Five Tips for Creating the Perfect Cover Letter

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on September 05, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You're on the not-so-fun job hunt that at some moments seems pointless. How do you differentiate yourself from the countless other grads looking for legal work? Well, by having a standout cover letter, that's how. The cover letter is the first encounter you have with a prospective employer so you have to ensure that it's perfect.

Here are five tips to getting you to the perfect cover letter -- and hopefully, the perfect job.

1. Correct Format
Cover letters follow a specific format -- business letter format (Daily Writing Tips has some great examples). Your letter should not exceed one page and should be three paragraphs in all: intro, body and closing. If you are emailing your application you have two options: (1) you can attach your cover letter; or (2) your email can be your cover letter. We tend to like the attached cover letter so you can be sure all your formatting won't get messed up in the email.

2. No Typos
Absolutely. No. Typos.

3. Tailor the Letter to Your Audience
It's ok to start off with your own cover letter template, but you must customize the cover letter to the firm or company you are applying to. Make sure that you get the name of the person you are writing to -- if you don't know it, we prefer "Dear Sir or Madame" to "To Whom It May Concern."

Be sure you change all the company names and position titles to the job you are applying for. Lastly, try to mention something about that particular firm or company so it actually sounds like you want to work for that company in particular, and not just anyone that will give you a job.

4. Consistent but Not Repetitive
Be sure that all of the experiences you mention in your cover letter are consistent with the experiences on your resume. That said, make sure you don't just regurgitate your resume in letter form. Try to tell a story about what you've learned through your experiences that make you the best possible candidate for the job.

5. Show Your Personality
Your cover letter is the only time you will get a chance to show your personality before the interview-phase of the job application process. Try to strike a balance between being too uptight and too casual. You're trying to sell yourself here -- tell the firm why they need to hire you. Writing a cover letter should be more than an after-thought -- it's just as important to have a good cover letter as it is to have a good resume.

Follow these tips, and your cover letter will be one less thing you need to worry about during the job search.

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