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The Ultimate Cover Letter Guide: For Students & New Graduates

There’s only one thing more stressful than writing a resume: writing a cover letter.

What do you write? Who do you address it to? How much humble-bragging does it take to get you hired? And, who even reads cover letters anymore?!

Stitch meme

Well, while the jury is split on that last one, regardless of how many people read cover letters, you should still know how to write one that would get read.

Think of your cover letter as a leveled-up elevator pitch, but in written form. If you were on an elevator with the hiring manager of a company that you REALLY wanted to work in, what would you say?

Not sure?

Here’s a Cover Letter Template – Oliv to get you started!

Don’t treat your cover letter like your resume

First of all, cover letters and resumes are two very different things. Your cover letter should not run simply regurgitate your resume with a few extra words here and there. Your cover letter is your introduction to the people you want to hire you, while your resume is a list of the reasons why they should.

Your cover letter isn’t about you, it’s about them.

And your cover letter shouldn’t be a letter.

Confused? Let me explain.

When the HR team begins to put together a job description, they start by listing out the problems that need solving, the services they need filled, and the areas where they need extra support. Your cover letter is your chance to explain why you’re the right person to provide those solutions, services, and support.

How can you help THEM, how are your skills what THEY need, how can you make THEM better. You see where I’m going here?

Gone are the days when a cover letter was a real letter, beginning with the date and recipients details in the top left corner. A modern-day cover letter is just included in the body of your email to the HR manager, not attached as a separate file.

Great, so let’s get writing…

Wait, did you read the job description?

This is the most important step when it comes to applying for a job. A job description is an insight into the company you’re applying for, their corporate culture, what they need and the type of employee they’re looking for. Read it carefully.

Read it two or three times if you need to, because every cover letter needs to be personalised, so if you aren’t mentioning their actual needs in your letter, it means you aren’t the person they’re looking for.

Now, onto the writing….

It doesn’t need to be an autobiography

If you’ve read the job description then you know what the company needs, and the next two paragraphs’ should address these. You do not want your cover letter to be more than a few paragraphs long, and certainly no more than a page. Aim for somewhere around 250 words.

Don’t over formalise or complicate addressing the employer

If you haven’t been given a specific person to address in the job description (a look at their website or a quick call doesn’t release that information), then simply don’t address your cover letter to anyone. It’s a bit odd at first, but you’ll get used to it.

A good intro will mention your name, your position (in your case fresh graduate) and the position you’re applying for.  It’s also nice to include where you heard about the position if you can.

Leave the college metrics at college

You’ve already mentioned the name of your university, your GPA, and any relevant coursework/classes on your resume, so you don’t need to repurpose that information here. The only exception is if you’re using specific parts of that information to detail how you have relevant experience and skills that are needed for the job you’re applying for.

Showcase your passion and be creative!

Depending on the company you are applying to, adding a bit of creative flair and personality into your cover letter may just land you that dream job. HR managers read through hundreds of boring cover letters every week so make yours stand out. Tell the recruiters why you want to work for their company out of all the others.

Align your experience with the requirements of the job

If the company says they’re looking for someone who can:

“Assist in the creation of email campaigns, online promotions, etc.”

Then actually mention times you’ve done just that, be it a project as part of your coursework or from a previous part-time job or internship. This shouldn’t read like a line from your resume, but rather an anecdote from your past.

“While studying for my degree I was involved in a large group project that required the creation of an email campaign to selected businesses. This was an exciting project, and one that I enjoyed working on because I learned a great deal about formal business writing and how to streamline what can often be a lengthy or overly-complicated process. My group achieved an A in this project, due to our personable style and the feedback we received from the recipients of our emails, who greatly valued our interactions. I look forward to using these skills to help SALESforSALEs Inc. achieve its goals.” 

See, you’ve not just highlighted a specific skill you have, you’ve mentioned how it can help them. This is what potential employers want to read in a cover letter.

Finish strong

Some sites may suggest telling your potential employer that you will call them on such and such a date to follow up.

Don’t do that. People are busy, and, especially in the UAE, recruitment can take some time. Nobody appreciates someone hounding them. Some people might tell you doing that is “proactive,” when in actuality, it’s just annoying.

If you don’t hear back in a a couple of days, send a follow up email, but just make sure you actually are available for when the employer gets in touch!

call back meme

Ok, maybe writing a cover letter isn’t the worst part about applying for jobs…


  • Faizan Ali

    The article is great, gives a thorough insight about writing a simple yet outstanding cover letter.

  • Mohammed Mortada

    Thanks for the free, valuable and up-to-date guidance !