Important Update

COVER LETTERS and
Other Job Search Correspondence
Office of Career & Professional Development
© 2011, U.C. Hastings College of the Law
A powerful cover letter can open doors and influence how a potential employer views
you. Six basic letters are involved in the job search:
1. Application letters
2. Prospecting letters
3. Networking letters
4. Thank you letters
5. Acceptance letters
6. Withdrawal / rejection letters
APPLICATION & PROSPECTING LETTERS
Application Letters - This letter responds to a specific job listing and should
demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position and illustrate how your skills and
qualifications fit the requirements. Restate the position’s major requirements and show
how your past experiences match or support them. If responding to a blind listing, your
letter will need to be more generic. If the name is listed, do some research so that your
letter highlights a match between their practice and your background.
Prospecting Letters – These are letters to employers who have not listed an available
position. Similar in format to the application letter, prospecting letters must be
addressed to a particular individual.
If you can, establish a contact with an organization before you send a prospecting
letter. If someone suggests a potential employer to you and has agreed that you may
use his or her name, mention that person’s name upfront in your letter (e.g., “Clarence
Kay recommended that I contact you.”). Or, ask your contact to call the employer in
advance of your letter. This is a decision which is best assessed by the contact person,
so follow his/her lead as to the best course of action.
Rules for Application and Prospecting Letters
Grab the reader from the outset. Get the reader’s attention early. Avoid
sentences such as, “I am writing in response to your listing...” or if you do, make
sure there is some other attention grabber that follows on its heels!
Tailor your letters for each position. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes: would
you be more inclined to read a mass-produced mail-merged letter or one written
specifically to you which articulates an honest interest in your organization and
specific skills that would be of value? Research a potential employer before you
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write your cover letter so you can relate your background more directly to the
employer’s needs and specific law practice.
Always accompany a resume with a cover letter (an application or a
prospecting letter). The only exception to this rule will be during the On-Campus
Interview process, but even then, many employers will request a cover letter.
Always address letters to a specific individual. Put that person’s name in the
first line of the address block as well. Avoid “Hiring Partner,” “Sir/Madam”, “To
Whom It May Concern” and the like. The only exception is when you are
responding to a blind listing. Note on salutations: There are two options for
salutations: (1) “Dear John” or (2) “Dear Mr. Smith”—only use the first option if
the person you are writing to knows you well or if you have been told to address
him/her on a first name basis. Never use “Dear Mr. John Smith.”
Focus on what you offer the employer-- not what the employer offers you.
Explain why you are writing to this employer as opposed to the employer down
the street. What is it about their practice that makes you eager to work for them?
The meat of your letter should showcase what you offer this employer. Practical
tip: avoid phrases such as, “I am excited to work for you because I want to learn
more about…” Instead, say something like “Because of my interest in X, I am
particularly excited to work for your office.” Employers are not charities; they
won’t hire you because of what you’ll get from them (knowledge, learning), but
they may hire you because you bring energy and enthusiasm.
Provide evidence and specific examples from your experience. Don’t simply
restate your resume. Elaborate on it and draw attention to the experiences and
skills that an employer would find relevant. Claims of personality traits or skills (“I
have great research and writing skills,”) unsupported by specific evidence, are
less useful than specific factual statements (“I independently researched and
drafted a Motion to Dismiss in a construction defect case, which was granted in
part by the Alameda County Superior Court. The case settled two weeks later.”)
Vary sentence structure. Are you starting all your sentences with the word “I”?
Find a creative way to avoid that trap and avoid the passive voice at all cost!
Use action verbs (see “Crafting a Law Resume” handout for examples.)
Keep letters to one page.
Print on neutral color resume paper, preferably white or cream. Use the same
color and type of paper and the same font and size for both your cover letter and
resume for a professional look. Also, use the same letterhead on both your
resume and your cover letters.
