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Whether you’re graduating and looking to make your first step into employment, or searching for part-time roles whilst studying, a strong and engaging cover letter is vital to your job-hunting success.

But making simple mistakes could have you falling at the first hurdle within the recruitment process. Here are the 4 most common graduate cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them, so you can make sure your cover letter is flawless:


Rehashing your CV 

Your CV and cover letter shouldn’t be a carbon copy of each other. Having a CV and cover letter that are too similar or repetitive could result in the reader losing interest in your application. 

Your cover letter is an opening to your CV, allowing you to summarise your experience, educational background and marketable skills, highlighting why you’d be the ideal candidate. You’ll be able to go into further depth within your CV, so keep it high-level and avoid duplicating information.

Don’t undervalue the worth of a cover letter, they are an opportunity to make a great first impression and can help you to compete against the hundreds of other CV’s submitted.


Not following a structure 

Just like a CV, a clear structure helps a hiring manager easily navigate your cover letter. However, it also gives you a template to follow and ensure no key information is missed. 

Start your cover letter with a friendly greeting, introducing yourself to the hiring manager to create a positive first impression. Follow this up with an overview of the role you’ve applied for, what makes you the ideal candidate and why you like the sound of the specific role and company.

Keep to a brief synopsis of your applicable experience, relevant educational exposure and any skills. It should be short and snappy.

Finally, look to sign off your cover letter with a personable but professional closing and your contact details, making it easy for hiring managers to reach you. 


Writing an entire page 

Whilst an ideal length of a CV is 2 sides of A4, your cover letter should be much shorter. 

Make sure to keep your cover letter concise and to the point. A length of between 250 to 300 words is more than enough space to allow you to sell yourself without it becoming tedious to read.

Remember you have additional space to showcase your suitability within your CV, so don’t feel that you’re underselling yourself by keeping it short. The aim of your cover letter is to give recruiters a glimpse of your capabilities but entice them to read further.


Not tailoring it to the company 

Your cover letter should be custom-fit to the roles you’re pursuing - one size doesn’t fit all here!

A cover letter that is simply copied and pasted for each application comes across lazy to hiring managers and will result in them instantly rejecting your application. Instead, make your cover letter bespoke to the company and industry.

How can you do so? Before you start writing, have a good look over the job description. Then, try to incorporate the keywords, skills and other requirements listed, into your cover letter.

By taking the time to write a personalised, well-structured cover letter which is short and snappy, you’ll significantly increase your chances of landing that all-important interview.


Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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