\par Cover Letter Mania \par

Cover Letter Mania

When talking with employers, one of the most frequent topics they will comment on is applicant cover letters. The criticisms range from grammar and typos, to dullness and length. We’ll get into some of that here, but I also want to drive home a point that much of this is subjective and tells us more about the reader than the writer. So at the end of the day there isn’t a silver bullet answer to how to best draft a cover letter. With that caveat aside, let’s jump right in.\par \par Easy stuff first: you simply can’t have grammar mistakes, typos, etc. in your cover letter. There isn’t anything subjective about this one. I’ve talked to numerous employers who will simply toss an application in the trash after seeing the first mistake. Sound like an overreaction? I say yes and no. When it’s a job seekers’ market and there are more jobs and applicants, my guess is the stance on this would soften. But right now we’re still in an employers’ market, where they receive dozens if not scores of applications for each position. Employers taking this approach are simply using cover letter mistakes as another screening tool, much like grades, in order to cull the applicant pool to a more manageable number. Finally, let’s also not forget that you’re applying for a position where you will do a lot of writing, there is a high level of importance on being precise and clear in that writing, and so a mistake in the cover letter directly speaks to your competence to do the job you’re asking them to give you. So take no chances and do whatever it takes to ensure your cover letter is mistake-free.\par \par Now that we’ve dispensed with the easy one, let’s move on to some cover letter issues which are more subjective. Length is one we are often asked about, and I’d say that the large majority of employers prefer short cover letters as opposed to long. How short? This blog post is already getting close to the total number of words you would want in your letter. It could be longer, but I can say if your letter bleeds over into a second page you’ve blown through any reasonable range. \par \par You might ask how you’re supposed to say everything you need to say in such few words. There are two responses to that: 1) part of artful and precise writing is using as few words as is required (President Lincoln used 272 words to address the crowd at Gettysburg, you ought to be able to get an employer’s attention in double that), and 2) you may not be clear on the purpose of the letter and therefore the content it should contain.\par \par Let’s explore #2 a little bit more. I see cover letters all the time which are essentially the candidate’s resume in narrative form. This is a mistake. The cover letter should supplement your resume, not rehash it. Why do you want this job? What about the employer excites you? How do you plan to solve the employer’s problem? Why are you uniquely qualified for this job? These are the questions you should be answering in the cover letter. When you approach the letter like that, my guess is you’ll see it doesn’t require 1,000 words and two pages, nor will you be simply restating your resume.\par \par Lastly, like any piece of writing you want to know your audience and write to that audience. Your cover letter will be read by either attorneys or recruiters, so that’s who you want to focus on as you write. Recruiters deal with a lot of candidates and a lot of new associates, so they may be interested in hearing how you’re a team player and easy to work with. Attorneys may want to know you can do the work, and that you’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done efficiently and right. Then again, the particular employer you’re addressing may have other priorities they want to hear more about. More specific still, one attorney may have a pet peeve or highly valued trait they want to hear about, which differs from her colleague. That’s where we get into the highly subjective nature of cover letter writing. You’re not going to please everyone, but through research and thoughtfulness, you should be able to clear the cover letter hurdle and get to the next phase of the process. \par \par The Career Development Office has resources you can take advantage of when drafting your cover letters, and we strongly encourage you to take advantage of them. Professor Susan Kelly-Claybrook will review your cover letters and work with you to hone your message, and of course Angela and I are always willing to help as well. Happy writing!\par \par Connect with Daniel at Daniel_Hare@Baylor.edu and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.\par \par Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Law Clerk with The Carlson Law Firm in either Killeen or Austin (Alumni, 3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply. \par ]]>\par

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