23 Resume Cover Letter Basics

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23 Resume Cover Letter Basics

  1. 1. Law Career Services Presents: Resume & Cover Letter Writing Workshop November 2007
  2. 2. Resume Introduction <ul><li>Your legal resume is your personal marketing tool. </li></ul><ul><li>It provides a snapshot of your professional and educational experiences. (It should not list every job you have ever worked) </li></ul>
  3. 3. 30 Seconds!!! <ul><li>Most employers spend about 30 seconds scanning a resume, so it must be error free, pleasing to the eye and concise. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Resume Guidelines <ul><li>The legal community is conservative and legal employers expect to see a traditional legal resume. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For example, an eye-catching resume you prepared to market yourself in the advertising field would be ineffective when sent to a legal employer. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It may be desirable to create more than one legal resume depending on the types of employment you are seeking. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Length: One Page <ul><li>A law student’s resume should be restricted to one-page unless the student’s relevant experiences and accomplishments warrant continuation onto a second page. </li></ul><ul><li>More is not always better. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Style <ul><li>Select an easy-to-read typeface. Avoid using a font that looks like you typed your resume on a typewriter (like Courier ), script, ornate, or overly decorative styles. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Commonly Used: Times New Roman , Book Antiqua , Ariel . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use capital letters, large and small caps, bold or italicized typefaces for sections, to add interest and enhance readability. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Type of Paper <ul><li>Use white, ivory, or pale cream resume paper. Pastels, patterns, bright colors and pictures are unacceptable. </li></ul><ul><li>The paper for the resume, cover letter and reference page should all match. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Your writing sample does not need to be printed on resume paper. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Content of a Traditional Legal Resume <ul><li>Identity and Contact Information </li></ul><ul><li>Education </li></ul><ul><li>Experience </li></ul><ul><li>Things that May be Included: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Community Involvement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Licenses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Military Experience </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Identity and Contact Information <ul><li>On your resume, include your name , current address , email and a telephone number where an employer may reach you or leave a message. </li></ul><ul><li>A permanent address may be included along with your current address if you wish to show ties to the geographic area of an employer with whom you are applying. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Mary A. Smith Current Address: Permanent Address: 123 Elm 4356 Arbor Ct. Toledo, OH 43606 Columbus, OH 43083 419-902-4873 [email_address]
  11. 11. Objective <ul><li>This section should be omitted for 97% of all law students. The only times an “objective” is recommended on a legal resume is when the individual is pursuing a second, totally disparate career. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Education <ul><li>The law school resume typically begins with the Education Section (whereas the resume of an alumnus often begins with the Experience Section). </li></ul><ul><li>Everything in Reverse Chronological Order (i.e. most recent first) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Education: Should Include…. <ul><li>The name of the school, city and state where the school is located, your degree , and the date your degree will be completed. </li></ul><ul><li>The University of Toledo College of Law , Toledo, OH </li></ul><ul><li>Juris Doctor Anticipated, May 2010 </li></ul>
  14. 14. Education: Academic Performance <ul><li>Law school grades can be central hiring criteria for many legal employers. (especially large firms) </li></ul><ul><li>The presumption is that your GPA is less than a 3.0 unless it appears on your resume. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Education Issue 1: Low Grades <ul><li>If you have less than a 3.0, anticipate that you will be questioned about your grades, and take the time to formulate a positive response: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For example: “Although Civil Procedure has been a difficult class for me, as evidenced by my first semester grade, I have put in extra time and work this semester and anticipate a positive final result in the course.” </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Education Issue 2: Transfers <ul><li>If you attended more than one undergraduate institution (or law school), we suggest the following: </li></ul><ul><li>The University of Toledo , Toledo, OH </li></ul><ul><li>Bachelor of Arts , May 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Owens Community College , Toledo, OH </li></ul><ul><li>Completed 30 credit hours toward Bachelor’s degree. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Education: Honors & Activities <ul><li>List honors and activities under the school to which they relate. </li></ul><ul><li>Honors include academic achievements, such as graduating cum laude , scholarships, awards, moot court, trial team and any other club participation. </li></ul><ul><li>The activities section demonstrates your interest, leadership potential, and “well roundedness”. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Example: Education Section <ul><li>The University of Toledo College of Law , Toledo, OH </li></ul><ul><li>Juris Doctor Anticipated, May 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>3.24 GPA </li></ul><ul><li>Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Activities: Public Interest Law Association (PILA), Environmental Law Society </li></ul>
  19. 19. Experience: Should Include… <ul><li>The name of the employer, city and state , your title , dates of involvement and a description of the areas of responsibility. </li></ul><ul><li>Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Toledo, OH </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteer Intake Clerk , Summer 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Screened individuals at walk-in clinic. </li></ul><ul><li>Conducted intake for new clients by assessing needs and making referrals to appropriate agencies. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Experience: Transferable Skills <ul><li>Identify transferable skills that highlight &quot;lawyerly&quot; experiences & responsibilities. </li></ul><ul><li>Stress tasks and responsibilities that relate to the position you are seeking. </li></ul><ul><li>Use action words to describe skills gained from previous employment. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Skills Legal Employers Desire: <ul><li>Ability to Communicate </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to Handle Conflict </li></ul><ul><li>Leadership Skills </li></ul><ul><li>Willingness to Accept Responsibility </li></ul><ul><li>High Energy Level </li></ul><ul><li>Interpersonal Skills </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>Intelligence </li></ul>
