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Graduate Cover Letter Example

You’re a newly minted college graduate. After years of hard work, you have your diploma in hand and are ready to leap into the workforce. Congratulations! It’s time to get your job applications in order, but it can be a daunting task. Relax! Our graduate cover letter example and writing guide will make it easier to apply for your 2022 dream job.
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Graduate Cover Letter Example
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Congratulations on finishing your college degree! Patience, determination and years of hard work have culminated in this moment of success. Now, it’s time for your next challenge: landing a job, fellowship or other opportunity. 

One of the first tools you’ll need for success as a recent grad is a highly-polished resume and the knowledge of how to write an exceptional graduate cover letter. If you haven’t finished perfecting your resume, we’ve got you covered. Check out resume.io’s tips and tricks in our profession-specific resume examples , templates and general resume writing guide .

Once you’ve got your resume in top shape, this guide will show you how to knock your cover letter out of the park. We’ll focus primarily on the right qualities to convey for entry-level positions and how to beef up your resume when you’re just starting out. Since “recent graduate” isn’t actually an occupation, it’s a good idea to check out our other profession-specific cover letter guides for even more useful tips in your field of interest. This guide, along with an effective cover-letter example will:

  • Explain the importance of creating a knockout cover letter when it comes to landing your first position
  • Outline the details of professional cover letter formatting and provide free examples, samples and templates to work from
  • Teach you how to use persuasive psychology to boost the body of your letter
  • Help you convey the personality traits applicable to entry-level jobs in ANY field.

What is the purpose of a fresh graduate cover letter?

A cover letter for a fresh graduate, also called an application letter or letter of interest, is one of the most commonly requested job application materials. The primary purpose of your graduate cover letter is to work alongside your resume to create a complete picture of personality, experience and strengths as a candidate. 

Whereas a resume has clearly defined sections that are constructed based on your actual education and work history, a cover letter is a bit looser. While this can be overwhelming for some recent grads, flexibility is one of the application letter’s biggest advantages. You’re encouraged to discuss your goals, perspectives and successes and let your charisma shine.

One of the biggest challenges recent graduates face when applying for positions is a lack of concrete or relevant work experience. It can be hard to convince an employer that you have the skills for the job if you don’t have much on your resume to prove it. That’s where an exceptional cover letter can work wonders. A well-organized and deliberate application letter for a fresh graduate lets you highlight the qualities you do have to convince an employer that you’re worth a shot.

A few writing rules

A cover letter is usually between 200 and 400 words long, or the length of one page. Recent graduates often try to make up for a lack of resume experience by writing long, expounding cover letters that dive into every possible corner of their educational journey. Unfortunately, this can be an automatic “out” in the eyes of many employers. 

Instead, focus on creating a strong argument by selecting only a handful of convincing points and carrying these themes throughout the letter. It’s also very important to adhere to the right formatting and font principles when drafting your cover letter. Stick to trusted font styles like Georgia, Calibri, Helvetica and Arial with a size between 10 and 12 points. A whimsical font like Comic Sans might seem tempting, but it’s a big no-go. You can find more details about style in this general cover letter writing guide.

Remember, at the end of the day a cover letter is all about maximizing your chances. Any spelling or grammar errors, wacky fonts or messy formatting will distract a hiring manager from your main purpose and bring down the likelihood of landing the position. 

Expert tip

Do I NEED a cover letter?

We’ve all been there – an online application offers a spot to upload a cover letter, but the description doesn’t specify whether it’s truly a requirement. Technically, you could just upload your resume and move on with your life, right? That would be a big mistake.

If you truly want a position, why would you throw away one of your biggest chances to make a great first impression for success? Unless a posting specifically asks you NOT to submit a cover letter, you should always write and send one. You never know – your letter just might make all the difference when it comes time for a hiring manager to make some decisions.

Statistical insight

It takes the average recent grad three to six months to find a job after graduation. Moving back home with your parents might seem cliché, but a lot of other graduates are in the exact same position. Today’s recent graduates are more likely to be underemployed (i.e. working at a job that doesn’t require a college degree) than they were in 1990, according to the Harvard Business Review. Recent grads are also more likely to be clustered in certain roles, primarily as advertising managers, actuaries, news reporters and law clerks. Add to that the fact that the average starting salary in 2020 was more than $5,000 below that of 2019, CNBC found, and it may look bleak. It doesn't help that hat figure has risen 2.5 percent in 2022, much lower than the rate of inflation, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey.

