The beginning of your job search can sometimes be difficult, especially if you have little or no relevant work experience. Your CV and cover letter are the two things that you need to have ready before you start applying for jobs. The cover letter is often forgotten, but when you are at the beginning of your engineering career, it can make or break a job application.
Your cover letter is in addition to your CV or application, and it is there to provide more in-depth detail on how your skills will be useful to the role. If you feel your CV is getting too long, you can add further information into your cover letter to ensure nothing is missed out. CV’s and cover letters will change and develop as you do in your career, but this article is all about writing a cover letter as a graduate engineer.
Where should you begin?
You should start to focus on what you can do and not what you can’t. At this stage in your career, there is going to be plenty for you to learn, so now is not the time to put yourself down.
Go through your CV, what skills have you written down? Where your CV is there to tell the employer what you can do, your cover letter is there to explain in further detail and show why and where you developed these skills. What do you want from a role? You can use this document to describe your ideal career and how this role will help you get there. It is all about discussing what you as an individual can bring to the job and why you want the position.
If you’re yet to write your CV, I advise going back a step and doing that first. A cover letter is there to aid your CV and give a better insight, so this task will be easier with that as a reference.
Why should I write a cover letter?
The age-old question is ‘why should I write a cover letter?’. Your CV is there to do the talking, so why should I add something that basically says the same thing?
Your cover letter should go into more detail. This allows employers to develop a better understanding about you, your skills and even your personality. Hiring for a role, is more than simply knowing your skillset. They want to know if you will be a good fit for the team, they want to know more about your passions, and it can be a really good conversation starter in any interviews. It also shows that you have gone above and beyond to take the time to write a tailored CV and cover letter for a company. Dedication is very important.
What should I include?
Do your research. Who is the hiring manager? You might like to know who will be reading your cover letter, to ensure you address it to them correctly. (If you can’t find this information out, it’s not a big deal) You can simply address the letter to the employer’s name.
Throughout your cover letter, you should introduce the reader to your personality and your commitment to them. (Which is why it’s important to tailor these documents. Give examples of your suitability to the company as well as the role, if you make a point, back it up. Make references to key requirements they look for and use the job spec to ensure you are talking about valid skills.
Your cover letter is a place that gives you more space to write about anything that didn’t make it onto your CV, but don’t drag it out.
- First paragraph – Your opening statement needs to be informative. Why are you writing the letter? State the position you are applying for, where you saw it advertised and your notice period. A formal introduction, that gives them the information they usually ask for during an interview.
- Second paragraph – Use this space to highlight your experience and discuss how the skills you have meet the requirements of the role you are applying for. Talk about your strengths and how they could benefit the company.
- Third paragraph – Why this company? Talk about what attracted you to this role and why you think this company can help you in your career. Talk about your ambitions, your goals and what you want to learn. Jobs aren’t just about giving your skills; they are about developing yourself.
- Last paragraph - Use the closing paragraph to round up your letter. Reiterate your interest in the role and thank them for taking the time to read the letter. Let them know that you are interested in the next stage and sign your name.
This structure is simply an example of how you can lay out your cover letter. But ensure you are adding in information that is going to intrigue the reader. You want to persuade them to invite you to an interview, so use the job spec to your advantage. You can also include university or apprenticeship experiences; talk about skills you want to learn and focus on the positives. Job seeking as a graduate can be hard, but not impossible. Stay determined and if something isn’t working, change it. Your cover letter isn’t set in stone, you can go back and alter it at any time.