How to write an eye-catching cover letter as a first time job seeker?

Applying for a vacancy can be fairly challenging when it comes to finding your first job. In addition to the resume, the cover letter, in which job seekers highlight their strengths for a specific job, is a crucial part of the application process.

When browsing job vacancies, do you sometimes get discouraged by the work experience companies require? It is, however, important to distinguish between requirements that are really necessary and non-negotiable, and those which are not. Even though companies almost never expect you to tick all boxes, do not spend too much time and energy on impossible applications that will only leave you disheartened. For example, if a company requires more than 3 years of relevant experience for a specific function, the chances are slim that they will consider a starter application.

Drive and enthusiasm are highly valued by employers, so try to convey this in your cover letter – in its content as well as its style. Make a prospective employer curious about what it is that motivates you to apply for the job, even if you do not yet have (all) the required work experience.

Adapt your cover letter to the job vacancy you are targeting. It can be daunting as a fresh graduate to include relevant experience in your letter. However, there are undoubtedly skills and competencies you don't immediately think of that are relevant to the job. All depends on the point of view!

Some examples:

  • Leading a youth group requires creativity, organizational and motivational skills, financial responsibility, ... depending on the specific role you assume. Always support a skill or competence with an example, and ideally link it to one or more requirements from the job description;
  • Working as a job student: can be linked to motivation, flexibility, time management, working in a team, initiative... Do try to add concrete examples that can be linked to the vacancy;
  • Volunteer work demonstrates that you are committed to certain projects, where you show dedication and take on certain tasks;
  • Experience as a board member in a non-profit organization, exemplifies, among other things, your ability to take responsibility and make decisions, write reports or keep files;
  • Experience as an Erasmus student, shows that you are interested in international opportunities, and that you are able to work independently;
  • ...

In short, experience comes in many shapes! Use it to meet certain requirements of your dream job. Go for it!

You may also wonder what you need to include in a cover letter that is not already incorporated in your resume. There can be no overlap...
In a cover letter the emphasis is on motivation. A cover letter should answer the following questions: why is this job opening of interest to you? Why do you want to work for a certain company? Why are you the right person for the job? All other information is to be included in your resume. The cover letter should trigger the recruiter to look at your resume.

Good luck!