Entry-Level Cover Letter Examples and Writing Tips
When you are applying for an entry-level position, composing a cover letter can be a challenge because you may not have a lot of work experience. However, it's fine to highlight your non-employment related experience in your cover letter if it's relevant to the job. After all, interviewers for entry-level positions are aware that this may be your first position.
Why a Cover Letter is Important
Here's a secret: Writing cover letters is hard for nearly all candidates — not just entry-level applicants.
So, don't be disheartened if you're feeling overwhelmed by the process.
To get the hiring manager excited enough to call you in for an interview, you need to convey not only your skills and qualifications, but also your passion for the organization and your aptitude for the specific role. This means writing a cover letter that complements your resume, and not one that merely duplicates that information.
A good cover letter also shows off your communication and writing skills and proves that you know how to tell a compelling story – a bonus in almost every job, even if the job description doesn’t include writing as a requirement. Finally, taking the time to craft a cover letter proves that you know how things are done in a professional environment and that you’re willing to play by the rules. That might sound obvious, but when you’re applying for an entry-level position, it’s important to show the hiring manager that you’re aware of what’s expected and that you won’t need to be trained in the basics of office life.
New to cover letters? Use this guide to familiarize yourself with the format and best practices for writing a cover letter that helps you get the job interview. It includes the different types of cover letters, the information that needs to be included in your letter, and the proper way to format your final draft and send it to the hiring manager.
What to Include in Your Cover Letter
The good news is that it's basically a level playing field when it comes to applying for entry-level jobs. Your competitors likely won’t have a great deal of work experience, either.
Feel free to mention volunteer experiences, internships, related classes, projects, leadership experience, extracurricular activities, and your skills that pertain to the position. Providing these details about related experience helps differentiate your application from the crowd.
Look for ways to draw connections between your non-work experience and the job and industry at hand. For instance, if you are applying for an entry-level position in publishing, you might point out your strong grades in literature classes, volunteer work at the library or in literacy programs, an internship at a publishing house, your involvement with the school newspaper, etc.
Look at the specific skills mentioned in the job description, too, and think about ways to demonstrate that you possess these abilities. For example, if a job posting calls for someone detail-oriented and organized, your experience managing a fundraiser for your academic club is good evidence that you have those abilities.
Tips for Writing an Entry-Level Cover Letter
Match your qualifications to the job. Research the job requirements thoroughly before beginning to compose your letter. Make a list of the key qualities, areas of knowledge, skills, or experience that the employer is seeking. Review descriptions for similar titles on Indeed.com or another job site if the employer hasn’t provided a good list of requirements with the ad.
Get inside information. Contact the career office at your school, if time permits, and request a list of alumni volunteers in your field of interest. Ask them what they would be looking for if they were hiring for the type of entry-level job which you are targeting.
Make a list of your qualifications. Compile a list of your assets that will enable you to meet the job requirements and excel in the job.
Write a perfect opening sentence. Compose an opening sentence that conveys enthusiasm for the job and summarizes why it is a good fit. Name the precise position if one is mentioned in the job announcement. For example, you might say “I am highly interested in consideration for your sales assistant vacancy since it would tap my strong customer service, organizational, and verbal communication skills.”
Describe your skills. Draft a sentence for each one of the assets on your list that will qualify you for the job. Briefly include a reference point in your background such as course project, leadership role, internship, or personal experience that proves that you possess that strength. You can merge more than one asset into each statement. For example, “I utilized strong persuasive skills and leadership ability to recruit and attract new members to our sorority.” Remember that for many entry-level jobs you will be trained on the job, so eagerness to learn and the ability to learn quickly and well are often assets to emphasize.
Quantify your accomplishments. Whenever possible, frame your statements as accomplishments and quantify results. For example, “Attentiveness to detail and editing skills enabled me to reduce publication errors in the yearbook by 15% over the previous year.”
When to mention following up. If you have identified a contact person and the employer has not conveyed how interviews will be arranged, then you might suggest that you will follow up to determine if they need further information and to discuss the possibility of arranging an interview.
