the relevant skills that you possess that can make you a good candidate for the job. There are several different things that you can include here:
Personal characteristics and strengths that demonstrate that you can thrive in a professional environment
Coursework and volunteer experience that may have given you an opportunity to showcase your talents
The soft skills that you possess that can be transferable to the job at hand
Actual achievements that are relevant to the position.
When developing this paragraph, be sure to refer to the job posting. You should have already selected various critical keywords from that posting, so make certain that you use them in the letter when discussing your strengths.
If they used the words self-starter, then try to identify an achievement that demonstrates that quality in your own life – and use the same term when describing that accomplishment. For example,
“I note that the position requires someone who’s not afraid to take the initiative in group project settings. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to be a self-starter, and have personally launched major website endeavors for our USA band fundraising activities and campus book drives. In both efforts, our groups raised funds that exceeded the respective target goals by 50% and 63%.”
If you can do something similar with your other skills, you can lay the groundwork for that all-important third paragraph. This connects the dots between your skills and the employer’s needs.
Paragraph 3: the sales pitch
The final paragraph should be the functional equivalent of your elevator pitch – encapsulated in one powerful sales pitch. Try to tell very brief stories that demonstrate why you’re the right person for the job. For example,
“My organizational skills have also been put to the test in other real-world settings, as when I worked on the Mayor’s campaign and helped assemble her get-out-the-vote effort. During my high school career, I took the initiative in developing the sales campaign used to fund the purchase of new equipment for the basketball team, and subsequently organized the city-wide sales effort to fund our trip to the state tournament.”
Finally, don’t forget to add a call to action asking the hiring manager to call and schedule an interview. You should also thank them for their consideration.
Let’s see how that looks when you put it all together.
Cover letter with no experience example:
We have some industry-specific cover letter examples you should check out, too!
When you’re trying to put together a cover letter with no experience, it can be a real challenge to convince HR managers that you have what it takes to handle his company’s job. Always remember, though, that you have skills and personal characteristics – as well as a history of accomplishments outside the workforce.
By learning to highlight those strengths, you can still create a cover letter that can help you get that all-important interview. Of course, if you’re looking for truly professional cover letters that can help you get noticed, we’re always here to help.
Good luck with your job search!
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.
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