1 First Impressions: Writing Impressive Cover Letters 1 First Impressions: Writing Impressive Cover Letters

1 First Impressions: Writing Impressive Cover Letters - PowerPoint Presentation

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1 First Impressions: Writing Impressive Cover Letters - PPT Presentation

Lisa M Patterson Associate Dean for Career Services 608 OBrian Hall 7166452056 lpatterbuffaloedu 2 What is a Cover Letter A Business Letter use formal language format Your first contact with a potential employer ID: 137705

type letter cover job letter type job cover law paragraph networking employer referral writing specific career formal information format




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First Impressions: Writing Impressive Cover Letters

Lisa M. Patterson

Associate Dean for Career Services

608 O’Brian Hall




What is a Cover Letter?

A Business Letter

use formal language,


Your first contact with a potential employer

“Out of the Blue

Answers basic questions about you as a candidate for the job

Who, What, Where, When, Why, HowSlide3


Goals of a Cover Letter

To clearly express your interests to an employer.

To state how your skills specifically meet the employer's needs.

To get the employer to want to read further, read your resume, and ask you for an interview.



Helpful Mindset for Cover Letter Writing

Get in the right frame of



the 4 S’s


Put yourself in the reader’s shoes


Ask the right questions—request what the reader can actually give you


Avoid “I want” and focus on “What I can offer


This is subtle: your enthusiasm for the job is a selling point too, so a little “I want” is OK


Be comfortable selling yourself

Use concrete examples to avoid bragging!Slide5


Cover Letter Format:


Use formal business letter formatting

Stay to one page

Use bond paper that matches your resume

Either left-justified or indented paragraphs are acceptable

Date should line up with closing

Look up titles if unsure

Use formal, but not convoluted language

ALWAYS sign your letter

Triple-check for typos

Have someone else look it overSlide6


Cover Letter Tone

Formal, Not Casual

“Mr. Smith” not “Bob”

No contractions or slang

Simple, Not Verbose

Use direct, action verbs

Avoid passive voice

Shorter, simple sentences


Formal & Verbose: “I am in receipt of your correspondence.”

Casual & Simple: “I got your note.”

Formal & Simple: “I received your letter.”Slide7


Cover Letter Grammar

Use dictionary, thesaurus, and style manual for reference (look online)

Watch synonyms

There, their, they’re

Your, you’re

Use apostrophes correctly

Replace letters: you’re = you are

Indicate possession: John’s

NEVER to indicate a plural: “I am sending you two writing sample’s.”

Brush up on other



, pronouns, punctuation, etc.)Slide8


Cover Letter Format:


Copy and paste heading from resume to use as “letterhead”

Along left margin:

Today’s date

Name, title, company, and full address of addressee:

Use formal title: “The Honorable” or “Dean” or “Mr.” or “Ms.”

E.g. The Honorable John Jay

Chief Justice

The United States Supreme Court

1501 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20003Slide9


Cover Letter Format:


Salutation: Dear “Mr.” or “Ms.”

Last name only

Use a COLON after the name

“Dear Mr. Smith:”—correct

“Dear Justice Jay:”—correct

“Dear Mr. John M. Smith,”—incorrect

Be sure to use proper prefix: Dr., Judge, Justice, Reverend, etc.Slide10


Cover Letter Format:

The Body

First Paragraph, The Hook:

Who are you, where did you come from (implicit in this: how did you find me?)

What do you want?

Special circumstances

Second (optional third) Paragraph, The Sales Pitch:

Why should I give you what you are asking for?

Last Paragraph, The Next

Step -

A Call to action.Slide11


Cover Letter Format:


Closing should line up with date (flush left or indented, your choice)

Use appropriate phrase, such as,


Yours truly,

Followed by a COMMA

Second word is NOT capitalized

Leave 3-4 returns (space for your signature), then type your name

Double-spaced under your typed name, write “Enc.” to indicate that there is an enclosure (resume, etc) with the letter.Slide12



Month day, year

Full Name of Addressee

Title of Addressee

Name of Organization

Street Address

City, State Zip Code

Dear Mr./Ms. (Addressee's last name):

1st Paragraph

- Your opening paragraph should pique the interest of the potential employer. Tell why you are writing. Name the position, field or general vocational area about which you are asking. Tell how you learned of the opening or organization and why you are interested in the organization.


2nd Paragraph

-This paragraph should create a desire to read further. Provide additional information concerning your education, experience, qualities, and interests as they relate to the position. Describe one or two qualifications you think would be of the greatest interest to the employer, keeping in mind the employer's point of view. If you have related experience or special training, be sure to point it out. Tell the employer specifically what you have to offer the organization and support your claim with proof/examples.


