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Today’s graduating college students face an employment landscape unlike that of any generation before them. Not only are businesses more international than ever – increasing the number of applicants competing for a single position – but modern ideas like working remotely, contingent/freelance staff and an emphasis on soft skills have altered what companies look for in an employee.
This, unfortunately, means it’s that much harder for students to get a job – even if their credentials are a perfect match. That’s why nuances like a well-crafted cover letter are so important.
That said, just as the job landscape has changed over the past few decades, so too have best practices for writing cover letters. Let’s look at what’s changed by debunking three cover letter myths and reviewing how a school’s Career Services employees can help students write them more effectively:
Myth No. 1: Cover letters are short and light on information
Old advice dictated that cover letters were to be a paragraph long with a generic greeting (“To whom it may concern,” of course) and a brief introduction of the applicant. These days, that type of thinking won’t cut it. Job recruiters are inundated with dozens, if not hundreds, of applications throughout the hiring process. In the interest of saving time, they want to know as much about a candidate as they can before scheduling an interview.
When helping students write cover letters, encourage them to go beyond the basics when discussing themselves and their credentials. Help them describe how their school experience and assignments gave them both the hard and soft skills necessary to succeed in the specific role, rather than simply saying they studied X, Y and Z.
Myth No. 2: Cover letters are just an introduction to the rest of the application
Cover letters were often seen as sort of a throwaway document – a formality that just introduced the resume and application. But as we said earlier, hiring managers want more information up front, and the cover letter is the best way for students to make themselves known.
Student credentials can play a major role here, if written about correctly. According to PwC’s 20th annual CEO Survey, one primary concern of most CEOs (77 percent of them, to be precise) is that incoming new hires don’t have the key skills necessary to succeed in their new positions. Therefore, students should detail in their cover letters both their credentials and the skills they accrued while acquiring those credentials – for example, improved collaboration, proficiency in a specific software application, strong time management and more.
“Students need the ability to easily access their credentials.”
Of course, it helps if students can easily and quickly access their credentials in a secure location. The more easily students can acquire this information, the more likely they are to include it in their cover letters. When helping students write their cover letters, make sure they know where and how to find their credentials, and even how to direct potential employers to verified copies.
Myth No. 3: Cover letters avoid mention of workplace culture
If you’ve paid attention to recent hiring strategies or even read a few job listings, you’ll have noticed that many employers focus on concepts like free snacks or meals, creative workspaces and volunteer days. The idea is that promoting certain perks creates a compelling culture that attracts top-qualified applicants. What’s more, businesses finally understand that a strong office culture increases employee engagement, which can lead to higher productivity and reduced turnover.
If you know the company or school to which a student is applying emphasizes a specific branding idea or company culture, encourage that individual to explain what makes them a great fit. This shouldn’t take up the bulk of the cover letter, but a brief paragraph helps hiring managers get a greater sense of a candidate and imagine them in a specific role.
As today’s graduating students face important decisions about their futures, they need every advantage to help them gain the best opportunities. By providing access to their credentials and helping them adapt their cover letters to meet modern employer-held expectations, you give your students the best possible chance of finding a fantastic job after college.
Parchment makes it easy for students and alumni to access and send their credentials. See how partnering with us improves learners’ success!