But there’s also some positive news: More and more students are opting to major in creative fields and fields that interest them. And people with college degrees are much better protected against economic recessions than their degree-less counterparts. This data points to two things: 1. you’re not alone in this potentially confusing post-grad phase and 2. the job search hunt, especially for fresh graduates, takes patience and positivity. A strong cover letter and resume are essential tools to landing not just any job, but the job YOU want.

Best format for a graduate cover letter

The good news is that no matter which field you studied or plan to work in, the format for a great graduate cover letter is roughly the same. While an application letter might seem  structureless, these sections can help you stay on track and make the most of your one-page allowance. 

Plus, these are the sections hiring managers expect to see so you can rest assured you haven’t thrown the employer any curveballs. Key components include:

  • The cover letter header
  • The greeting
  • The introduction
  • The letter body
  • The conclusion
  • The signature

Let’s take a look at each of them, but first, here is a graduate cover letter example to give you an idea of how to write your own letter:

Adaptable cover letter example

Dear Mrs. Lastwell,

As a recently graduated biotechnology major at the University of California, I am excited for the opportunity to work with you at PreGen. My university biotech assignments centered around the food production industry and I firmly believe that technology will help to feed the world of the future.

After leaving with a GPA of 3.8 from Jefferson College, I immersed myself in the academic side of college life. We enjoyed close research links with the local agritech community, and I undertook five separate work placements. I was fascinated by molecular diagnostics and even worked part-time on a project to improve crop yields in Kenya. Your international focus is exactly where the world needs to be focusing its efforts right now.

A junior research associate role with you would provide an ideal starting point. Your track record of developing the brightest of young scientific minds is unmatched in the industry and I yearn to follow in the footsteps of your award-winning agritech magicians.

My education and work experience have combined to give me a solid understanding of laboratory procedures and industry best practice including greenhouse operations and the maintenance of research and chemical application equipment. I saved one work experience employer over $240k by creating a unified operational manual for all employees.

I have spent years immersing myself in the theory of genomics and I look forward to putting my knowledge to use. I enclose a portfolio of my academic research work and have over 20 letters of recommendation from the scientists that I have assisted.

I can’t wait to hear about the potential projects where my contribution may make a difference – an interview to explore the possibilities would be a dream.

Yours sincerely,
Christine Holtz

Copied!

Cover letter header

The header can be one of the most challenging sections for recent graduates. It can be difficult to decide what information is necessary. When mailing a letter, the name and address of the company and date the letter was written are essential. For online applications, including your graduate cover letter, brief is better. 

The more you pack into your header, the less space you have to convince an employer of your unique qualities in the rest of the letter. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of the header in an online application will be to identify the document and keep your contact information at the hiring manager’s fingertips. 

In large companies, an applicant’s folder can circulate within the HR department, making the header even more important. In the past, headers contained the applicant and company address. Now, information like your email, phone number and even your LinkedIn account is much more useful.

Expert tip

Getting creative with your header

In addition to conveying your identifying information, the header also serves a role in the formatting of your document. It allows for some white space so the letter doesn’t start abruptly at the top of the page.

If you want to present an even more polished look, you might opt to use a cover letter template. A template has the advantage of being professionally designed, and can even allow you to align the formatting of your resume and cover letter for maximum visual appeal.

The goal of this section: Identify the document, keep your name and contact info easily accessible and create visually appealing formatting.

Cover letter greeting

As a fresh graduate, you’ll most likely start your career by working your way up from junior level positions. That means you’ll need to use a greeting in your graduate cover letter that is respectful and mindful of the organization’s hierarchy. 

There are some exceptions, however. A growing number of youthful brands and startups are opting for a more familiar tone both internally and externally. In these rare circumstances, it may be appropriate to use a greeting like “Hi” or “Hello” along with a first name instead of the more traditional “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms” Informal greetings often work much better if you’re submitting your cover letter via email. 

The goal of this section: Start the letter off right with a warm and friendly salutation greeting that’s also professionally appropriate for your field and experience level.

Expert tip

When you have a name – and when you don’t

Addressing the recipient by name is one of the best strategies for catching a hiring manager’s attention right from the start of your letter. Many job postings even list the name of the hiring manager or contact person giving you every reason to include it in your letter. 

