Crafting an articulate cover letter is challenging for all job seekers. But if you have little or no work experience, the stakes are higher. It’s more challenging to prove your value when you don’t have a series of professional accomplishments to back up your assertions.
On the bright side, you probably have more to offer an employer than you realize. You just have to package your strengths in an appealing and sensible way. Let’s explore cover letter writing to understand its purpose, structure, and how you can leverage your experiences to date to prove that you’re the best candidate.
How To Write A Cover Letter With No Experience, Step-By-Step:
Why Write Cover Letters Anyway?
The purpose of a cover letter is to complement your resume. You may refer to your resume when writing a cover letter for a job application, but you must expand upon points made in the resume when writing the cover letter. The cover letter should breathe life into the points made in the resume, and create a compelling—or even emotional—narrative around your career hopes and aspirations. It’s your chance to tell your story and show that you have the passion and the drive to come into a job and make a difference.
Step 1: Contact Information
When beginning a cover letter for a job application, start with your contact details in the top left-hand corner of the page. Include your name, city of residence, phone number, and email address. (To preserve your privacy, do not include your physical address). You should also include your LinkedIn URL. Next, write the name of the company you’re applying to, and its city of residence.
Step 2: Salutation
Ideally, you address your reader by name in your salutation. Internet sleuthing may reveal the name of the hiring manager. If you can’t find a name, you have two options: call the organization and ask to learn more about the position, or write “Dear [Company Name]” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Step 3: Introduction
Use this section of your cover letter to introduce yourself and share your enthusiasm for the position. Start with your name and provide some background on your strengths. Always identify the position you’re seeking and how you learned about it. If someone at the company told you about the job, then mention that person’s name (only after asking their permission, though). Aim for one to two sentences in your Introduction—keep it short, sweet, and precise.
Example Cover Letter Introduction:“Hello, my name is Grace Addington, and I’m a goals- and details-oriented civil engineering graduate from Petaluma College. I was excited to learn about the Junior Engineer internship at Bay Area Rapid Transportation through my former classmate Katie Heinz.”
Step 4: Body Paragraphs
Here comes the most critical part of writing a cover letter with no experience. The purpose of your body paragraphs (one to two brief paragraphs, tops) is to prove that you’re the best candidate for the position. Seeing as how you have little or no previous professional work experience to fall back on, you’ll want to place emphasis on soft skills—attributes of a personal nature that say a lot about your work ethic and ability to work in sync with others.
Now your resume likely consists of part-time jobs or school activities or memberships in school associations that maybe aren’t 100% related to the job you’re going after. Look closer, though—you’ve probably garnered skills in these experiences that can carry over to the job you’re applying for. Below are two examples of cover letter body paragraphs that hone in on two key phrases noted in a job advertisement as requirements: “strong interpersonal skills” and “positive work ethic.” You should be able to figure out pretty quickly which example hits the mark.
Example 1:“I am Twig & Twine’s ideal office manager. As my resume states, I served as an RA at my dorm. I know how to manage an array of things.”
Example 2: “You’re looking for a candidate with strong interpersonal skills and a positive work ethic. While serving as an RA at Porter College’s main dormitory, I planned monthly social events for over 200 students, settled two to five student disputes per-week, and mentored a select group of students in Composition. The experience taught me, rather quickly, how to efficiently multi-task, and how to effectively settle conflicts of all types in a calm, level-headed manner. I feel confident stating that I can bring these talents to Twig & Twine’s office manager position.”
The second example takes the duties that likely appeared in the RA position on the resume and then digs deep, illustrating how the tackling of those duties turned into accomplishments, and led the applicant to grow the crucial skills needed for the office manager position.
One last thing about body paragraphs—remember to frame your message around the employer’s needs, and not yours. Focus on what you can bring to the job, and how your talents will translate into success for the company. That’s important in any cover letter, and becomes even more crucial in a cover letter with no previous work experience.
Step 5: Closing
End your letter by reiterating why you’re the best candidate and express your interest once again in the position. Thank the reader for the time they took to review your application. To close, sign off formally. Try “Respectfully yours” or “Sincerely.”
Wait! There Are Two More Steps
First, proofread your document. Read it out loud to catch errors quickly. Ask a trustworthy person to read it as well. Open your mind to constructive feedback. Once the content is finalized, save as a PDF and title it “[Your Name] Cover Letter” to prevent confusion. Voila! You’re done.
About this guest author:
Since 2005, LiveCareer’s team of career coaches, certified resume writers, and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger resumes, write persuasive cover letters, and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free samples, templates, writing guides, and easy-to-use resume-builder software.
