If you’re an undergraduate student writing your first cover letter, this easy advice should help you build a quality letter you can submit to your first job application. Even for undergraduates who are trying to write a cover letter with no experience, these quick tips will help you write a first draft you can use.
What Is A Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a letter you provide along with your resume or CV that introduces who you are and why you should be chosen for this role.
More importantly, a cover letter is your chance to explain how your experience makes you a good fit for the role you are applying for. For undergrads with no work experience, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to explain how your past life experiences have prepared you for the role you are applying for.
How Can I Write a Cover Letter With No Experience?
For most students, not having work experience makes them feel like they have nothing to add to their cover letter.
However, most students who have entered college have a collection of experiences from school, volunteering, or other activities that can make them well suited to the role they are applying to.
Rather than getting nervous about not having work experience, think of experience as the sum of five parts.
Working on a Team
Have you worked with other students in a club on campus? Have you volunteered with a group of people from your community to clean up a local park or plan a fundraiser?
These experiences form the backbone of teamwork, which is what employers are looking for.
Can you put your thoughts together neatly? Is your resume clear and without typos or formatting mistakes?
Having clear written communication is a key skill that you can demonstrate in your cover letter and resume and any follow up emails you send to your potential employer. To make the best first impression, make sure you have someone you trust proof read your resume and cover letter.
Have you worked on a large project and saw it through to the end? Did you work with a school club to raise money to go to a competition or to collect canned food for a holiday drive? Did you volunteer within a faith or community service group to collect clothes or distribute food after a disaster?
Experiences in which you continued working until you saw the final result or goal met can be strong examples of how you see a project through to the end.
What projects have you completed with clubs or community programs where you’ve accomplished a goal by a deadline?
Most students have experienced working toward to deadline and meeting it. These experiences can prove useful to talk about as ways you have followed through in the past.
Similar to how you write, are you able to hold a polite conversation with those you work with and those around you? This is a skill that is often shown during your interview, but you can also highlight this in your cover letter by talking about projects where you worked with people of different ages – like volunteering within a hospital or nursing home.
How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?
A cover letter is just an introduction to you and your skills. You should aim to keep your cover letter at a one page length, using size 11 or 12 font.
Do not make the mistake of making your cover letter text too small to read to fit in extra details.
How do I Format My Cover Letter?
A good cover letter starts with your contact details at the very top, followed by who the letter is addressed to with their company information. Most word processing programs (like Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages) have formal letter examples that can help you to include each of these formal components in the letter.
Following the contact details and addresses, you can address the letter to the person you are applying (e.g. Dear Dr. Morgan) or to the title of the person posting the job if you are unsure of their name (e.g. Dear Hiring Manager).
Your first paragraph should then cover the job you are applying to, who you are, and that you are excited to apply.
Your second and third paragraphs should then share your skills and how you have demonstrated them. Importantly, make sure to only highlight skills that you think will be used in the job you are applying for.
The final paragraph should then restate your confidence in your ability to succeed in the job you are applying for and an invitation to contact you.
You then end the letter with a closing sign off (e.g. Sincerely) and your name.
Can You Show Me An Example Cover Letter?
Sara T. Student
123 Main Road
To: Dr. M. Antoinette
756 Best Avenue
Dear Dr. Antoinette,
Please accept this letter expressing my interest in the Laboratory Assistant position. As a second year psychology student with a keen interest in applied models of behavior, I am especially excited for the opportunity to work alongside experienced researchers.
During my time at the University of Forever, I’ve had the honor of building a program of community outreach as part of the University of Forever’s Psychology Club. In my role as Community Outreach Coordinator, I’ve designed and implemented a University wide personal hygiene donation system that has distributed items to three community partners combatting homelessness in the greater Cityville area. Through this experience I have built lasting relationships with leaders at Community Partner X and Community Partner Y whom can speak to my dedication and desire to build positive relationships within the community.
While completing my studies, I have also had the opportunity to work closely with members of my Introduction to Laboratory Science class to learn the fundamentals of laboratory science. While working under the direction of Dr. Example in this laboratory, I was able to successfully pitch a study, administer a test battery, and report and interpret data related to high school achievement and personality type. My success within this class has led to my acceptance into Dr. Example’s advanced research course and I aim to use the insights gained in this class as the basis for my future senior thesis.
I believe that my experiences with community outreach as well as my participation in academic research have built a foundation of skills that are well suited to work as a Laboratory Assistant. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how I can contribute to your team and learn from your experience.
Sara T. Student
What Else Should I Know Before Applying?
Before applying to your first job or graduate school, you should keep in mind that information about you is already available on the internet. Before submitting your application, you should be sure to review our tips for your social media to make sure you are putting your best foot forward.
Writing a cover letter as a student without work experience can be intimidating, but we hope that this has helped explain the process. At the Balkhi Foundation, we aim to level the playing field through education and we hope you found this resource helpful.