The purpose of a cover letter is to position yourself such that before the hiring manager, law firm partner, or recruiter even turns to your resume, they feel they want to talk with you.
Realistically, you only have a few seconds to get that person’s attention. They usually don’t have the time or inclination to read a wordy letter. You need to be compelling and concise in order to stand out.
You can make your fit for the role easier to see at a glance with the use of tailored bullet points.
Replace a dense, lengthy middle paragraph with a sentence or two. Then lead into bullet points with something like “Following are a few highlights demonstrating my fit for the ____ position”. Or “Representative experiences include:” Sometimes it works to simply start the middle paragraph with the lead-in sentence. (Omitting a detailed description of career steps or certain projects is hard for some lawyers and a relief for others!)
Dissect the Job Description
Craft your bullet points by pulling the top 3-5 key responsibilities or requirements from the job description. It’s rare to match a description perfectly but show in a couple of lines how you meet the ones you’ve listed. If you don’t match one, don’t list it. Identifying the top 3-5 isn’t always easy but give it your best shot.
Formatting the Bullets
Use hyphens, dots, or another symbol that uploads well. If your proof is longer than a couple of lines, you may have defeated the purpose of using bullet points. Assess it visually with your purpose in mind.
You can make it even easier for the reader by naming each bullet point. If possible, use the terms from the description. See the 3 examples below. Also, if possible, which for lawyers isn’t always, use numbers or somehow quantify your proof.
This process might be a little harder at first, but it will force you to focus on what an employer is really looking for and whether you have it.
- Policy Advising:
- Managing Litigation Claims:
It’s Good for Managing Frustration, Too
Granted, this format doesn’t allow for much fudging. It’s harder to hide a lack of specific experience when you’ve called out the key responsibilities or requirements. But look at it this way – it’s a process that can save you the time, energy, and black hole frustration of applying for jobs for which you are not a good fit, at least not yet.
I don’t necessarily recommend this format for all experience levels and all jobs but see if it works for you. Notice what you learn about postings, your job search, and yourself. Notice what happens.