Writing a covering letter for a graduate job in IT
Many IT employers, including ARM, BT, Orbium and ThoughtWorks, request a covering letter along with a CV as part of the online application form. This is an additional opportunity for you to showcase your skills and enthusiasm, as well as highlight specific points that may not come through on your CV.
A covering letter (or cover letter, as it’s more commonly known in the US) is not always requested, however, so if an employer doesn’t ask for one don’t include it. For most graduate roles in IT, your covering letter shouldn’t be longer than one side of A4. See our example one-page IT covering letter for tips on structure and content.
This is what you should do to sell your experience and skills, and convince the recruiter that you really want the job in a few paragraphs:
Thoroughly research the employer
Before you start writing your covering letter, spend a good amount of time reading up on the company you’re applying to. You should research its business strategy, culture, company values, and familiarise yourself with the list of products and services it provides. You can do this by looking at the employer’s website and the employer hubs on TARGETjobs. It would also be a good idea to reflect on relevant work experience, presentations you’ve attended, conversations you’ve had with employees and recruiters on insight days, or to speak with friends who have done a placement there.
Be selective and don’t cram
It may be tempting to fill your covering letter with all your technical skills, achievements and examples from university, work and elsewhere. Don’t do this as your covering letter should not exceed one page or three to four paragraphs. Be selective about which information you choose to include. Pinpoint the top three or four attributes that the employer seeks. For example, these could be a genuine interest in technology, practical knowledge of databases and programming, and excellent communication skills. Then focus your covering letter around these requirements.
Include examples from your academic, work and personal life to prove to recruiters that you have the skills, qualities and experience they’re looking for. If they seek a graduate who’s interested in pioneering technology, for example, and you attend fairs and conferences to find out what’s new in the tech space and blog about it, mention that. Or perhaps you have examples of when you have done a job well or solved a problem in a smart or new way. Your interests and activities outside work are also useful indicators of how well you will fit into a team.
Explain why you have chosen that particular employer
Remember to include the reasons why you have chosen this specific employer – and avoid clichés, such as ‘you are a world-leading company’. Your employer research is critical here, as you will be able to make specific points about the company’s culture, strategy, or any opportunities for career progression. For example, perhaps the organisation appeals to you because it constantly works on cutting edge developments and this will enable you to apply and increase your technical skills. Including this will show recruiters that you want to join the company as opposed to just getting a job.
Ask someone to review your covering letter
Once you have written your covering letter you should ask a friend, family member, or member of staff from your careers service to check it for sense, style and grammatical mistakes. Covering letters with many errors leave a bad impression and will cast doubt over your attention to detail and professionalism.
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