Proofread! Ask the Career Office, professional contacts, family and/or friends
to look over your letter for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Employers
assume the quality of your cover letter indicates the quality of work you will
produce.
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Keep handy copies of all correspondence so you can access them quickly
and have a record of what you said when called upon to discuss the opportunity
further. Hard copies on file are often better than copies on your hard drive,
because you never know when you will get a job-related call.
Content of Application & Prospecting Letters
First Paragraph - Grab the reader’s attention and use powerful language.
Introduce yourself, your class year (1L, 2L, or 3L), and why you are writing (for a
summer/spring/fall position). If someone referred you to the employer, mention
that person’s name at the outset. For example, “Edward McCaffrey suggested
that I contact you regarding a summer position.” If you have not been referred by
someone, try to establish a connection between yourself and the employer (your
interest in one of their practice areas, their location). Demonstrate a specific
interest in that employer. Show them that you aren’t looking for just any job. If
you do mention the employer’s name, use the complete version. Avoid adding or
omitting commas. After you use the full name once, use the shortened version of
their name that is most commonly used—check their website to see how they
refer to themselves.
Second/Third Paragraphs – Show the employer what you have to offer. This
is the meat of your letter. Why are you qualified for the position? Link your
background, experience, and skills with the employer’s practice. Highlight and
expand on things mentioned in your resume such as grades, work experience,
relevant course work, etc. Do not simply repeat what is in your resume.
Emphasize transferable skills and your enthusiasm for the organization’s work.
Back up statements with proof. Anyone can say, “I will be valuable to your
organization.” Explain why you would be valuable (“My clerkship with Judge
Hand sharpened my research and writing skills.”).
Final Paragraph - Mention your interest in discussing the position in person
and indicate if you will be in the area for an interview (for out of town employers.)
Finally, thank the reader for his/her time and consideration. Practical tip: Be
proactive and persistent in following up on letters with phone calls! This will
separate you from the pack.
NETWORKING LETTERS
Networking letters are designed to obtain an informational interview, not a job interview.
They should communicate your interest in obtaining information about the targeted
individual, the practice area, or organization, and the reason you are interested in
obtaining that information (“As a second year law student at Hastings, I am developing
an interest in antitrust litigation”). As a general rule, don’t attach a resume to this type of
letter because doing so signals: “What I really want is a job, not information.” Of
course, bring your resume with you to an informational interview but don’t produce it
until the interviewer agrees to review it or until you are asked for it.
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Informational interviews also can be arranged over the telephone. Prepare the
questions you would ask at an informational interview in advance of such a call, just in
case the person says, “Hey, I’ve got some time right now, what would you like to know?”
For more information on setting up informational interviews, refer to the handout entitled
“Informational Interviews.”
THANK YOU LETTERS
When to send? Thank you or “follow-up” letters express your appreciation for the time
someone spent with you, show your continued and ever-growing interest in working with
the organization, and allow you to share more qualifications or enthusiasm. Most
employers agree that thank you letters are not necessary (or even helpful) after oncampus interviews. Thank you letters are appropriate after in-office visits or call-back
interviews and should be sent no later than 24-48 hours after the visit.
Personalize your letters by including specific references to the conversation(s) you
had with that individual (“Your description of your work involving the responsible
development of the South Bay waterfront fascinated me. I look forward to being
involved with similar proactive work someday myself. P.S. I hope your son feels
better.”) This shows not only your attentiveness to what the person had to say, but also
helps remind the individual who you are! Avoid gratuitous expressions regarding the
organization’s reputation in your thank you letters.
How many? When you interview with more than one individual, consider writing to
each separately. This can be a personal and effective touch which demonstrates that
you are prompt, thorough and complete. On the other hand, writing to all twelve people
with whom you interviewed may not be feasible, and certainly presents a greater
opportunity for errors. Another approach is to write to the person primarily responsible
for your interview or the one with whom you had the most contact. If you do, request
that s/he express your appreciation and enthusiasm to the others with whom you met.
