Cover letter tips for new graduates
Fire up your post-college job search with a customized cover letter that shows your passion, potential and motivation. Here's how.
New graduates, you have a good chance of landing a job if you launch an aggressive search. A well-crafted cover letter should be part of this proactive strategy -- experts say that customizing your letter can open doors to new opportunities. Here’s how.
Know the employer
While distributing the same cover letter to every employer saves time, you won’t stand out from the crowd of applicants doing the same thing.
“Research the company, learn about their culture and business needs, and speak directly to those needs, says Kim Mohiuddin, certification chair for the National Resume Writers’ Association and president of Movin’ On Up Resumes, a resume-writing firm in San Diego. “This personalized approach shows that you care about and are qualified for the opportunity.”
Louise Kursmark, co-author of Cover Letter Magic also advises graduates to customize their letters. “Show your enthusiasm and connect your knowledge, experience and career interests to the specific employer and job opportunity,” she says.
Kursmark also suggests customizing not only what you say in your cover letter, but also whom you send it to. “Make a personal connection with someone who works at the company and ask for a referral to the hiring authority,” she says.
What to Include
You might lack real-world work experience, but your cover letter can be chock-full of activities that demonstrate your potential to succeed.
These activities could include “volunteer work, class projects and extracurricular activities, as well as special interests such as traveling or playing sports,” says Barb Poole, president of career-management firm Hire Imaging in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
New grads can also mention a high GPA, school leadership positions and seasonal jobs in their cover letters to stand out, says Betty Williams, a nationally certified resume writer and owner of BW Custom Resumes.
Williams suggests finding out what skills are important to the employer, then showing how you have used those skills.
For example, Williams assisted a graduate in the tourism field who was applying for outdoor recreation course instructor positions. She included the following in her cover letter to highlight the leadership skills that were vital to the job: “My leadership experience includes serving as a backpacking trip leader for an on-campus club that coordinated outdoor adventures. I also designed and implemented ropes programs for community groups of up to 100 participants.” (See a sample cover letter for a recent graduate.)
Communicating that you’re genuinely into the kind of work you’re seeking is key, says Anthony Spadafore, director of Pathfinders, a Washington, DC-based career-consulting firm and coauthor of Now What? The Young Person's Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career.
“Show that you’re walking the walk by how you have already been doing what you want to do,” he says. “If you want to work for a company that builds Web sites, do you have a portfolio of Web sites or blogs that you designed for friends?”
Your passion and motivation for launching your career is a selling point -- this type of excitement isn’t always evident with more experienced workers. “In the cover letter, talk about one or two pertinent examples from your major life choices, lifelong interests, hobbies and passions, with the goal of showing how your proclivities and ideals are aligned with the employer’s projects and contributions to the world,” Spadafore says.
Cover letter format
Your cover letter is not your autobiography -- hit on the key points that would interest employers, but keep the letter short.
“Include a brief opening paragraph that mentions the specifics of the position you are targeting, followed by four to five bullets reflecting qualifications that are relevant to their requirements,” Poole says.
The final paragraph should end with a bang -- clearly state how you would contribute to the employer’s operation, and confidently ask for an interview.
Unsure of your career goal?
Do some career exploration before writing a cover letter. “Hiring managers should not have to figure out how your skills meet their needs -- do that work for them,” Mohiuddin says. If you have more than one possible direction, write different cover letters for each objective.
“As you gain clarity about what you’re good at and most want, you’ll be ready to communicate from a genuine, confident space,” Spadafore says.
Table of Contents
- Executive Cover Letters: General Writing Tips
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
- Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
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1. General Tips for Writing CEO, CIO, & CTO Cover Letters
- Tell your story. Cover letters support resumes by creating a narrative of your work experience. Resumes are designed to detail your previous work experience, whereas cover letters express the reasons why you are suited for your target position.
- Customize your cover letter. You must tailor each letter to your targeted job in order for a cover letter to be effective. Generalized cover letters are easy to spot, especially at the executive level.
- Demonstrate fit. You must persuasively demonstrate that you will fit well into a new company. Do a bit of background research into the targeted company by looking at their products, company culture, and mission statements. If you feel confident in doing so, try to propose a vision for the company’s future.
All letters on this page follow the template outlined in our cover letter writing guide:
SEE ALSO > How to Write an Excellent Cover Letter
2. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Cover Letter
This cover letter is an example of one that could pair with a CEO Resume. (click to view)
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CEO Cover Letter Example
Chairman – Board of Directors
590 Edison Way
Kansas City, MO 64138
With years of success in the industry, I am ready to join Capital Industries as your next CEO. I have a track record of identifying growth opportunities in the cloud computing industry over the past 15 years. I am seeking to leverage my exceptional company management, capital fundraising, and software application engineering abilities in a new challenge. I work well with established, talented teams to spearhead new markets.
