Summer is finally here and graduate job season is upon us. Which is of course a mixed blessing! On the one hand, there are a lot of jobs available, but on the other, there’s a lot of competition too.
The thing is, when it comes to graduate roles, most candidates simply haven’t been in the job market long enough to have a CV that is vastly different to their competitors’.
The best way to stand out from the crowd?
A distinctive covering letter.
But how do you write that letter? Better still, how do you write that letter at the beach?! Because it is summer, after all…
1. Stand out by fitting in
Pack your phone and a beach umbrella or wide-brimmed hat, so you’ll actually be able to read your screen. Once you hit the beach start researching one of the most important parts of your covering letter: tone. Show the company that you are one of them by mirroring their tone of voice. (38% of recruiters worry whether a candidate will be a good fit for the culture).
Review and analyse the organisation’s written communications including their website, newsletters, advertising, and social media. What three words describe their overall tone? For example, it might be fun, playful, and casual, or perhaps conservative, sophisticated, and traditional? Tailor your tone accordingly.
2. Tell a story
Your CV is the WHAT (skills, experience, education), your cover letter is the WHY. So pack an A4 writing pad and plenty of non-leak pens in your beach bag and brainstorm on the sand. Set your phone alarm for thirty minutes and write about all the things that have happened, from early childhood onwards, that have led you to apply for this job.
What was the ‘A-Ha!’ moment that made you realise you wanted to be a scientist/content creator/mechanical engineer?
For instance, if you’re going for a job in events, you might have realised that this was the career for you when you organised a successful zoo-themed charity night at your student bar. Your granny sewed the penguin outfits, you persuaded your best friend to lend you their parrot and got your economics lecturer to dress as a flamingo and act as a bouncer.
By sharing this story you’re not just showcasing individual experience and your confidence, you’re demonstrating you already have the skills that an events role requires; organisational experience, creativity, and the ability to rope people in!
3. Be specific about your hobbies
Your hobbies reflect who you are as a person; use them to show that this job isn’t just about a paycheck, it also feeds a passion. Go for a long walk along the shoreline and think about how to frame yours.
For example, if you’re going for a research job, don’t say you like going to the beach, share how you’re currently planning a cycling tour of the D-Day beaches of Normandy. Or, if you’re going for the role of designer at a vintage poster company, don’t say you adore reading. Say you have a penchant for female British writers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
4. Share how you do things differently
Use the view of the sea rolling in and out to help your brain relax and think a little more expansively. Then ask yourself, what unique approaches have you employed in three of the key skills listed on the job description? (To get past the online scanning or tracking system you should include the keywords listed in the description too).
They don’t have to be huge things like increasing company turnover. They just have to show you have the intelligence, enthusiasm, and tenacity to think outside the box.
For example, perhaps one of your key skills is editing. So talk about how you created a new way of editing the listings section in your student magazine.
This is also an opportunity to (sparingly) include positive quotes or feedback. For example, ‘My boss said that my idea for team donuts on a Monday morning definitely improved morale and encouraged more people to show up for the 9am meeting!’
5. Edit a hard copy
Whilst your covering letter should be distinctive you must do certain things in the conventional way. No one likes ‘quirky’ spelling, grammar, greetings, inappropriate humour, or letter length (no more than a page). Pack a hard copy of your letter with a red pen in your beach bag and use the latter mercilessly. Mistakes are much easier to spot on paper rather than on a screen. Even better, hand your CV over to your beach buddy, and get them to proofread it too.
Then reward yourself with a dip in the sea and perhaps a 99!