End with a professional closing. In closing your cover letter, reaffirm your keen interest in the job and that you are hopeful that you can meet with them to discuss the exciting opportunity further.
Proofread your letter. Carefully review your letter for spelling and grammatical errors. Read it out loud and place your finger on each word. Have a counselor, teacher, writing tutor, or other trusted person critique your draft.
Review Entry-Level Cover Letter Examples
Review these sample cover letters for entry-level candidates for employment to get ideas for your own letter. You'll find both general examples, as well as sample cover letters for specific fields and positions. Do not copy the text exactly, but rather, use the samples for inspiration when writing your own personalized cover letter.
Basic Entry-Level Cover Letters Examples
College Senior Cover Letter
It can be challenging to write a cover letter when you haven’t graduated yet. Include both your academic accomplishments and work experience, if you have it. Here’s advice on how to structure your letter, what to include to get it to stand out from the crowd of entry-level applicants, as well as a sample to review.
Recent College Graduate Cover Letter
The best way to show an employer you’re well qualified for a job, tips for writing a cover letter when you’re a recent graduate, and a sample letter to review.
Career Office Referral Cover Letter
When you apply for a job that has been listed through your university career center, mention that in the first paragraph of your letter. Review what to write, and examples.
Email Cover Letter
What to include in an email cover letter, an example of an email message sent to a hiring manager, and how to format and send an email applying for a job.
An inquiry letter is sent to an employer who may be hiring, but hasn’t advertised job openings. Review an example, and tips for writing inquiry letters.
Entry-Level Cover Letters Listed by Job
Business Analyst Cover Letter
When you’re applying for an analyst position, focus on the technical business skills you have acquired in college, during internships, or in prior positions.
Cover Letters for Teachers
If you’re looking for an entry-level teaching position, review this guide on how to write a cover letter for a teaching job, with advice on how to prepare your application, and letter examples. Also review the information required to apply for a teaching job, including documents, certifications, and transcripts the employer will request.
Editorial Assistant Cover Letter
When you don’t have a lot of related experience, include information on your college major, relevant volunteer experience, writing and editing you did while a student, and internship experience.
Education Cover Letter
For education-related jobs, learn as much as you can about the school or organization you’ll be working for. Then take the time to match your qualifications to the job description.
Information Technology (IT) Cover Letters
IT jobs are competitive and so you need to be detailed and specific when writing a cover letter for one. It's important to show the employer you have the skills, technologies, and certifications listed in the job posting. The closer a match you are to the ideal candidate, the better your chances of getting selected to interview.
Marketing Cover Letter
In your cover letter, share examples of your related internship or job experience and describe the marketing skills you have acquired through academics or experience. Use examples to highlight the skills and attributes you have that qualify you for the job.
Scientific Research Technician Cover Letter
When applying for a research job, focus on your analytical, research, and writing skills. Also share examples of any laboratory experience you’ve gained, research you've been a part of, and technical research tools you have used.
Summer Assistant Cover Letter
Showcase your related academic experiences along with work experience, if you have it, when writing a cover letter for a summer position.
This cover letter example focuses on the applicant’s academic achievements, as well as the candidate’s skills that are a strong match for the job requirements.
Start Your Cover Letter With a Template
A cover letter template is a helpful way to format and organize your letter. In general, applying for a job is a ritualized process. Some of the cover letter requirements may seem old-fashioned, but it's important to adhere to the expected cover letter style, from the greeting all the way through to your closing sign-off.
Use these templates to help you establish a framework for your cover letter so that you know what information to include and where, but be sure to personalize your letter so it reflects your qualifications and attributes.
Cover Letter Format
How to format a cover letter for a job, font, paragraph and styles choices, guidelines for what to include in each paragraph, and information about how to address and sign the letter, with examples.
Cover Letter Template
A template can make cover letter writing easier, because you simply personalize the template with your own information. Do be sure to customize it though, so you show the employer how you are qualified for the position.