As Chairman and CEO of Century Industries, I am responsible for providing the visionary leadership for a $10.5 million technology company offering a cloud-based Platform as a Service (PaaS) for the natural gas industry in the Midwest. My hands-on ability to work with clients in the field resulting in numerous successful partnerships.
Please review a list of my career highlights:
- Co-Founder and President/CEO of CloudOne, a specialized Quality of Service (QoS) Platform using PaaS business model with $35 million in total revenue – negotiated $50 million exit with Amazon Web Services.
- Grew Century Industries personnel from 50 to 250 and delivered revenue growth from $6 million to $10.4 million.
- Expanded market share for Intraserve, Inc. data access service from 30 percent to 45 percent over two years, increasing profit margins by 40 percent, with higher quality services.
I researched into the background of Capital Industries after our initial discussions about the role. With a new market strategy, your engineers and sales teams will be a great foundation to begin creating new products. I am ready to lead Capital Industries to new heights of success.
I look forward to scheduling an interview at your earliest convenience. Please call 479.668.9178 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your consideration.
3. Chief Information Officer (CIO) Cover Letter
This cover letter is an example of one that could pair with a CIO Resume. (click to view)
Click Here to Download Our
CIO Cover Letter Example
Chairman – Board of Directors
Band Information Technology Corporation
2440 North Umbria Way
New York, NY 10005
Years of experience in C-suite roles has prepared me well for Band’s next CIO. I have proven success in business generation, operations management, entrepreneurship, and security in higher education, private industry, and government over the past 15 years. I am seeking to leverage proven technical architecture, IT development, and software engineering abilities in a new challenge.
As CIO of Plainview University, I am responsible for the central administration of technology for faculty members, graduate, and undergraduate schools. I currently oversee a staff of 15 IT managers and specialists with a $10 million budget. During my tenure, I have initiated numerous campus-wide programs that have shaped the entire university’s technological landscape.
Before this, I was CIO for Row Chemicals in Trenton, New Jersey from 2004 to 2013, where I designed reliable and high performing Service Oriented Architecture solutions. From 2004 to 2008, I was CIO of the State of New York, where I oversaw the strategic management and direction of the state’s technology resources and network infrastructure.
Please consider the following career achievements:
- Plainville University: Founding executive director of Plainview OpenCourseWare – the original Massive Open Online Course.
- Row Chemicals: Created enterprise software suite to assist business process flows, event flows, and GUI frames with over $110 million in revenue.
- State of New York: Spearheaded several public infrastructure anti-hacking projects in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.
After our initial discussions about the role, I researched into the background of Band. With an established enterprise product, your teams are ready to spearhead new technical initiatives with your current customer base. Together, we can continue to develop new areas of success and build long term growth.
I look forward to scheduling an interview at your earliest convenience. Please call 718.912.4126 or email me at email@example.com. Thank you for your consideration.
4. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Cover Letter
This cover letter is an example of one that could pair with a CTO Resume. (click to view)
Click Here to Download Our
CTO Cover Letter Example
Chairman – Board of Directors
2705 Homestead Rd.
San Jose, CA 10005
I am confident I will be an excellent fit for TVidia.com’s CTO position. I have proven success in product innovation, entrepreneurship, and product development in video technology over the past 15 years. I am seeking to leverage my data-driven software development abilities in a new and challenging role.
In my current role as CTO for Render, I oversee all product development for our venture-backed startup focused on delivering modern virtual reality headsets, mapping, and simulation products. I determine the overall strategic direction of product development and uphold the company’s position at the forefront of technology by focusing on product content and user design.
Previously, I was Chief Technical Architect and Vice President for Envisio.io, Lead Technical Architect for AdNext, and Founder and CTO of VidEx Networks, Inc. Please review the enclosed resume for further details.
Please consider a few highlights of my career:
- Responsible for delivering 15 products in less than two years with proven revenue growth of over $300 million.
- Delivered numerous training modules and presentations by collaborating with top engineers from Google, the US Army, the Weather Channel, Emirates Airlines, and the USC School of Architecture.
- Responsible for overseeing team to produce world’s first self-editing video using machine learning technology, resulting in numerous patents.
After our initial discussions about the role, I researched additional product strategies for Tvidia.com. As GPU-based deep learning technology develops at breakneck speed, smart camera products and systems are proving to be huge revenue generators. With your world-class engineers and my leadership, together we can continue to develop new products and position TVidia for long term growth.
I look forward to scheduling an interview at your earliest convenience. Please call 605.337.9559 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your consideration.