You also might consider leaving brief voice mail messages for the other attorneys with
whom you met.
Handwritten, typed or emailed? There are different schools of thought as to whether
you should handwrite, type or email thank you letters. Some say that handwritten
letters can convey genuine personal appreciation. Others say that a thank you letter is
a business letter and thus warrants a more business-like communication (i.e.,
typewritten). Whichever method you choose, make sure your style and choice reflect
the culture of the organization you are targeting, and see the note on the next page
about snail mail vs. email.
ACCEPTANCE LETTERS
This letter is used to accept a job offer and confirm the terms of your employment
(salary, starting date, etc.). It often follows a telephone conversation in which you
discussed the details of the offer and terms of employment or a formal written offer.
Your letter is a contractual acceptance of a contractual offer. Treat it as such and close
with an appropriate expression of your enthusiasm to be joining the group.
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WITHDRAWAL / REJECTION LETTERS
These are letters used to either reject an offer of employment or to notify employers with
whom you have outstanding applications that you have accepted another application.
Express your appreciation for the employer’s consideration of your application or the
offer. In the case of an offer, indicate that you have carefully considered it. You do not
need to include details of the offer that you have accepted or why you are rejecting this
one. Remember, however, that the legal community is small and an employer you
reject today may offer you a lateral move five years from now. Particularly with rejection
letters, it’s a good idea to preface your letter with a personal phone call to the recruiting
coordinator or hiring attorney at the organization. This type of personal touch will make
you memorable.
IMPORTANT NOTE: SNAIL MAIL OR EMAIL?
Check to see if the employer indicated a preference for one form of communication on
the recruiting section of their website (if available). Snail mail is always acceptable
(remember to sign your letter) and email is increasingly common. If using email,
however, use the same level of formality as you would in snail mail. Include the
address block, the date, and double/triple check your spelling. Spell-check the subject
line as well. Some people advise keeping the cover letter in the body of the email,
others suggest including it as an attachment in case it is printed out and distributed. If
you attach it, make sure to PDF your attachment. Many recruiters say they can see
any edits you have made if the document is not a PDF. Before you email, make sure to
open any attachments to verify you’re sending the right documents and send a blind
copy to yourself to confirm what was sent and to make it easy to resend if necessary.
ESSENTIAL FOLLOW-UP
The most important step in sending cover letters is not the writing, but the follow-up!
Calling within a week (earlier if following up on email) to clarify hiring needs connects
your name with your voice and often prompts an employer to pull your materials. The
additional contact also helps you stand out as a persistent advocate—exactly what legal
employers are seeking!
• Attached are some sample letters to give you an idea of what they could look like.
They are only samples and should not be copied word for word. Your
correspondence should reflect your personality and style. You want to stand out!
MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH A CAREER COUNSELOR (415/565-4619) TO
DISCUSS OR REVIEW DRAFTS OF ANY OF THESE LETTERS. WE ARE HAPPY
TO PROVIDE OUR INPUT.
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Sample Application Letter
Lisa Simpson
100 McAllister Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 555-1212 • [email protected]
(Note: Use the same header format on your resume and cover letter for a
professional look)
August 18, 2009
Keith Bishop, Esq.
California Teachers Association
999 Education Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dear Mr. Bishop:
I was very excited to see the law clerk posting for the California Teachers Association.
As a former teacher now in my second year at UC Hastings, I have always been
interested in labor and union issues. In fact, I am pursuing a law degree with the hope
of combining these interests with my experience as a union member to advocate in the
employment law arena.
I first developed an interest in the labor problems facing our educators while working as
a high school teacher. That interest brought me to law school, where this past summer
as an intern at the Employment Law Center, I confirmed my interest in labor and
employment law. I interviewed and counseled clients of diverse backgrounds regarding
unfair labor practices, sexual harassment issues, and wrongful termination. To develop
litigation skills, I enrolled in a Trial Advocacy program this fall. Through this program, I
will represent an indigent client in an Unemployment Insurance appeal from the initial
interview through the administrative hearing. These skills and experiences would
benefit me as a clerk in your office.
