Key Components of a Strong Cover Letter
I’ve heard that, even with today’s online hiring processes, it’s still important to compose a cover “letter” to send with your resume when applying for a job. Do you have any advice for writing one that’ll help me stand out?
Even if you’ve just spent hours polishing your resume, you should still create a cover note or letter that points out why you’d be successful in each role you apply for. Whether you’re applying via email or filling out an employer’s online form, you can attach your cover letter as a separate document along with your resume.
Here are some tips for crafting a cover letter that showcases your strengths and distinguishes you from other applicants.
Tailor it to the position
The last thing a hiring manager wants to read is a generic boilerplate that could accompany a job application for any position. In a few short sentences, outline why you’re an outstanding candidate for this specific role, linking your experience, qualifications and accomplishments with the requirements listed in the job posting.
Tailoring your cover letter also means avoiding the outdated “Dear Sir/Madam.” If you’re presenting yourself as a legal professional who sweats the details, you can back this up by contacting the firm or legal department and asking for the hiring manager’s name.
Be smart with keywords
Job application filtering software scans for keywords that match the preferred skills and experience listed in the job description. Suppose you’re a paralegal responding to a job posting with “comprehensive knowledge of electronic filing” as its top requirement. In that case, you should definitely mention your proficiency with e-filing in your cover letter.
Don’t rehash your resume
In this information-heavy world, no one wants to read the same thing twice. A great cover letter reinforces the most salient features of your resume without simply restating them. Find new ways to play up some of your recent accomplishments and highlight the skills and experience that make you the perfect fit for the position.
You can also use your cover letter to show you’ve done your research on the firm or legal department. Don’t just say, “I will help your organization meet its medium-term goals.” If you’ve learned that the firm wants to move into a new practice area or build online business, state clearly how your skills will help them get there.
Proofread your work
You can be the most qualified legal professional since Abraham Lincoln, but if your cover letter contains even one typo, you’re not getting shortlisted. Proofreading your own writing is hard, so try to enlist a friend or trusted colleague to give it a second look.
In job applications, as in life, first impressions matter. A strong cover letter doesn’t guarantee success, but it will improve your chances.