Covering letters are the letters that go with/introduce/cover your CV or application. They are important for three main reasons:
A. Employers receive a great many applications for entry-level paralegal vacancies. Many use the covering letter to do an initial sifting - i.e. many employers won't read your CV or application form unless your covering letter meets their expectations.
B. Most people copy some form of template when creating their CV - which means its format does not reveal much about them as individuals. However, people tend to construct their own covering letters and so employers can get a better insight into the "real you". The covering letter indicates if you understand and use social niceties; whether or not you understand the unwritten rules of the game about covering letters. It shows if you naturally adopt a professional style and whether you differentiate between personal letters and business ones. It shows whether or not you are the sort of person to use or squander an opportunity (in this case the existence of the covering letter) to impress. It gives a hint as to whether you are you timid or boastful and it tells the employer how much research you have done about his/her firm. Covering letters give indicators on all these issues and more.
C. CVs are often dull and difficult to read. The information contained in them are dry and usually unhelpfully brief. Covering letters offer you the opportunity to make a flowing, compelling, plain-English case for hiring you - and to allow you to highlight the skills and abilities you would bring to the job.
The same point about not understanding the rules of the game applies to those people who write their job application on anything other than plain white or cream A4 paper - our advice: stick to those two and don't ever type double-sided.
Successful covering letters tend to:
As best you can, work out what key attributes the employer is looking for, and highlight any you have (and do so early in the letter). In our experience, the key attributes often are:
There is no particular style of letter that you are obliged to adopt. We think that a good covering letter might look something like this:
[your name and address: including phone and email]
[name of a specific person in the firm and the firm's address
Dear Ms Smith,
Application for Paralegal Work
I wish to apply for a job as an entry-level paralegal in your department. My goal is to become a professional paralegal specialising in criminal law. I am contacting you in your capacity as head of the Criminal law Department, because your firm has an excellent reputation for doing high quality criminal law work.
Although applying for an entry-level position, I feel that I already possess many of the skills and some of the knowledge expected of professional paralegals at the start of their career. I would therefore hope to start being productive very quickly, and require little in the way of additional training.
I have three months practice experience doing civil litigation paralegal work. I have successfully completed the intensely practical criminal practice and procedure course and so received a BTEC in Advanced Paralegal Studies. I am already an Affiliate member of the Institute of Paralegals and have agreed to be bound by their Paralegal Code of Conduct and CPD requirements.
My current work as a probation officer has given me invaluable inside knowledge of the criminal justice system (CJS), and numerous contacts in and around Manchester. I have also acquired a number of skills and abilities which should be of use. For example I am experienced in dealing with offenders and the police; I understand most CJS documentation and have considerable experience in interviewing reluctant or even hostile individuals.
I attach a set of the Introductory Level Competency Standards for Paralegals issued by the Institute of Paralegals. I have marked the many standards which I already meet.
I would be delighted to have the opportunity to meet or speak with you to discuss this application further.
In any event, thank you for your time.