Enclosed please find a copy of my resume and a letter of recommendation from my
supervisor at the Employment Law Center. Please feel free to call me if I can answer
any questions or provide additional information in support of my application. Thank you
for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
NOTE Lisa identifies background relevant to this particular
organization & the skills she expects will be of use to the
employer. She should follow up with the employer in roughly
ten business days to determine interest in her application.
Lisa Simpson
Enclosures
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Sample Application Letter
Luke Skywalker
100 McAllister Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 555-1212 • [email protected]
August 18, 2009
James T. Kirk, Esq.
Investigators ‘R Us
007 Spy Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dear Mr. Kirk:
I am responding to the listing I saw at the University of California, Hastings College of
the Law for an Investigative Assistant. Han Solo, Esq. has used your services
successfully on several occasions and he told me of your firm’s reputation as one of the
top private investigation firms in San Francisco. I will graduate from Hastings in May,
2010, and I am looking for an exciting career which will enable me to use my legal
training in a unique and creative way. The skills I have developed at Hastings make me
an ideal candidate for the position.
The clinical courses I have taken at Hastings sharpened my interviewing and factfinding skills. In addition, as a law clerk at Spock and Bones, I regularly propounded
and responded to discovery requests. In this context, I took a proactive role with my
clients as they often gave insufficient answers to interrogatories. These experiences
honed my ability to extract information from individuals who might not be ready or willing
to divulge that information. Also, through my work at the Immigration Resource Center,
I developed strong interpersonal skills in one-on-one counseling sessions with people
from a multitude of backgrounds. Finally, my work as a Research Assistant for
Professor Chu Bocka provided me with extensive experience in both legal and nonlegal
writing and research.
Please contact me if I can answer any questions or provide additional information.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
NOTE Luke mentioned a mutual contact and enthusiastically
expressed interest in a particular position. He also identified
relevant skills he’d bring to the position.
Luke Skywalker
Enclosure
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Sample Prospecting Letter to an Organization
Albert Gore
100 McAllister Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 555-1212 • [email protected]
December 18, 2008
George W. Bush, Esq.
Sierra Club
123 Forrest Drive
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dear Mr. Bush:
I write to you as a grassroots activist, a current law student, and as someone who is
passionate about environmental law. I would relish the opportunity to put my respect for
nature and my excitement for the law to good work as a summer intern for the Sierra
Club.
My passion for environmental law began prior to law school when I volunteered for
Greenpeace. I used my communication skills to obtain the signatures of over 1000 San
Francisco voters in support of a ban on Northern European whaling operations. That
activism gained a more academic perspective when I joined the University of California,
Hastings College of the Law Environmental Law Journal. I have further honed my legal
analysis and writing skills this semester while drafting legal memoranda on the
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Clean Air Act. In addition, my
experience as a Congressional intern gives me a strong foundation for understanding
the political arena. This combination of skills would be valuable to me as a clerk with
the Sierra Club.
My substantive and practical knowledge of environmental law, and of the federal
political scene, make me an excellent candidate for this position. I look forward to an
opportunity to demonstrate my commitment to environmental justice and the goals of
the Sierra Club. Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
NOTE Al’s enthusiastic description of what draws him to his
work, as well as his articulation of relevant skills employed in
the past and the results obtained.
Albert Gore
Enclosure
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Sample Networking/Information Interview Letter
Ineed Yourhelp
100 McAllister Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 555-1212 • [email protected]
December 12, 2008
Daisy Duke, Esq.
Barnburner, Cropduster and Bannerflyers
800 Airport Road
Oakland CA 94816
Dear Ms. Duke:
Aviation law has long been my passion. I am currently a first year student at the
University of California, Hastings College of the Law with a B.S. in Aeronautical
Engineering from Union College and a commercial pilot’s license. I am particularly
interested in Lindburgh v. the FAA and have been following it closely.