  22. 22. Experience Issue 1: Non-Legal Job <ul><li>If you have no legal experience, you are not alone. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasize traits legal employers desire. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use Action Words in your descriptions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Instead of “Responsible for managing client files for Medical Office” (Passive), write “Managed client files” (Active). </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. I work as a Bartender….how do I make that relevant to a legal employer????? <ul><li>Instead of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“Mixed and served beverages” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Try: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“Anticipated customer needs, communicated effectively with clientele, and resolved pressing situations in a responsible manner.” </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Skills <ul><li>Include skills that may be of interest to a potential employer. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical writing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Language Proficiency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Specialized computer skills (not word processing skills or legal databases such as Westlaw or Lexis unless certified) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business/Accounting Background </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Skills: Language Skills <ul><li>If language is particularly important to the employer, a separate category called Language Skills may work best for you. </li></ul><ul><li>If you list a language be specific about your proficiency such as fluent in Spanish, conversant in French, read and write Latin, translate Chinese. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Interests <ul><li>The Interest section enables candidates to demonstrate that they are well-rounded and have interests valued by an employer. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can be perceived as assets in networking or business development as well as good conversation starter. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Utilize as space allows. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Community Involvement <ul><li>Demonstrated commitment to public service is very important to public interest employers and a plus to many others. </li></ul><ul><li>Extensive volunteer work that demonstrates transferable skills may be described under Experience or in a Community Involvement/Service Section. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>List the name of the organization, your title and tenure. </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Licenses <ul><li>List professional licenses and certificates, such as RN, Certified Financial Planner, Professional Engineer, CPA or Real Estate Broker. </li></ul><ul><li>List legal and non-legal affiliations, including the name of the organization and state of issuance. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Military Experience <ul><li>Some government employers give preference to veterans, so listing service involvement is a plus. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>**Note: If military experience includes transferable skills, such as research, journalism, management etc., it should most likely appear in the Experience section. </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. References <ul><li>It is an ineffective use of valuable space to include the phrase, &quot;References or Writing Samples Available Upon Request.” </li></ul><ul><li>You should provide your “ References ” on a separate sheet of paper that has the same heading as your resume. </li></ul><ul><li>Reference Norms: who, how many… </li></ul>
  31. 31. Cover Letter Introduction <ul><li>The cover letter is a written introduction to your resume, professional characteristics and attributes, enabling you to elaborate on your most relevant skills and explain your interest in the position. </li></ul><ul><li>A cover letter should accompany every resume you send out unless the employer specifically requests otherwise. </li></ul>
  32. 32. Cover Letter Content <ul><li>Salutation </li></ul><ul><li>Introductory Paragraph </li></ul><ul><li>Second Paragraph: Why Them </li></ul><ul><li>Third Paragraph: Why Me </li></ul><ul><li>Closing </li></ul>
  33. 33. Salutation <ul><li>Make your cover letter personal. </li></ul><ul><li>A cover letter should not be addressed to a generic entity such as “Hiring Partner” or “To Whom it May Concern”. </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, call the firm or entity and ask to whom you should send your application materials. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Introductory Paragraph <ul><li>If you have a connection to the employer, identify the connection in your opening sentence. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ At the request of Professor Davis, Professor of Law at The University of Toledo College of Law, I am writing to……..” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>State your intent. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I am writing to submit my resume for the purpose of obtaining a Summer Associate position with…….” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Introduce yourself briefly. </li></ul>
  35. 35. Second Paragraph: “Why Them” <ul><li>Express your familiarity with the employer and identify reasons you are applying for employment. </li></ul><ul><li>Draw attention to qualities you possess or experiences that you have had that would make you an asset to the employer. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify any geographic connection you have to the employer. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Geographic Connections <ul><li>Acceptable Connections: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Home State (resume should indicate a permanent address in the state) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family in the area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Spent time in the area and/or have detailed knowledge of the area </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Unacceptable Connections: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Girlfriend/Boyfriend in the area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It would be a “cool” place to live </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No demonstrated knowledge of the area </li></ul></ul>
  37. 37. Third Paragraph: “Why Me” <ul><li>Highlight relevant work experience and/or coursework and demonstrate how your specific experiences translate into transferable skills which will be of use to the employer. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ My experience in various legal settings, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. District Court, has provided me with a broad understanding of federal litigation which will be particularly useful to your Litigation Team.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Demonstrate why you are the best applicant for the position. </li></ul>
  38. 38. Closing Paragraph <ul><li>Close the letter and thank the reader for their time. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I would be pleased to have the opportunity to interview with you for ___ position. Thank you for your consideration.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Let the employer know that you intend to follow-up with them. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I will be calling within the next two weeks to ensure your receipt of these materials and to discuss the possibility of arranging an interview.” </li></ul></ul>
  39. 39. Cover Letter: Final Pointers <ul><li>Your cover letter should provide a brief highlight of your qualifications and accomplishments. </li></ul><ul><li>It should never be longer than one page. </li></ul><ul><li>Be brief, get to the point, and then move on. </li></ul>
  40. 40. Cover Letter: Final Pointers <ul><li>Reference language used by the employer in the position description in your cover letter. Give the employer exactly what they are looking for. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For instance, if the firm has indicated that it seeks someone with litigation experience, make sure you specifically mention your litigation experience and/or training. </li></ul></ul>
  41. 41. Cover Letter: Final Pointers <ul><li>A cover letter allows you the opportunity to showcase your writing & editing skills. </li></ul><ul><li>It is judged as your first writing sample. </li></ul><ul><li>Throughout the typical law firm hiring process, a cover letter may be reviewed by several members of the firm, as well as by pre-screeners and human resources staff. Any errors will be found and will undoubtedly work against you. </li></ul>
  42. 42. Thanks For Coming! <ul><li>Any Questions??? </li></ul>

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