Effective Resume and Cover Letter Writing Techniques


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Effective Resume and Cover Letter Writing Techniques

  1. 1. Effective Resume & Cover Letter Writing Techniques Matthew Pascocello, Esq., Assistant Director Office of Career & Professional Development American University Washington College of Law
  2. 2. Resume Objective —Your Goal: To match your skills, experience, and interests to the job description as best as possible. <ul><li>It’s like identifying the Question Presented…and the Answering it effectively. </li></ul><ul><li>In doing this, you’ll serve the dual purpose of drafting a strong resume while controlling your search. </li></ul>
  3. 3. I. Self Evaluation <ul><li>Inventory Your Career (and Life ) Accomplishments, Highlights, & Successes. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify Legal (employment law) & Law-Related (human resources) Areas of Expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Identify Competencies and Transferable & “Soft” Skills </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t Forget You—Inventory your Interests, Passions & Values </li></ul><ul><li>Identify Employer Objections & Actual/Perceived Shortcomings </li></ul><ul><li>Try to Match this ( Realistically ) to… </li></ul>
  4. 4. II. Employer Evaluation <ul><li>Answer the Question: WIIFM?! </li></ul><ul><li>Uncover Employer HOT BUTTONS </li></ul><ul><li>Know the Industry Trends (How?) </li></ul><ul><li>Understand What They are Looking For and How they Get & Interpret that Information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What ARE they (legal employers) looking for ? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where DO the get that information ? </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. III. Some Fundamentals <ul><li>Overall….a Marketing Document….Not a Full Disclosure Employment Application. </li></ul><ul><li>1-2 Pages MAX. Addendum or Deal Sheets can be included. </li></ul><ul><li>Quality Bond Paper, with Matching Envelope and Cover Letter Stock. Otherwise via PDF. </li></ul><ul><li>Not too much boldface, underlining or jazzy templates </li></ul><ul><li>Font Size—Not Below 10pt </li></ul><ul><li>Basically, needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Be careful of MS templates. </li></ul>
  6. 6. UP TOP <ul><li>Local v. Current Address </li></ul><ul><li>Normal email address </li></ul><ul><li>Should you lead with a Career Objective ? </li></ul><ul><li>Summary of Qualifications </li></ul>
  7. 7. EDUCATION Section <ul><li>Does this go first? </li></ul><ul><li>Answer depends. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Certificate Program, CLE, audited Courses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>LL.M. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Law School </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Graduate School </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Undergraduate School </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>--Study Abroad </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. EDUCATION Section (continued) <ul><li>Under each academic institution, consider : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Honors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Awards / Scholarships [quantify] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Activities. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>GPA. Whether to include depends on audience receiving the resume. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relevant Courses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Double Major </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thesis </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. EXPERIENCE Section <ul><li>1. Further qualify your professional experiences using additional headings—eg, “ Legal Experience ” “ Non Legal ” “ Management Experience ” </li></ul><ul><li>2. Include both paid and un-paid positions— Clinics, Internships, and Volunteer experiences can all be appropriate. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Heading Format : Employer’s Name [bold], City & State </li></ul><ul><li>Job Title [italics], Dates (spelled-out & flush right) </li></ul><ul><li>4. Description . Think “Career Highlights” and “Accomplishments.” </li></ul>
  10. 10. EXPERIENCE Section (continued) <ul><li>Accomplishments can include : </li></ul><ul><li>1. Your Successes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cases you won or favorably settled </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Improvements you suggested and that were adopted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business you assisted in, or were directly responsible for, increasing or developing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work product you produced and which had positive impact </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Money you saved your firm or client </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. EXPERIENCE Section (continued) <ul><li>… Accomplishments can include : </li></ul><ul><li>2. Acquired Expertise: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Number of court appearances, appellate briefs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Litigation management and oversight </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal research and writing prowess </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Specialty software expertise </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. EXPERIENCE Section (continued) <ul><li>… Accomplishments can include : </li></ul><ul><li>3. Specialty Areas of Law: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mastery of certain federal regulations or an Act </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Substantive area of law. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>4. Professional Awards: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>From Federal Agency, Bar Associations, Professional Associations, Educational Institutions </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. EXPERIENCE Section (continued) <ul><li>Job Description Summary: </li></ul><ul><li>Be Results Oriented </li></ul><ul><li>Format : Either bullet points or narrative . </li></ul><ul><li>Bottom Line: DEMONSTRATE your Knowledge, Skills, Accomplishments. </li></ul>