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Many job applicants struggle to write the perfect cover letter even in the best of circumstances. They recognize the important role that the cover letter plays in their effort to capture the hiring manager’s attention, but aren’t always sure how to accomplish their writing goals. That effort can be even more of a struggle when they have no real work experience to include in their resume. How do you write a cover letter with no experience? While that can be a challenge, rest assured that it can be done!
Who Might Need this Type of Cover Letter?
There are many applicants who find themselves wrestling with this problem at the beginning of their careers. We all start somewhere. And while there was once a time when it seemed like almost every young person spent at least part of his or her youth with a part-time job or two, these days it’s more and more common for high school and college graduates to leave school without ever having worked a day in their lives. They all need to know how to write and utilize a cover letter with no experience.
This also goes for people changing careers who may not have any relevant experience to the position they’re targeting.
The Basic Elements of Your Cover Letter
Even though it’s an entry level cover letter, no experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you can skimp on details. There are certain basic elements that must be in this letter, and they are like those found in any cover letter:
- Basic contact information – This includes your name, email address, and a phone number that can be used to reach you. While formatting can vary, it’s common to place this information at the top of the page, on the right side of the document.
- The company information should go on the left side of the page, and should include the company name and the name of the contact person.
- You also need a reference line, to define the topic – such as “RE: Application for Office Manager Position”
The body of your cover letter should be relatively brief, containing roughly three paragraphs:
- You need an opening paragraph to introduce yourself to the hiring manager.
- The second paragraph should be used to showcase all the skills and qualities that match those needed for the job.
- Your third paragraph should detail how those traits make you the best candidate for the job.
You can close with a wrap-up that tells the hiring manager that you’ll be following up soon. That can be as simple as “I’ll try to contact you by phone on Wednesday at around 3:00 PM to follow-up and hopefully schedule an interview. I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss the job in more detail then.”
Keep the cover letter length at around half a page to 2/3 page long.
Writing a Cover Letter with No Experience
Paragraph 1: The Opener
Introduce yourself to the employer in one or two sentences by explaining who you are, which job you’re applying for, and how you learned about it. If someone referred you to the job, feel free to mention that (if you’re already using LinkedIn, that can be a great place to get these types of job referrals). For example,
Paragraph 2: The Skill Rundown
The next paragraph is critical. For your cover letter, no experience is available. That means that you need to focus attention on the relevant skills that you possess that can make you a good candidate for the job. There are several different things that you can include here:
- Personal characteristics and strengths that demonstrate that you can thrive in a professional environment
- Coursework and volunteer experience that may have given you an opportunity to showcase your talents
- The general skill sets that you possess that can be transferable to the job at hand
- Actual achievements that are relevant to the position.
When developing this paragraph, be sure to refer to the job posting. You should have already selected various critical keywords from that posting, so make certain that you use them in the letter when discussing your strengths. If they used the words self-starter, then try to identify an achievement that demonstrates that quality in your own life – and use the same term when describing that accomplishment. For example,
If you can do something similar with your other skills, you can lay the groundwork for that all-important third paragraph. This connects the dots between your skills and the employer’s needs.
Paragraph 3: The Sales Pitch
The final paragraph should be the functional equivalent of your elevator pitch – encapsulated in one powerful sales pitch. Try to tell very brief stories that demonstrate why you’re the right person for the job. For example,
Finally, don’t forget to add a call to action (Super Important) asking the hiring manager to call and schedule an interview. You should also thank them for the consideration.
Putting it all together –
Cover Letter With No Experience Example:
The Bottom Line
When you’re trying to put together a cover letter with no experience, it can be a real challenge to convince an employer that you have what it takes to handle his company’s job. Always remember, though, that you have skills and personal characteristics – as well as a history of accomplishments outside the workforce.
By learning to highlight those strengths, you can still create a cover letter that can help you get that all-important interview. Of course, if you’re looking for truly professional cover letters that can help you get noticed, we’re always here to help.
Good luck with your job search!
“My name is Sarah and I’m a recent graduate from the University of Southern Alabama. I learned about your company’s job opening for an XYZ operator from Smith Smithington on LinkedIn. I’m very interested in applying for that position, and am confident that I have the requisite skills and characteristics that your company is seeking.”
“I note that the position requires someone who’s not afraid to take the initiative in group project settings. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to be a self-starter, and have personally launched major website endeavors for our USA band fundraising activities and campus book drives. In both efforts, our groups raised funds that exceeded the respective target goals by 50% and 63%.”
“My organizational skills have also been put to the test in other real-world settings, as when I worked on the Mayor’s campaign and helped assemble her get-out-the-vote effort. During my high school career, I took the initiative in developing the sales campaign used to fund the purchase of new equipment for the basketball team, and subsequently organized the city-wide sales effort to fund our trip to the state tournament.”