Email Cover Letter Template
The format of an email cover letter is different from a cover letter that you upload or send as an attachment. Review how to format and send a cover letter by email.
Online Template Resources: Google Docs has a variety of templates you can use to write a cover letter or a resume. When you use a template, be sure to change the file name to your name (janedoecoverletter.doc, for example). Double-check to be sure you’ve written over the standard information and changed the date.
If you are Microsoft Office user, you can download Word cover letter templates to use as a starting point for writing your own cover letter
Read More: Top 10 Cover Letter Writing Tips | What to Include in a Cover Letter
If you’re a first-time job-seeker, you probably feel a lot of pressure to find a job quickly. And at this stage, the fastest way to land more interviews is to take your cover letter seriously.
Yes, your resume is also important, but here’s the thing: In a sea of youthful candidates, most of your resumes will look very similar. And as most companies deal with a huge influx of entry-level applications, so hiring managers find that judging candidates based on virtually indistinguishable resumes ends up being inefficient and cumbersome. Instead, they’ll use your cover letter to gauge your potential.
The clincher? Entry-level and internship candidates tend to make the same cover letter blunders, which are fatal to their applications. Here are seven big mistakes entry-level candidates make, and how you can avoid them to come out on top.
Problem #1: It’s Too Long
Everyone learns how to write a 500-word, one-page essay in school. To most of us, it sounds like “the bare minimum.” But for a cover letter, it’s way too much—and will only serve to annoy the hiring manager.
The Fix: Keep it Simple, Direct, Clear, and Short
Aim for 250 words. According to the Orange County Resume Survey, almost 70% of employers either want a half page cover letter (250 words) or “the shorter the better” approach.
If that seems short, just remember: All you really need to include in your cover letter is the job you want to fill, the reason you can do the job, and how you intend to do the job—with a little flair of personality. No need to write out your whole resume. No need to pen your personal manifesto. Keep it short and sweet for the hiring manager who’s reading through dozens of these.
Problem #2: It’s Overly Formal
Too many cover letters have sentences that read like this: “I wish to convey my interest in filling the open position at your fine establishment.”
Is that so, Mr. Shakespeare?
The problem with this stilted and unnatural language is that it’s off-putting to hiring managers: It makes you seem insincere and even robotic, not anything like the friendly, approachable, and awesome-to-work-with person that you are.
The Fix: Use Common Language and Speech Patterns
Skip the frills, and just use clear language—“I’m thrilled to be writing to apply for the [position] at [company].” You can sense that this sentence has a much more genuine and friendly tone than the first example. Here are some other complicated terms and their simpler, more natural synonyms:
- Advantageous — helpful
- Erroneous — wrong
- Leverage or utilize — use
- Attempted — tried
- Subsequently — after or later
There are a couple ways to spot overly formal language in your cover letter. First, try reading it out loud to see if there are areas that feel unnatural coming off the tongue, and rework them to flow better. You can also try using a program like Hemmingway App to help you identify over-complicated language in your writing.
Problem #3: It Sounds Disingenuous
All career advisors will ell you to target your cover letter. Unfortunately, too many people think that this simply means writing something like “I love [insert target company here].”
I’ve got news: That’s simply not good enough to show a hiring manager your enthusiasm for a company.
The Fix: Demonstrate Your Understanding of the Company With Details
Instead, you’ll need to read enough about the company to make a truly personalized comment in your cover letter. First, you should study the content, advertising, branding, business strategies, and culture of the company. Pay especially close attention to the department you’d like to join. Find out what the team is doing and how they’re doing it, and take note of the areas that you know you can contribute to.
Including that specific information in the cover letter shows that you’re interested and already have ideas for how you can help the company. So let’s say that you’re applying for an internship position at a company like The Muse. You might say something like:
I really enjoy reading the productivity section on The Daily Muse—it’s got a great blend of psychological and technical tips, many of which I’ve taken to heart. I’m a sucker for this type of “food for thought” material, so I have my own ideas and resources that would make me a strong contributor in this vertical.