However, in some large companies or organizations hiring is done by a large team and it may be impossible to figure out who will be reading your letter. In this case, you might have to opt for a general greeting like “Dear XYZ Company Hiring Manager.” “Team” can also be a great non-specific word to use when a name is not an option.

After a few minutes poking around the internet searching for the hiring manager’s name, you might be tempted to throw your hands up in the air and go with “To Whom It May Concern:” However, this greeting is not just impersonal, it feels outdated and even cold. Using the company name, even in a general greeting, conveys that you are a human being speaking to other real people.

Cover letter introduction

Getting your graduate cover letter introduction off to an attention-grabbing start is one of the best things you can do to set your application up for success. By using a personal anecdote, emotive sentence or definitive statement, you’ll be miles ahead of candidates who opted for “I am writing to inquire about your recent vacancy for…” 

You get the idea – if you haven’t already fallen asleep. 

One of the biggest advantages a company gains when hiring recent grads is the creativity and innovation that comes from young minds. Simply put, a boring introductory paragraph introduction is selling yourself short. Convey your personality, spunk and unique qualities, just make sure to keep the tone professionally appropriate for your field and prospective employer. 

The goal of this section: Introduce yourself in a unique and exciting way, set yourself up for success in the body section.

Adaptable cover letter introduction example

Dear Mrs. Lastwell,

As a recently graduated biotechnology major at the University of California, I am excited for the opportunity to work with you at PreGen. My university biotech assignments centered around the food production industry and I firmly believe that technology will help to feed the world of the future.

Copied!

Cover letter body (middle part)

The body section of your graduate cover letter is the meat and potatoes. It should provide enough detail that the hiring manager feels satisfied after reading it, but it should also leave them wanting to get in touch to take the conversation further. 

What you choose to highlight in the body of your cover letter will depend somewhat on the most desirable skills and experiences in your field. However, a good strategy is to use the STAR/CAR method (Situation, Task, Action, positive Result) to convey your successes in previous work experiences. As a recent grad, you’ll likely need to talk about your previous internships and on-campus experiences. Focus on the most professionally-relevant activities and responsibilities to convey just how transferable your skills are. 

There are some skills that are applicable across entry-level jobs. The ability to take feedback and learn from others and your mistakes is invaluable in any job. Depending on the position, teamwork may also be of the essence. 

The goal of this section: Use anecdotes and examples of your strengths and skills, as related to your field, to highlight your professional competence. Prove that you have the right personality traits to be a good listener, quick learner and great team member.

Adaptable cover letter middle part example

After leaving with a GPA of 3.8 from Jefferson College, I immersed myself in the academic side of college life. We enjoyed close research links with the local agritech community, and I undertook five separate work placements. I was fascinated by molecular diagnostics and even worked part-time on a project to improve crop yields in Kenya. Your international focus is exactly where the world needs to be focusing its efforts right now.

A junior research associate role with you would provide an ideal starting point. Your track record of developing the brightest of young scientific minds is unmatched in the industry and I yearn to follow in the footsteps of your award-winning agritech magicians.

My education and work experience have combined to give me a solid understanding of laboratory procedures and industry best practice including greenhouse operations and the maintenance of research and chemical application equipment. I saved one work experience employer over $240k by creating a unified operational manual for all employees.

Copied!

How to close a recent graduate cover letter (conclusion and sign-off)

You’ve written the bulk of your letter, but how do you close the letter professionally? You want to be memorable without making the assumption that you will land the interview. The closing paragraph of your graduate cover letter can be more challenging than it appears. 

As you move through the body section, think about how you’ll bring your themes back together in a way that leaves a hiring manager feeling optimistic and confident about your abilities. Then, it’s time for the call to action. This writing technique invites a hiring manager to get in touch and continue the conversation. Your tone should be respectful and polite, but also approachable and friendly. The call to action should be a natural extension of the rest of the letter. “Sincerely,” “Best regards” or simply “Best” are some of the most popular sign-offs that can work with a variety of situations or companies. 

The goal of this section: Create a natural and friendly call to action that entices the hiring manager to get in touch, close the letter with an appropriate good-bye.

Adaptable cover letter example of the conclusion & sign-off

I have spent years immersing myself in the theory of genomics and I look forward to putting my knowledge to use. I enclose a portfolio of my academic research work and have over 20 letters of recommendation from the scientists that I have assisted.

