Careers Practitioner, University of Southampton
The covering letter allows you to focus the employer’s attention and highlight how you meet their criteria as well as demonstrating your enthusiasm, genuine interest in and commitment to the firm. It should be no more than one page of A4 and should include the following:
- Briefly introduce yourself, state what position you are applying for and where you saw it advertised. For a speculative application say why you are writing.
- Explain why you are interested in a career as a solicitor/barrister, demonstrating an understanding of what it is likely to involve.
- Outline why you are interested in working for this particular firm/set of Chambers. It should be individual. If you use the same letter for ALL the applications you make, employers will see through this. Consider what sort of work they do and what sort of clients they deal with. What recent deals have they been involved in? Don’t make vague generalisations about their excellent training programme.
- Highlight how you are suitable for this position. Provide evidence of your key strengths by referring to experiences on your CV to reflect the requirements of the employer and position.
- Take the opportunity, if necessary, to explain any anomalies in your experiences such as a gap or anywhere you do not match the selection criteria. Perhaps explain how any hurdles have developed you in a positive way.
- Sign off and indicate availability for interview.
Your CV is your marketing tool and should summarise the skills and qualities you can offer the employer. Be clear about the picture you want to paint.
- Research is crucial – you need to know what the employer is looking for to be able to target your CV to their requirements.
- It must have immediate impact.
- It is important to decide on key headings and to be clear what you are trying to sell, e.g. responsibilities, achievements, legal work experience.
- Don’t use unusual fonts that are difficult to read.
- Avoid lengthy blocks of text through using bullet points or prose or a mixture of both. CVs are often scanned in a few minutes – so you need to make sure that what you want to say is immediately obvious and the key points stand out
- Use positive vocabulary including action words such as managed, organised, achieved.
- Make sure it is concise; communicate complex subjects clearly and without use of jargon.
- Make the link for the employer by giving concrete examples of where you have demonstrated the relevant skills and experience required.
- Spelling and grammar are crucial, don’t rely on spell check. Some employers will reject applications which have even one mistake!
- The guideline for length is usually 2 sides. If it fits on one side that is ok, but only if it is clear and you use a large enough font.
What not to include:
The following are not required on a CV:
- Writing CV at the top of the document – it should be obvious what it is!
- Date/place of birth
Finally bear in mind that effective CVs are not so much about what you’ve got…as about how you present and sell it!