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Five Key Steps to a Cover Letter That Will Get a Firm's Attention

December 18, 2012

Tags: CDO, 2013

Most firms and legal employers request at least a cover letter and resume from applicants. Do you have a solid resume, but need your cover letter to be equally strong? While a great resume can open doors, a compelling cover letter can be an equally (if not MORE) important part of your pitch for employment.

Even if cover writing isn't your style, don't panic! Read on for five simple strategies and reminders that can help even a novice letter writer create a memorable introduction to capture a future employer's attention.

1. Ensure your letter matches your resume in presentation and style.

Start by copying the name and address header information from your resume to a blank document. Next, make sure your margins match as well. Review the font &mash; they must match on both your resume and cover letter to ensure a polished, professional look.

2. Make every attempt to find out the name of the hiring manager or partner before sending your application.

Skip "Dear Sir" by finding out exactly who is behind the open position. This is where your Internet research skills will come in handy.

Sites such as LinkedIn or are great resources for job hunters who want to find company insiders. Additionally, you may simply be able to call the firm and ask who the hiring manager is for the open position.

If you can't find out the name, "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Hiring Partner" is most appropriate.

3. Keep in mind the purpose of the cover letter is to gain attention.

The first paragraph should skip mundane details and get right to the point. Aim for an opening sentence that states your main qualifications, plus your objective, all in one shot.

4. Summarize what you can do for the firm without a total recitation of your resume.

Even though you've put a lot of effort into your resume, it's still best to resist the temptation to repeat all that great information. You will capture more interest by restating your main points, allowing the reader to see how you will succeed in the position.

5. Limit the number of sentences beginning with "I" as much as possible.

Focusing on the position and the firm's needs are key strategies for a great introduction. One of the best ways to do this is to refrain from using first person references at the beginning of your sentences. The reasoning behind this point is that when you create a verbal picture of what you can achieve, it rarely starts with "I" &mash; structuring your thoughts this way can help reinforce your emphasis on the company's needs.

The following example illustrates this point:

Given the firm's needs for an associate with a demonstrated interest in Water Rights, we should talk further about my summer internship at the Cal/EPA State Water Resources Control Board.

In summary, don't forget to create a strong cover letter as part of your job hunting strategy. You'll find that a personal, yet powerful, introduction to your skills might be all you need to access more interviews.

For more personalized help with your resume and cover letters, stop by the CDO!