I can’t wait to hear about the potential projects where my contribution may make a difference – an interview to explore the possibilities would be a dream.

Yours sincerely,
Christine Holtz

Copied!

Writing psychology – cover letter tools and strategies

Getting the tone right

As a recent graduate in any major, you’ll want to express a few key personality traits that will make you a valued coworker across the board. 

  • Trustworthiness: younger coworkers often develop a bad reputation when they can’t keep office gossip or even private work-related information to themselves. Highlighting your professionalism when it comes to demeanor and speech will build trust with a hiring manager right from the start.
  • The ability to receive criticism: A junior employee who can not only take feedback well but implement it into their future performance will rise quickly through the ranks. If you can, show how you managed this in previous positions and how it led to even better outcomes.
  • The right balance of confidence and humility: This is one of the trickiest parts of writing your first cover letters as a fresh graduate. You don’t want to brag but there’s no point in being so modest that a hiring manager can’t figure out the benefit of having you at their company. Assert yourself as a leader and hard worker who’s also willing to learn.

The laws of specificity

In their book, “Made to Stick,” brothers Chip and Dan Heath discuss the principles and strategies behind ideas that linger in our minds. These principles have a variety of applications and purposes, including in marketing, writing and persuasion. One area where recent grads struggle when crafting a convincing cover letter is credibility. With limited years of hands-on experience, how can a hiring manager be sure you truly have the skills for the job? That’s where the Heath brothers’ principle of specificity comes into play. Hiring managers know that it is much easier to write sweeping statements about your personality traits and perspectives than it is to show solid facts about how you initiated and effectuated a positive change. 

That’s why specific examples, quantifiable statements and concrete numbers give you the best chance of impressing a hiring manager and landing an interview. Specificity doesn’t just have to come in the form of results. You can also use this principle, for example, in naming an industry-leading company you interned for. You might include the size of a team you led,  the name of the published project you worked on or the location of your foreign language training. A sprinkling of the most relevant, specific details helps you make up for the credibility you might lack as a recent graduate and keeps a manager interested in what you have to say.

Recent graduate cover letter common mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Some good news: The more cover letters you write, the easier they get. You can give yourself a leg up on other recent grads by checking out these cover letter tips: avoiding these common pitfalls:

  1. The one-size-fits-all letter. Every company and job opportunity is a unique opportunity and your cover letter should reflect an understanding of this fact. What’s more, hiring managers are hardly fooled when candidates simply swap out one company’s name for another without tailoring the content of the letter. While you might create a basic letter to work off of, you’ll need to make sure you customize each letter for the specific position, using skills and information from the company website and job description.the exact skills needed for the job at hand.
  2. Generic and fluffy wording. Hiring managers know that you’re a recent grad. It’s no use trying to cover up that fact with elevated language that boils down into nothingness. Plus, no one ever said you shouldn’t have a personality. Proofread your As long as your grammar and spelling. As long as there are no typos is correct, it’s OK to be yourself.
  3. Too much or irrelevant information. If you don’t know what to talk about when seeking your first job, you might find yourself going a little overboard. Instead, try to keep the conversation friendly, but geared strictly toward your professional experience, activities and coursework and experiences. There will be a time and place for the fact that you developed the university’s first ping-pong club, but your cover letter probably isn’t it.
  4. Formatting errors. It can be tricky to hit the right balance of professionalism and individuality when it comes to cover letter format formatting. Odd or childish fonts can throw off a reader and misaligned formatting can come off as amateur. One way to avoid these all-too-common problems is with a professional formatting tool, like this one from resume.io.

Key takeaways

  1. An exceptional cover letter is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out from the competition by expressing your personality and unique advantages.
  2. It’s important to follow the expected cover letter length and style conventions to present a professional image and avoid taking a hiring manager by surprise.
  3. Numbers, facts and figures can help you build credibility and make up for any gaps in experience.
  4. Don’t try to fight against your recent grad status with fancy wording and eccentric formatting. It’s always a better idea to keep your letter clean, professional and error-free.

Now it’s time to get started on your exceptional cover letter. Land your dream job Get the job done right with resume.io’s professionally designed templates and easy-to-use builder tool . Go out there and win!

Other education cover letters and resumes examples from the same industry:

Need more inspiration before you can start crafting your own cover letter writing and resume? See our related education cover letter examples below.

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