Where Can I Get A Template?
I am regularly asked for template covering letters for training contract, vacation scheme and paralegal applications.
However, there is no one template that is right for everyone. There is also a high risk that any template provided will be used to guide the drafting of the substance of the content much too closely.
Instead, its better to work to a pre-determined structure only and then draft the content of the letter from scratch each time.
The Structure Of A Covering Letter
The body of a good covering letter would read along the following lines:
1. Why you are writing
Open the letter with why you are writing.
For example, you are writing to apply for a training contract with the firm commencing in September 2014.
Mention the advertisement if you are applying in response to one (but not necessary if the vacancy is a recurring annual vacancy that appears on the firm’s website or in one of the law firm directories).
2. Introduce yourself
A quick summary of what you are doing now or have done/achieved recently so as to give a quick snapshot.
For example, you are currently studying the LPC at the University of Law, having previously graduated with a 2:1 from the University of Hull.
3. Why that firm?
This is where you show that you are not just applying to firms in a scatter-gun fashion.
Avoid using generalisations here that can apply to many firms. For example, do not just say you are applying to XYZ LLP because it is a leading firm with a good reputation.
Instead, be more specific about appealing aspects of the firm and tell them why those things are important to you. This can still include a firms reputation in an area of law but they will want you to explain more specifically why that has influenced your decision to apply to them.
This is where you display the knowledge you have gained when researching the firm.
What is it specifically about the firm’s size, location, areas of law practised, training contract, etc, that has made you apply to them (and therefore ignore many other firms)?
Seek to back up your reasons and personalise them by mentioning how your work experience and other experiences and knowledge have helped you make an informed decision to apply specifically to them.
4. Why you?
Highlight a particular quality you have and/or competencies or achievements of yours that show you have what they are looking for (as discovered during your research).
Focus on those parts of your experience to date that might help persuade them that you are the right person for them.
The key with a covering letter is to avoid just repeating lots of things that are already on your CV or elsewhere on your application form.
Instead, briefly mention a couple of the highlights from your CV but tie this into some reasoning as to why you feel you would be a good fit for the firm.
5. Sign off professionally
Thank them for their time in considering your application, state your availability for interview and ask that they contact you with any queries.
Do not waffle or go overboard here by stressing your desire to work for the firm or saying you want to contribute to the firm’s future success.
These should be obvious given the care you have taken over your research and your application.
Help The Recruiter
Finally, as with all drafting in your applications, be sure to help the recruiter by writing in a clear and concise manner.
Use short sentences and paragraphs in order to ensure the points you are presenting do not get lost in a sea of words.
They will be assessing your writing skills when reading your application so ensure you give a good account of yourself.
A lot of job applications are now done online in fancy, new-fangled, digital application forms. However, many companies still favour the traditional CV and cover letter application combo.
Whether it’s a speculative application, or one targeted at a specific job advertisement, the covering letter is a key ingredient in this process!
So, how do you stand out from the overstuffed pile?
This article takes a look at how to write a covering letter for all those companies that are keeping it real and asking you to tell them all about your employability on just one page of A4.
> If you're keen to find out more about those companies, you can head over to our Law Jobs section.
What's the point of a cover letter?
The covering letter is the paper equivalent of those initial few seconds when we meet someone new. Much is judged upon little!
The ultimate aim of the covering letter is to politely scream “choose me”, in a way that convinces an employer that you are worthy of them offering you an interview. No pressure then!
What does an employer want?
Let’s take a second to consider the employer’s perspective:
“I want someone that is perfect for the job as soon as possible with the minimum amount of fuss or hassle. That means don’t waste my time, don’t waffle and get straight to the point.”
If you fail to fit within any of the above criteria, then you’ll be given short shrift from the employer.
That means shift F7 is definitely out of the question for this one! When creating you covering letter masterpiece, it is important that you follow a clear structure.
Outlined below is a template that most recruitment consultancies and employers recommend:
1) Who are you & why are you writing to me?
You must let them know this within the first few lines of your covering letter; otherwise it is unlikely they will go any further.
E.g. “My name is Joe Gissajob and I’m writing to apply for the position of Editorial Assistant that I saw advertised on the XYZ website.”
2) Why do you want the job?
Be honest. Discuss what excites you about the specific job responsibilities. Demonstrate your enthusiasm in an original but appropriate way.
3) What attracts you to the company & the position you are applying for?
Mentioning money is probably not the best thing to do here. Employers will be far more receptive to your application if you have taken the time to understand their business and how the role you are applying for will fit into it.
4) Why should you be offered the job?
The elders of a settlement in rural India may have honoured you for your efforts in preparing their village for the monsoon season, but can you use Outlook and Excel?
Don’t simply see this section as an opportunity to put down every achievement since primary school on the page.
It must be relevant to the work you will be doing for them, and it must encourage them to read on.
Consider selecting three or four qualities that you possess which match the needs of the job.
Be wary of exaggerating anything though. You’ll soon be found out if you didn’t actually invent the chip and pin device!
Briefly detail any practical issues that might need to be addressed. If they specify you must have a clean driving license, this is your opportunity to let them know.
To summarise, when writing your covering letter: be concise, tailor it to the job specification and talk up the relevant qualities you possess that make you ideal for the position. Most importantly though, good luck!