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How To Write A Standout Cover Letter And Secure That Legal Interview

Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

I can’t emphasise enough how important cover letters are becoming when it comes to standing out in the legal career race.

They’re a golden opportunity to introduce yourself, highlight your most desirable skills, and create a good impression in your legal recruiter or hiring manager’s eye.

So why on earth are they so often skimmed over - or even worse, left out altogether?

Without a cover letter, your job application is just another sheet of paper, or another PDF file on the computer screen - one often lacking in personality and excitement.

And you know what? That’s fine: after all, the CV’s function is to list experience and skills. Your cover letter is there to add interest.

Without a cover letter, your CV is much more likely to be skimmed over and discarded. It might not even be read at all - almost certainly the case if the job description has asked for a cover letter to be included.

However, that’s not to say that any old cover letter will do.  There’s an art to writing a good cover letter - one that will make a recruiter straighten in their seat and think, ‘hmmm, this person looks interesting.’

What To Include and What To Leave Out Of A Legal Cover Letter

Write your cover letter in the first person. When you’ve written your first draft, check over it and you’ll probably find that you’ve started every single sentence with ‘I’. Go back and reword some of the sentences so that they have variation in how they begin - it makes the cover letter read better and will increase the impact.

Mix it up and write different cover letters for different organisations. Personalisation is key and always gets noticed.

Your legal recruitment consultant can help you with this. For each legal job application, scour the job ad to look at the particular skills or competencies they’re seeking. Write your cover letter to tell them how your skills and experiences fit what they are looking for. Include why you want to work for their company too.

Remember not to ramble: If it’s a big block of text crammed onto one page, then you put the person off ever reading it at all. Four to six very short paragraphs are the perfect length.

Ensure you create white space between each major piece of information, so that it is easy to read and pick out the critical parts. In today’s online world many cover letters could be read on mobile so factor this in too.

Use straightforward, clean language; you are a legal professional after all. Complex language can be a headache for the reader and confuses the message - i.e. why you’re the ideal person for the role.

Break overly long sentences into shorter ones, then read it aloud and see how it sounds.

Put all your contact details on the cover letter. If you are unavailable to take calls during working hours, advise when is suitable.

Make sure you mention the name of the company in the body of the cover letter and demonstrate that you have done your research on the company in some way. This marks the application out as targeted and that you care enough to make your application stand out.

Strike a balance. Every company enjoys being flattered. While you want to demonstrate you are the right person for the role, be aware you don’t come across as sounding desperate.

Don’t send your letter without having someone read over it for spelling and grammar mistakes. Of course, run it through spellcheck first, but that won’t always pick up homophones such as ‘their and there’ or ‘your and you’re’.

Then, of course, make sure your recruitment consultant sees it too.

Put real thought into what the reader might find interesting about you and your work experience.

In short, keep it short. Keep it readable. Keep it relevant to the job offer. Get someone to check it. Above all, put some serious effort into making sure it’s as good as it possibly can be, as a lack of effort will rarely open the door to an interview.

 

Thanks,

Lynn

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help.
Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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