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   You are here: Home » Writing Tips » Writing Tips Cover Letter  
  Tips for Writing A Masterful Resume
  Learn How to Think Like a Legal Employer
  Learn How to Think Like a Salesperson
     
  Key Elements of a Resume
  The Summary
  Profile
  Summary of Qualifications
  Areas of Expertise
  Professional Accomplishments
     
  Other Principles
  Show That You've Been Moving Up, Not Across or Down
  Addressing Red Flags and Weakness in Your Resume
     
  The Perfect Legal Cover Letter
    The Five Qualities of a Fantastic Cover letter
    Frequently asked questions about cover letter
 
THE PERFECT LEGAL COVER LETTER

Sometimes it is difficult to know what belongs in a cover letter. To take some of the confusion out of it, compare a cover letter to a movie or a book. The best movies and books are compelling, make us think without being over our heads, and are only as long as they need to be. The same is true of a cover letter. Effective cover letters come in all shapes and sizes. As with a resume, the length and content of your letter should be dictated by how much you actually need to tell the person you are writing to. Some resumes speak for themselves and do not require a lengthy cover letter. If you feel, however, that your resume does not fully showcase your potential, despite having fleshed out your experience and strengths as much as possible, then you might require a longer letter to get your point across. While your resume should contain everything that's vital to your candidacy, there are some things that just cannot be fully expressed by a resume alone. An effective cover letter will step in where your resume leaves off and further highlight your strengths and diminish your weaknesses.

The Five Qualities of a Fantastic Cover Letter:

1) It briefly addresses "who you are" and "what you want."
2) It highlights your most relevant experience and skills.
3) It tells employers what you can do for them.
4) It delves into any attributes that cannot be explained in full on your
resume.
5) It addresses any "red flags" that will be raised by your resume.

Your cover letter should never exceed one page. Within that limit, the length of your cover letter should be dictated by how much you absolutely need to say. If you need four paragraphs to convey pertinent information, so be it. If you need only two sentences, so be it.

As a general rule, if your resume is fairly long, your cover letter should be fairly short, and vice versa. You do not want to bombard someone with a lengthy resume and then have him/her read a long letter on top of it. If your resume is long, let your experience do the talking. On the other hand, if your resume does not have much to say, then your cover letter probably needs to explain why.

Follow these rules, and you'll be able to write a cover letter for any situation.

  • Keep it brief - the longer your explanation, the more defensive you'll sound.
  • Avoid negative words - you do not need to tell the employer what you do not offer to convey what you do offer.
  • Be optimistic - give the employer the impression that you are eager and ready to move on to bigger and better things.
  • Back up your claims - do not just say you exhibit a quality or characteristic; give evidence that supports that you do.
Frequently asked questions about cover letters

1) What is the proper tone of a cover letter? The impressions your cover letter gives to prospective employers about you often have a tremendous bearing on your ability to get an interview. Your letter should be well written, and you should sound enthusiastic and confident about your ability to add value to the company, without sounding pretentious.

2) What is the protocol for requesting an interview? Should I tell the employer that I will contact him/her at a certain time, rather than asking to be contacted? Some experts may tell job seekers to make the first phone call rather than wait, but it is not always in the job seeker's best interest. Employers do not want to be hounded by job seekers. They will contact you if they are interested.

3) Do I need to show I have researched the firm/company I'm applying to? The more you know about a company, the more knowledgeable you sound. But do not inundate the employer with facts he/she already knows.

4) Should I mention salary requirements in my cover letter? With salary requirements, it is best to be flexible. Why risk mentioning a level that is below what you could get after they have met you?

5) Is there a specific cover letter format I need to use? As with a resume, the format of your cover letter should be dictated by your particular experience.

6) What is the best way to deal with employment dates that could possibly be construed as having a negative connotation? Dates that show you are currently unemployed, prone to hopping jobs, or not the typical age of someone who might be considered ideal should probably be avoided. However, if you need to explain them, you can put the correct spin on them in your cover letter.

7) If I have been laid-off/fired/quit, how do I broach this subject? You have to put it in the best possible light. Casting aspersions on your former employer will not make anyone want you aboard, for fear you may exhibit similar behavior if/when you leave them.



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