Problem #4: You’re Underselling Yourself
If you have any lines in your cover letter that read like these, you must remove them:
I’m probably not the most qualified candidate…
I’m sure you have many other more qualified candidates who have applied…
Give me a chance to prove myself…
Why would the hiring manager not hire the most qualified candidate? That would be absurd!
The Fix: Make an Argument for Yourself
Even if you feel under-qualified, put on a brave face and tell the hiring manager the attributes that would make you a strong candidate. Respond to the job description, and play up the directly related and transferable skills you have that would allow you to meet the challenge.
For instance, someone applying for an entry-level position as a salesperson might write:
During college, I was responsible for ad sales in our newspaper, The Blue and Gold. I learned how to create, manage, and maintain professional relationships with business owners around our campus. My direct efforts led to a 10% profit margin increase over the year, and I believe that those skills can be directly applied to your open position.
If you’re still unsure, check out career counselor Lily Zhang’s suggestions for drawing out your strengths instead of your weaknesses.
Of course, remember that having too much bombast (“I’m absolutely the best and you better believe it!”) also isn’t good.
Problem #5: It Sounds Selfish
The following is one of the most important rules to remember about writing your cover letter: It isn’t just about you.
In other words, avoid writing about how working at your target company will create a great boost for your resume and career. Hiring managers are fully aware of that. What they need to know is how you’re going to provide a boost for the company.
The Fix: Ask What You Can Do for the Company
Your cover letter should state what you can do for the company. Ask yourself—what is it about your education and experience that would allow you to meet the challenges of the open job position? How can you leverage your expertise for the benefit of the company? What ideas do you have to move the business forward?
It’s perfectly fine to mention that being hired would be mutually beneficial—the hiring manager wouldn’t want you to be a demoralized worker in a role that doesn’t suit your career prospects. Just keep it to a quick sentence and then move on to wooing the reader with what you can do for the company.
Problem #6: It’s Full of Irrelevant Filler
Got a paragraph about your semester abroad, or some other travel experience where you found your “true calling?” You should probably delete it. Do you have sentences like, “I am a hard working, efficient, and loyal person?” Don’t make a series of lists of positive sounding words about yourself. It’s not convincing.
Most importantly, if you’ve included personal information about your religion, marital status, or race, delete it. Even if you think it’s adding personality, it’s actually irrelevant to the job and could cause you to be discriminated against.
The Fix: Focus on Your Relevant Skills and History
Only talk about the experiences that directly relate to your skills and abilities that will help you succeed in the position. So if you learned a relevant skill while you were abroad, like a language? Then it’s perfectly fine to bring it up.
You should also make sure to show the hiring manager proof of your skills rather than simply say that you have them. For any word you choose to describe yourself, make sure to include an example from your work experience to back up your claim.
For example, instead of saying that you’re “hard-working” or “a problem solver,” write something like:
I felt like my own training could have been better, so I took the initiative to create new documents and checklists to make employee training less resource-intensive, which led to shorter training periods and faster content production.
Problem #7: It Has Too Much Information About College Metrics
This may be strange to hear, but here are four things that don’t really factor in your cover letter: the university you attended, your GPA, the classes you took, or your senior thesis.
You should be proud of yourself if you got into an Ivy League school and have a great GPA, but in most cases, they aren’t great metrics for determining whether you’ll be a strong employee.
The Fix: Stick to Activities and Responsibilities
To the greatest extent possible, talk about activities you participated in both inside and outside of college that have some relevance to the job. A student with a 2.9 GPA but with experience as editor of a college newspaper is still very likely to get an interview for a media job.
The reason that activities speak louder than statistics is because they act as proof that you have the soft skills necessary to be a good employee and co-worker. Activities provide experience you can use to show that you are organized, have leadership skills, can work in a team, and can easily get used to a professional environment.
Above all, activities show that you were motivated to succeed beyond simply earning a degree.
By fixing these seven mistakes, your application will stand out from the sea of other entry-level candidates jockeying for the same position. A genuine, refreshing, and smart cover letter is sometimes all it takes to get attention—and kick start your career.