Guidelines for a Paralegal Resume Cover Letter

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Whether you are applying for a job that is listed in the want ads or any other place, including blind ads, your best chance for recognition will be the result of a clear, direct cover letter attached to your resume. A good cover letter is well focused and specifically tailored to the job for which you are applying. While you probably have a standard resume that you will include for all job applications, even in your mailing campaigns, every cover letter should be individual. To make this task easier, there are basic guidelines that apply to all the cover letters you write.

As a preliminary step to writing the cover letter, it should be helpful for you to think about the purpose of the letter: Who will be reading it? What do you want to achieve? How can you best do that? W hat will make your letter stand out from your competition so that the reader will see you as someone who has all the personal and professional qualifications he or she wants.

First of all, one of the basic rules of effective writing is to know your audience. This rule applies to writing cover letters. Will you be writing to a personnel manager? A paralegal manager? An attorney? Sometimes you can find out this information from the advertisement. If a name is given, you can call the firm and ask for that person's job title. If a name is not given but a firm is listed, you can call and simply ask who will be reading the applications. Once you have that piece of information, you can tailor your remarks to what you think that person might be looking for in a candidate.

As part of your preparation, you can find out which attorneys you will be working for: the numbers of attorneys, their specialities, even their back-grounds, if that information is available.

All of this information will help to shape the facts you include in your letter. For example, if the position is one that reports to three attorneys, it would be important to emphasize your skills and experience in working in such a situation or in being able to handle multiple responsibilities, work with minimal supervision, manage your time, and set priorities when organizing your tasks. If this information is available, you will position yourself at an advantage by including relevant details about yourself.

There are other ways in which information about the position as well as the reader of your letter will help you: What is there about the firm that appeals to you? What is there about your background, skills, and interests that would make you an asset to the firm?

Your letter is an opportunity for you to highlight your specific qualifications. Do you have exceptional writing skills? Have you achieved distinction in any area that would make you stand out as a candidate, in a work, volunteer, or school situation? You can do this very tactfully by highlighting information that is contained in your resume.

Review your lists of accomplishments as well as your resume. You may find just the right piece of information to include in your cover letter.

Basic Guidelines for Writing a Cover Letter

The following guidelines will help you as you prepare this important part of your paralegal job campaign.

1. If possible, find out the name of the person to whom you will be writing.

2. Who reads the letters of application? Will that person also be handling the interviews? The first person may screen the letters. You will want to be in the final group of candidates that are called in for an interview. Writing to that person by name will make a greater impression, if that information is available. Later on, if you are called in for an interview, you can do research on who will be interviewing you.

3. If the company is listed in the phone book, you can usually call and request information. What if only a post office box number is listed? There are varying views on how to address such a letter. All of them leave a great deal to be desired.

"Dear Box 203A," "To Whom It May Concern," "Gentlemen," and "Madam" are considered to be the least preferable. "Dear Sir" has fallen into the sexist language category, and it might work against you, particularly if the interviewer happens to be a woman.

Some appropriate suggestions included "Dear Personnel Manager" or "Dear Corporate Law Firm," if you wish to be conservative but still remain professional. You may also eliminate the salutation completely or simply address the letter to "Dear Sir or Madam."

Let good taste always be your guide, but if at all possible, find out the name of the person who will be reading your letter.

4. Demonstrate that you understand the requirements of the position and that you have the credentials as well as personal and professional qualifications to fulfill those requirements.

5. Include examples of specific results you have obtained that are relevant to the job. Reviewing your resume and work chronology charts will be helpful.

6. Focus on key points of your resume that emphasize your capabilities and experience.

7. Avoid any negative or apologetic remarks concerning qualifications you do not have for the job.

8. Be confident and positive about the qualities you do have, without sounding arrogant or boastful.

9. Emphasize how you can meet an important need of the company.

10. Do not ramble on or include any personal philosophical statements. Your letter should stand independent of your resume. It must be to the point and directly related to the job. It should motivate the reader to read your resume more carefully.

11. Keep your letter to one page in length. You will have time to expand your remarks and impress your interviewer in person. If that person is bored by a letter that is too long, you may never get to the interview stage.

12. Proofread your final letter carefully. Typographical errors, misspellings, or grammatical errors may cost you an interview.

13. Handle follow-up contacts with care and tact. A tactful follow-up call is permissible to see if your letter and resume have arrived. You may also request an opportunity for an interview; if that is not possible, you may ask when interview selections will be made. After that, you must be careful not to alienate a potential employer or interviewer by any kind of abrasiveness. The line between confidence and brashness can easily be crossed. Sometimes it will depend upon the employer. One may ask that you not call for an appointment; another may find it a sign of initiative on the part of the job candidate. You must learn to read the signals. After making your initial call to see if your letter arrived, you must listen to the response to see if further action on your part is warranted.

About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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