Cover letter writing is essentially storytelling. You are telling your future employer why she specifically matters to you, and why your skill-sets particularly matter to her. You are not merely ticking-off the bullet-points from your resume.
Let’s dissect a sample cover letter’s Introduction and in a subsequent blog, we will tackle the Body and Conclusion. To highlight the necessary elements of a stylish, personable, and strong Introduction to a cover letter, consider this Early Draft and compare it to its Final Draft by way of the color coding.
“I am a recent graduate of Flinestone University School of Law. Before becoming an attorney, I worked as an editor at a major publishing house in New York. The hours were long and the pay was low, but it was an incredible time to learn. Currently, I am looking for such an experience at Coats and Bennett. I am eager to remain in Amityville and apply my writing and analytical skills to the intellectual property arena. I promise to bring to the company the same hard work I applied to my legal studies and the same entrepreneurial spirit I exhibited working as a youth counselor to help put myself through law school.”
“I recently graduated from Flinestone University School of Law with a JD/MLS, which I supplemented with intellectual property studies at Bedrock School of Law. I am writing to express my interest in providing research and document production support for your firm. My masters in library science propelled my legal education toward the most current research trends and methods. As a result, I celebrate exciting research discoveries with an accelerating frequency, and I draft documents and complex communications thoughtfully. Moreover, my unremitting success as a youth counselor demonstrates a special ability to coach and encourage people toward the attainment of their goals. These common and enduring displays of my customer service orientation make me ideally suited to conduct research and write preliminary drafts for your partners and associates.”
The Final Draft works better because it uses the joint degree and supplemental studies to distinguish the candidate and immediately suggests to this particular employer, an intellectual property attorney, the reasons for the candidate’s inquiry. The Early Draft does none of these.
The Early Draft uses three sentences to say nothing. It makes the mistake of falling back on the resume without application to the candidate’s skill-set. Also, the candidate makes it all-too-clear that she has not researched the firm. But, take a look at the Final Draft: in just a few words, it states the reason for the letter and demonstrates an awareness of the particular needs of the employer.
The Final Draft accomplishes more than the Early Draft. It merely lists the skill-sets. The Final Draft, however, uses the skill-sets to describe how they would benefit the employer. In doing this, the candidate additionally manages to show-off her personality by using, for instance, the active voice (i.e. “propelled” and “celebrate”).
The Early Draft shows you a truly terrible closing sentence for an introduction. This is so because the candidate has not spent enough time reflecting on her particular skill-sets. But, by the Final Draft, she has. She has brought them together under a common theme – customer service orientation – and tailored it to the employer’s needs.
For Additional Guidance, Consider These Helpful Resources:
- Cover Letter Magic: Trade Secrets of Professional Resume Writers, by Wendy S. Enelow – PD HF5383 .E4787 2010
- Step-by-Step Cover Letters, by Evelyn U. Salvador – PD HF5383 .S247 2011
- Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, by Kimm Alayne Walton – KF297 .W24 2008
- Donna Gerson, The Revised Cover Letter, 33 Student Law. 18 (2004-05)
- Erin Binns, Use Cover Letters to Tell Compelling Stories of Fit, 39 Student Law. 5 (2010-11)