While the content of your cover letter is important, formatting your cover letter properly is also essential to cover letter success. Below are several important formatting rules that can help you craft a winning cover letter.
Use Business Letter Format
Your cover letter should be written in business letter format. You can create your own letterhead by typing your name, address, telephone numbers and e-mail address at the top of the page. This sample cover letter template illustrates the typical cover letter format.
Keep it Brief
Attorneys and hiring managers are extremely busy. Moreover, due to a dearth of open legal positions, recruiters often receive hundreds of cover letters in response to one advertised position. Therefore, it is essential to keep your cover letter brief. A few paragraphs should suffice and your cover letter should never exceed one page.
Long dense paragraphs are difficult to navigate and comprehend. Readers who are rushed or bored may disregard dense blocks of text entirely. Bullets can help you emphasize key points and break up dense paragraphs to promote readability. Keep paragraphs short and incorporate generous margins of at least an inch on all sides to ensure enough white space for the reader’s eye to rest.
Choose the Right Font
Studies show that a font can increase your reader’s comprehension by 10% to 65%. Serif font – fonts with ornamental strokes at the base and tip of each letter – are generally thought to promote readability while the clean lines of a San Serif font work best for titles and headings. Examples of Serif fonts include Times New Roman, Cambria and Baskerville while examples of San Serif fonts include Arial, Tahoma and Verdana. A 12 pt. font size is ideal for cover letters.
When managing a high volume of applicants, some recruiters use key words as an initial screening method. Key words are specific words or phrases unique to the industry and the position and help employers target the right candidates.
In today’s world of electronic resumes and online applications, key words have gained even greater importance. Incorporating a few key phrases into your cover letter and resume can help them rise to the top of the pile; failing to include certain key terms can eliminate you from consideration.
To determine what key words to include, reference the position-specific terms mentioned in the job posting and research current industry buzzwords, including phrases unique to your legal specialty. Take care to incorporate key words into your cover letter in a manner that sounds natural, not forced or contrived.