3rd Paragraph

- In your closing paragraph ask for action. Include your phone number and email address if they are not in your heading, so the employer can easily contact you. Be sure to emphasize your appreciation for their time.

Sincerely (or Respectfully or Yours truly),

(Your handwritten signature)

Type Your Name here

Enc. (to indicate that you have enclosed a resume and/or other material)

Your Name

## Street

City, St Zip



Sample Cover LetterSlide13


Cover Letter Format



Types of Cover Letters

Type A: Responding to Specific Job Posting

Type B: Networking/Referral

Type C: “Cold” LettersSlide15


Type A: Specific Job Posting

Most direct, clearest

Your letter is expected, will be recognizedSlide16


Type A: Specific Job Posting

First Paragraph:

“Who are you?” is easy – an applicant answering their ad

“I am a first-year student at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School”

“I am a native of Nassau County, completing my first year at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School.”Slide17


Type A: Specific Job Posting

First Paragraph:

“What you want” is easy – to apply for the advertised job

“I found your job posting through my school’s Career Services Office and wish to apply for an internship with [your office].”

“As outlined on your website, I am enclosing the requisite application materials for your summer internship program”Slide18


Type A: Specific Job Posting

First Paragraph:

Special language: Consider questions that may arise

You are not exactly what they advertised for (1L applying for 2L job, or internship/job typically advertised to non-law students)

You need to point out your ties to their geographic area that are not obvious from your resume

You did not find the ad in its original place, but did extra research, or were referred to it by someoneSlide19


Type A: Specific Job Posting

First Paragraph:

Special circumstances:

Other important messages:

“While your job posting specifies a Masters Degree, I believe my Juris Doctor degree will be a suitable substitute.”

“While my prior experience is in the area of retail sales, my ability to manage client requests and solve problems will be well suited to a general practice law setting.”Slide20


Type A: Specific Job Posting

First Paragraph:

Special circumstances:

Geographic ties

“As a native of Atlanta, I am seeking internship opportunities in the surrounding Atlanta area.”

“My husband/wife/etc. is a native of Atlanta and we are planning to settle there permanently.”

“I attended college at Emory and plan to return to Georgia.”

“I have many friends and relatives in the Atlanta area and am concentrating my job search there.”Slide21


Type A: Specific Job Posting

Second Paragraph:

Work from advertised job to respond to what the employer is looking for in candidates, and directly relate your selling points to their needs.

“You state in your job posting that you seek candidates with strong writing skills. I have demonstrated my legal writing abilities through my membership in the Public Interest Law Journal and my consistently strong grades in research and writing classes.”

“While you specifically request second-year law students in your hiring criteria, I am applying as a first-year student because my experience as a legal assistant prior to law school developed skills and interest in real estate law much more advanced than a typical 1L.”Slide22


Type A: Specific Job Posting

Second Paragraph:

Sometimes the job description doesn’t tell you directly what the employer is seeking. Use other information to guess what the employer wants.

“Your busy litigation office could use an intern who learns quickly and works independently. While earning my Masters degree in History I had to excel in independent, deadline-driven research.”

“Although working with a District Attorney’s Office will be a new challenge for me, my experience on the Greenacre College debate team will serve me well. An ability to think on one’s feet and reason quickly to a conclusion is essential, both on the debate team and in the courtroom.”Slide23


Type A: Specific Job Posting

Last Paragraph:

Call to Action and Thanks: What happens next?

“I can be reached at (phone number) to arrange an interview at your convenience.”

“I will be in the area from February 2-5 if you would like to schedule an interview.”

“I will forward my transcript when it is available.”

“Thank you for your consideration.”Slide24


Type A: Specific Job Posting



Type B: Networking/Referral Cover Letter

Identifies a personal link to the reader

Mutual friend/acquaintance

Alumnus of your school

Met before in another context

Goal: AIR

Advice, Information, Referrals

Result: Informational InterviewSlide26


Type B: Networking/Referral Cover Letter

First Paragraph:

IMMEDIATELY identify your connection!

IMMEDIATELY tell them what you want!

The Reader has no idea who might be writing them, especially since they don’t have a job posted. The longer they remain confused, the less persuasive you will be.Slide27


Type B: Networking/Referral Cover Letter

First Paragraph:


“Professor Henry Jones, my Archaeology instructor, suggested that I contact you as I explore careers in artifact law.”

“As a fellow graduate of the Ringling Brothers Clown College, I am writing for advice on breaking into the world of balloon animal design.”

