Below are several cover letter writing tips to help you craft the perfect cover letter and win the favor of legal recruiters.
1. Customize Each Cover Letter
To craft a successful cover letter, you must tailor each letter to the specific position you seek. Explain how your skills and experience match the requirements of the job. Highlight relevant achievements and responsibilities that illustrate how you are the perfect person for the job. This cover letter template can help get you started.
While it may be tempting to use the same cover letter for every position, form cover letters can quickly eliminate you from consideration. Moreover, many employers use applicant tracking software to store and share information about job applicants. These systems can tell if you submit the same cover letter for multiple positions.
2. Address Your Cover Letter Properly
Address your letter to the hiring manager so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, call the organization to find out. In a large law firm or corporation, the person in charge of hiring is often the firm administrator. In corporations, the human resources department usually handles this function. In a small law firm, the office manager or an attorney may handle hiring. Once you learn the hiring manager’s name, confirm the organization’s address, the hiring manager’s title and the spelling of his or her name.
3. Sell Yourself
When writing your cover letter, keep in mind that your goal is to convince the firm that you are a good fit for the position. Don’t simply regurgitate the information in your resume. A resume is simply a list of past work history, work responsibilities and educational background. However, your cover letter can highlight those experiences, achievements and skills that are most relevant to the position and help convince the employer that you are right for the job.
4. Explain Red Flags
The cover letter is the perfect place to explain any red flags in your resume such as job-hopping or gaps in employment history. Perhaps you spent a year trying to launch a business, took time off to raise a child or returned to school for several years. Briefly explaining potential red flags can ease a recruiter’s mind as well as demonstrate honesty and integrity. Conversely, failing to address red flags in your resume is an easy way to be eliminated from consideration.
5. Do your Homework
Research the firm or company to learn more about its services, products, people and history (Martindale-Hubbell is a good place to start researching law firms). Working such details into your cover letter can go a long way in helping you land an interview. For example, you might mention a deal you worked on with one of the firm’s partners, reference content on the firm’s web site or note a recent article published by one of the firm’s associates. Mentioning these facts in your cover letter can set you apart from the 99% of candidates who skip this step. Moreover, it makes you more memorable, demonstrates that you are thorough and shows your enthusiasm for the position.
6. Start Strong
Place your strongest points near the top of your cover letter to grab the reader’s interest and entice him or her to read further. Your initial sentences should also be compelling enough to encourage the reader to review your resume. Points that you may want highlight early in your cover letter include stellar academic credentials, expertise in a unique specialty, big firm experience, prestigious judicial clerkships and awards or relevant achievements.
7. Pay Attention to Detail
Check and double check for factual, spelling, grammatical and other errors. Since attention to detail is crucial to most legal positions, small errors in your cover letter can derail your chances of landing an interview. If you are mailing your cover letter, make certain that you have signed the letter and that you have enclosed all promised documents such as your resume and/or writing samples.