  14. 14. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION/OTHER <ul><li>Should Include : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Publications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Language Skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal Interests & Travel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Special Skills, Licenses, and Affiliations (e.g., CPA, Bars, CFP) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leadership & Community Service </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Rubber Meets the Road (Resumes) Formats <ul><li>Reverse Chronological —most recent to least recent employment. </li></ul><ul><li>Functional —can be an effective method of focusing readers attention on select accomplishments and expertise as well as hiding gaps. </li></ul><ul><li>Hybrid —not used enough. Here, you can list your employment in reverse chronological order and further subcategorize your acquired skills expertise. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Rubber Meets the Road (Resumes/Cover Letters) Qualifications Summary <ul><li>Real Estate Attorney </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Highly experienced negotiator and drafter of more than 100 real estate transactional documents dealing with property acquisition, financing, management, and disposition. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Litigator </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Successful litigator, and litigation manager, of more that 100 commercial cases involving large, complex real estate and related transactions, the vast majority of which were either settled favorably or resulted in favorable verdicts. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Rubber Meets the Road (Resumes/Cover Letters) Accomplishments <ul><li>Negotiated favorable multimillion dollar settlement of state environmental regulatory claims arising from alleged contamination from major oil terminal. </li></ul><ul><li>Lead attorney for project team of engineers, architects, and planners for all development aspects of an 8,000-employee office park complex, resulting in special commendation. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Rubber Meets the Road (Resumes/Cover Letters) Target Marketing <ul><li>Know & Write to Your Target’s : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Job Announcement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizational Structure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Major Interests, Concerns, Client base </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic Trends </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be sure to : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Incorporate buzz words and industry terms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tie in your relevant skills and accomplishments </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Cover Letters are not mere wrapping paper for a resume </li></ul><ul><li>Writing Samples (persuasiveness, responsiveness, passion, relevance) </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrate ability to Follow Directions </li></ul><ul><li>Weed out Mass Mailers (lazy or desperate applicants) </li></ul><ul><li>Show Efficiency (or not) in Writing Style (2pp) </li></ul>
  20. 20. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Different Types: </li></ul><ul><li>The email with Attached Cover Letter </li></ul><ul><li>The email as a Cover Letter </li></ul><ul><li>Simple Transmittal Letter (when not required) </li></ul><ul><li>Brief Outline Letter (when not sure) </li></ul><ul><li>Targeted Mailer to Similar Employers </li></ul><ul><li>For a Particular Job Announcement </li></ul>
  21. 21. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Proper Format: </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriate Stationery </li></ul><ul><li>Nice Header with complete contact information </li></ul><ul><li>Business Letter Format & Layout </li></ul><ul><li>Proper Mailing Address & Recipient Title </li></ul><ul><li>Opening Salutation with a colon </li></ul>
  22. 22. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Anatomy—Three essential elements: </li></ul><ul><li>Opening Paragraph—Killer. No: “Enclosed please find…” </li></ul><ul><li>Body—(next 2-3 paragraphs) ties your background experience, skills & interest/motivations (just like Slide 1) </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion—summary and call to action </li></ul>
  23. 23. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Opening Paragraph Responding to a Posting </li></ul><ul><li>Dear Ms. Miller: I am a recent cum laude graduate of American University Washington College of Law with a demonstrated academic and professional commitment to representing victims of domestic violence. My clinical experience successfully representing asylum seekers and management skills in the non-profit arena make me an ideal candidate for the Public Advocate position with the Family Violence Prevention Fund. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Opening Paragraphs Where There’s No Job Posted </li></ul><ul><li>Mentioning a Mutual Acquaintance: Dear Mr. Jones: Ms. Harrison Smith, my former supervisor at Ketchum Howe, recommended I contact you concerning a position with your firm. Ms. Smith oversaw my work in the firm’s international trade department, where I managed all phases of the annual review process for several major clients, and thought that my background and skills might be a good fit with your firms trade department. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Opening Paragraphs Where There’s No Job Posted (continued) </li></ul><ul><li>Start with a Recent Salient Issue Affecting the Employer: “I was very interested to read a recent article in the Legal Times about your representation of Small Corp. Upon further research, I learned that your firm specializes in bringing small companies public. As a corporate practitioner in New York, I’ve represented several small and large high tech companies in the IPO stage and am seeking to put my skills to work in a firm such as yours.” </li></ul>
  26. 26. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>  Opening Paragraphs Where There’s No Job Posted (continued) </li></ul><ul><li>Begin With a Key Work or Academic Achievement: “While employed as an Associate with Dewey Billem & Howe, I worked side-by side with two senior partners in the corporate division, assisting in all aspects of closing several multi-million dollar leverage lease financings of commercial jet aircraft. The complex and time-sensitive transactions were each completed in a timely manner to the complete satisfaction of a very demanding client... </li></ul>
  27. 27. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Paragraph 2: Why Should the Reader Meet with You? </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss specifics about yourself that will make the reader feel that it would be worth her while to actually meet with you. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t Parrot Your Resume here </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t List What You’re Good at Without Proof </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Show your interest or ties with the City you are targeting </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t make excuses for grades: instead, show upward trend; success in relevant coursework; work experience that compensates; competing demands for your time </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
  28. 28. Effective Cover Letters <ul><li>Paragraph 3: What Do You Want to Happen Next? </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>The call to action: I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience. Please feel free to contact me at either my work or home phone to arrange an interview. </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>I will call you early next week to confirm that you received this letter and to see if you would like to schedule an appointment for us to meet personally. </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>What ever action you propose: FOLLOW UP! </li></ul>
  29. 29. Effective Resume & Cover Letter Writing Techniques <ul><li>Thanks! </li></ul><ul><li>Questions? </li></ul>