If you have time, I would be very interested in speaking with you about aviation law,
your career, and general opportunities in the field. Any advice you might be able to
offer would be invaluable in helping me plan my career in this field. I will call your office
to see if we could set up a brief time to meet.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to speaking with you.
Sincerely,
Ineed Yourhelp
NOTE how the writer introduces herself and
hooks the reader in the first two sentences.
She specifies how her background matches
the firm’s practice area. She also asks for
an informational meeting, not a job
interview. By not enclosing her resume,
she makes it clear that she seeks advice
and does not expect a job.
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Sample Thank You Letter Following an Informational Meeting
Andy Sipowicz
100 McAllister Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 555-1212 • [email protected]
September 22, 2008
Harry Callahan, Esq.
Barnburner, Cropduster and Bannerflyers
800 Airport Road
Oakland CA 94816
Dear Mr. Callahan:
Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me yesterday afternoon. I
learned a great deal about the field and enjoyed hearing about your aviation practice,
including your work with Skydiving Aviation and other operators at major airports across
the United States. I also appreciated the update on Lindburgh v the FAA. Our
conversation confirmed that aviation law is the field for me.
As you suggested, I contacted John Rambo at Cessna, Piper and Bonanza . He kindly
agreed to meet with me next week and he expressed his desire to catch up with you for
lunch in the near future.
Thank you also for your suggestions on revising my resume. I enclose a copy which
incorporates your ideas, and--should you hear of opportunities for a 2009 Summer
Associate position in aviation law-- I would appreciate it if you would keep me in mind.
I will accept your kind invitation to keep in touch with you concerning my progress.
Thanks again for your help. I look forward to speaking with you again.
Sincerely,
Andy Sipowicz
Enclosure
NOTE how thoroughly this writer references the help
that Mr. Callahan provided, and how Andy followed
through on his suggestions. Andy also indicated that
he would keep in touch.
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Sample Acceptance Letter
Audrey Avocat
100 McAllister Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 555-1212 • [email protected]
November 22, 2008
Richard Barnburner, Esq.
Barnburner, Cropduster and Bannerflyers
800 Airport Road
Oakland CA 94816
Dear Mr. Barnburner:
I am very pleased to accept your offer for a 2009 Summer Associate position at
Barnburner, Cropduster and Bannerflyers. I understand that the position will start on
Monday, May 14, in your San Leandro branch office and that the position will be full
time until Friday, August 7, 2009. You indicated that the salary will be $xxx/week.
I am excited about the opportunity and I look forward to a mutually beneficial summer
experience.
If there is any additional information you need, please contact me at the telephone
number above.
Sincerely,
Audrey Avocat
NOTE the brief, but gracious statement of
acceptance and the reiteration of the salient
terms of the offer.
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Sample Withdrawal Letter
Luke Duke
100 McAllister Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 555-1212 • [email protected]
December 18, 2008
Edward Stevens, Esq.
Suhem, Billum and Keepum
100 Atlas Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dear Mr. Stevens:
I very much appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to meet with you and your
colleague, Mary Jones, earlier this fall. Suhem, Billum and Keepum is doing some very
interesting work in the area of product liability defense.
I am writing, however, to let you know that I have accepted a Summer Associate
position with Cessna, Piper and Bonanza in Palo Alto. As we discussed, I have a
particular interest in aviation law, and I believe that Cessna’s work in the area of
aviation product liability defense would give me some additional background to round
out my experience. I remain very interested, however, in Suhem, Billum and Keepum’s
work, and I hope that I may stay in touch with you in the future.
Again, thank you very much for your kind consideration and your support.
Sincerely,
Luke Duke
NOTE how Luke expresses his appreciation for the time and
consideration extended and how he provides a professional
and understandable explanation of his withdrawal from
consideration.
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