“We met several years ago at a Supermarket Produce seminar, where you led a class on Banana Peel safety. Now that I am in law school, I would welcome the chance to talk to you about your career in personal injury and risk management.” Slide28


Type B:

Networking/Referral Cover Letter

Second Paragraph:

What else will they be wondering (be SENSITIVE)?

Who are you? What do you want? How did you find them? Why do you think they might be able to help you? What can they possibly offer you?

Think of opening letters at home. You are more likely to respond (i.e. not throw away) if:

They are from people/sources you know

They ask you for something that is easy or at least within your power

They are interesting to read

They instill a sense of obligation or sympathySlide29


Type B:

Networking/Referral Cover Letter

Second Paragraph:

Goal: Develop the connection between you and the reader, so they want to meet you

Describe your interest in their field

“As I continue to evaluate career options in different legal fields, I find myself intrigued by construction law.”

Show that you’ve done a little homework

“Professor Jones speaks highly of your firm and directed me to your article entitled, “Insuring the Holy Grail,” which I found fascinating.”

“Your firm, Trigger, Silver & Ed, is nationally renowned for its excellence in Equine Law.”Slide30


Type B: Networking/Referral Cover Letter

Last Paragraph:

The Call to Action: What happens now?

Remind them of what you want:

Advice, Information, Referrals

“While I realize that your firm may not have any internships available, I would appreciate any insight or connection to the entertainment law community that you could provide.”

“As I pursue a career in patent law, any advice, information or referrals you could offer would help me greatly.”Slide31


Type B:

Networking/Referral Cover Letter

Last Paragraph:

Ask to meet (or at least talk in real time)

“I will be in town at the end of the month and would very much like to meet you for coffee if it would be convenient.”

“I have every Friday free and would appreciate a few minutes of your time if you would be available in the next few weeks.”

“I would like to schedule a mutually convenient time for us to talk on the telephone.”Slide32


Type B:

Networking/Referral Cover Letter

Last Paragraph:

Optional follow-up: Since you initiated this contact, you can offer to follow up.

“I will call you next week to discuss the possibility of meeting with you in person.”

“I will be in touch by telephone to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet.”Slide33


Type B:

Networking/Referral Cover Letter



Type C: “Cold” Letter

COMPLETELY Out of the Blue: No Connection

Usually a result of research in a directory

ALWAYS address to a PERSON

Never “To whom it may concern”

ABSOLUTELY never “Dear Sir”

Pick an attorney to contact

Call ahead to get a nameSlide35


Type C: “Cold” Letter

BEFORE YOU START, decide what you want

Remember STRATEGY: Ask for what you can get

Is this a direct application letter or networking?

Direct application may hit on unadvertised internships or plant the idea in the reader’s mind.

Networking may get you in the door and create a job where there wasn’t one before as a result of your informational interview.Slide36


Type C: “Cold” Letter

First Paragraph:

Who you are and what you want:

Direct: “I am a first-year student at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law school, and would like to apply for a summer internship if one is available”


Networking: “I am a first-year student at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law school, and am seeking information and experience in the area of Tax law.”Slide37


Type C: “Cold” Letter

First Paragraph:

Where you came from/how you found them:

“I found your profile in the West Legal Directory as I was searching for tax attorneys in Chicago.”

“I found your firm on a list of premier tax law specialists published by

American Jurist



Type C: “Cold” Letter

Second/Last Paragraphs:

Essentially the same as the networking/referral lettersSlide39


Type C: “Cold

” Letter



Final Cover Letter Checklist

After writing your letter, use this CAN DO attitude to evaluate your work!



Have you given enough info?



Check grammar, spelling, titles, etc.



Check formatting, font, etc.



Is the message clear? Is the language simple?



Does your letter flow?Slide41


For Reference







What Can You Do with a Law Degree?

A Lawyers Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside and Around the Law. Deborah


, 5


edition, 2004. A career encyclopedia for lawyers in transition and law students breaking into the profession. Includes internet job resources just for lawyers, and a unique job grid system to define one’s ideal career and work environment. CSO Reserve (


612). Earlier editions (1992, 1997 and 1999) also available. [1/04]


Letters: That Knock '



. Martin Yate, 5th edition, 2003. Not specifically geared to law, but may be helpful in giving you a start. Now includes information on writing an electronic cover letter. CSO Reserve (


612); UGL Reference (non-circulating) HF 5383 Y378. 1995 & 1992 editions also available on CSO Reserve (






Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams



Alayne Walton, J.D. 1995. Based on the insights of many career counselors from law schools around the country. A MUST READ! CSO Reserve (Rm 612). Also, Law General Collection KF 297 W34. In addition, there is a videotape covering Kimm Walton’s presentation of her book. Available at: Law Library A-V Dept. [6/02]