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.”
Volunteering serves communities and it makes people feel good about themselves. Volunteerism may actually increase during economic downturns, according to a 2009 Gallup survey. However, employment agencies and hiring experts also see volunteerism as a part of career development. You can use these unpaid activities to gain work experience and readiness skills, as well as build your professional network. Many job seekers simply list participation under a "Volunteer Experience" section on their resumes, but adding this information to the cover letter may require a little more thought.
Related Work Experience
Some job seekers -- such as students, recent graduates and dislocated homemakers -- have no regular work experience at all. However, people need to give hiring managers some evidence of their qualifications as a professional. And many companies consider experiences gained from volunteering as relevant experience. For example, the duties of housekeepers at hotels and hospitals are similar to volunteering to clean the homes of disabled or elderly persons on a weekly basis.
Cover letters highlight one or two skills that have value to employers. Through volunteering, you may have picked up transferable skills, such as management, technical or communication abilities. For example, a college student who frequently volunteers to mentor small groups of disadvantaged, inner city and rural children knows how to manage a group of adolescents and to communicate effectively. Hiring managers are highly interested in applicants who can both lead and work effectively as a part of a team.
Awards and Recognition
Volunteering on its own is commendable and laudable, but standing out among other volunteers is even more impressive. Many non-profits and charities will recognize volunteers by awarding certificates of participation. Some organizations may even have ceremonies called "Volunteer of the Month" or "Volunteer of the Year." Use your certificates and recognition in the cover letter to show the hiring manager that you are a hard worker and a consummate professional in any task, paid or unpaid.
Hiring managers scrutinize long, unexplained gaps in employment, fearing that applicants might have been incarcerated or suffering from substance abuse. A citation of volunteerism in the cover letter can help to fill employment gaps. Managers just want to know that you made good, productive use of your time, instead of being inactive and letting your skills become rusty. However, use caution iin portraying "unpaid" volunteer experience as "paid" employment, especially when filling out job application, which may be considered legal documents. Besides, some managers might interpret this as being untruthful.
About the Author
Damarious Page is a financial transcriptionist specializing in corporate quarterly earnings and financial results. Page holds a medical transcription certificate and has participated in an extensive career analysis and outplacement group workshop through Right Management. The West Corporation trained and certified him to handle customer support for home appliance clients.
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