Guest Blog: 8 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Graduate Cover Letter

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Guest Blog by Matt Arnerich, Inspiring Interns

8 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Graduate Cover Letter

When it’s time to start looking at graduate jobs fresh out of university, there might not be much to differentiate your CV from the people you’re competing with. One great way to stand out from the crowd is to pen a top cover letter.

However, it can be quite easy to make basic mistakes on these cover letters. If you don’t have any professional work experience, your ability to communicate effectively can be one the main things that potential employers are looking out for, so it’s important that these cover letters are written effectively.

Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be snapped up in no time.


  1. Too Many Pages

The standard answer to how long you should keep your cover letter is to keep it to no more than a page. But it turns out even this may be too long; a survey from 2011 discovered that over 70% of employers would much rather a half page letter.

The point here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to go shorter than a full page. If you find yourself adding unnecessary filler just to get it up to a page in length, then you’ll be doing more harm than good.

The perfect cover letter is full to the brim with relevant, engaging, concise information. Include everything that you need to help you land the job, and no more.

  1. All filler no killer

‘I’m an enthusiastic, passionate, hard-working graduate’ or ‘I work brilliantly individually, as well as part of a team’ are huge repellents. If you find yourself simply writing a list of certain desirable attributes with no relation to experience or proof, it won’t come across as very impressive.

Ensure you provide proof for every claim you make. Give them an example of a time you succeeded as part of a team, or really worked hard and pulled a long shift at work. If you are engaging and honest in your letter, your passion should come across naturally.

  1. Not doing your research

The first thing to do is to avoid ‘templating’ at all costs. Never include ‘I really want to work for _____’; if anything it demonstrates that you’d be willing to work for anyone.

As much as possible, try to keep the content of your letters original, even if you are applying to lots of different companies. Doing some quick research will allow you to discuss something you love about the way they work, or something they’ve produced that you think is great.

The fact that you’ve taken the time to look into their company will always come off better than random declarations of love.

  1. It’s all about you

Of course your cover letter is an opportunity to get yourself across, but the focus should always be on how you’ll be an asset to the business.

If the employer can’t attach your experience, skills or education detailed on your cover letter to real benefits for the company, then don’t write them down. The entire point of a cover letter is to take what you have and show why it’s the right fit for what they want.

Really consider what the business needs in their new recruit, and ensure that everything your write is with this in mind. If your cover letter is just a repeat of everything on your CV, then what was the point of writing one?

  1. Oversharing

Increasingly, employers looking to hire a graduate are placing a focus on ensuring that their new recruits fit into the ‘company culture’. This isn’t all about your active social life, or ability on the office table-football table though.

Again, research here is key, use their social media and online presence to find their values, and demonstrate how you share them. It’ll show you’ve done your research on the company, and that you care about the same things they do.

  1. Using too many negatives

When you’re fresh out of university and you are yet to get any relevant work experience, it’s very easy to feel like you’re lacking something, or like you aren’t going to succeed. Especially when we all have that mate Dave who has somehow managed to squeeze 74 internships into his three year university course.

Just remember that you’ve always got something to offer, and it’s never a good idea begin a sentence with ‘While I may lack….’ or ‘Even though I’m not the best…’. Think back on your time at university and find a way to make the experience you had or the skills you learnt applicable to how you’re going to benefit the company.

  1. It’s Too formal

Now that you’re out in the big wide world acting like a grown-up it’s attractive to use overly formal language. Honestly, referring to yourself as a ‘scholastic, fustian alumnus’ is unlikely to go down well. Regardless of the area you’re working in, most graduate jobs involve customer contact of some kind and it’s important that you have clear communication skills.

Being succinct is incredibly important when writing your cover letter, and unnecessary formal language is likely to confuse what you’re trying to get across. Of course you want to avoid slang and colloquialisms, make sure you read your cover letter out loud and strike off the parts that don’t sound natural. Think, polite, conversational language.

Consider using a tool like the Hemingway App, where you plug in a section of text, and it’ll give you the best way to simplify it.

  1. Using the same old format

Consider using bullet points, so long as it’s just once. Employ subheadings to make it simpler for someone who is scan reading it to spot what they’re looking for.

If you’ve got any adobe suite experience, don’t be afraid to use it. If you’re applying for a creative role, the design of your cover letter could often be just as important as the content.

If you’re interested in starting your career, take a look at Inspiring Interns’ job listings for graduate jobs in London, or graduate jobs in Manchester.

And don’t forget, get your cover letters reviewed by the Career Consultants at City!  Book your appointment on CareersHub.