Drafting Cover Letters
The purpose of the cover letter is to capture the attention of the reader, inspire him/her to go on to read your resume, and motivate the person to call you for an interview. The cover letter is often just as important as your resume. It emphasizes your qualifications for a specific position and demonstrates your genuine interest in the employer.
The key to a good cover letter is to make it as personal as possible. All letters should be addressed to a particular person instead of to a job function (i.e., "Dear Ms. Doe" as opposed to "Dear Hiring Partner"). If you cannot get the name of the appropriate person through written or on-line resources (such as Martindale-Hubbell or the organization's web site), you should call the organization directly. If no one is designated as responsible for hiring, you could address the letter to someone who practices in your area of interest or who is an alumnus/ae of your college or the UW Law School (in other words, someone who is likely to take an interest in your resume).
Personalizing your letter goes far beyond addressing it to a particular person, however. An employer wants to know why you are writing and how your personal skills and attributes can contribute to the organization. Relate what you know about the employer's type of work and how the work matches your interests, skills and experience by highlighting information contained in your resume. In order to do this, you will need to do some preliminary research on the employer before you send out your letter. The Career Services Office has many resources available to help you with this task. In addition, many employers have their own web sites that describe in detail the type of work they do. The information that you gather in your research will enable to you show that the decision to write to the employer was an informed one, rather than one based simply on an employer's name appearing on a generic list.
Your cover letter should be in standard business format and printed on
the same bond paper as your resume. In addition to being
persuasive, it is important that your letter be well-organized, concise,
grammatically correct and error-free. It should not exceed one page of
approximately three brief paragraphs. Finally, always remember to sign
your cover letter.
Drafting Thank You Letters
It is not necessary to send a thank-you letter after a screening interview with a large firm as part of the fall on-campus interview program. Other employers, however, particularly smaller law firms, do sometimes expect you to send a thank you note after a screening interview -- so we recommend that you send one, addressing it to the lawyer who conducted the interview. You should always send a thank-you letter after a call-back interview, no matter the employer's size. A thank-you note will only hurt your chances of receiving an offer if it is poorly written or contains typos or grammatical errors.
The thank-you letter after a call-back interview should be addressed to the person who was most responsible for coordinating your interview (e.g., the recruiting coordinator, hiring partner, director of the organization). If you met with multiple people, be sure to ask the addressee to thank the others for taking the time to meet with you. You may also choose to write separate letters to each of the people with whom you met, but this is not required. If you do write separate letters, try to individualize each of them, as they all eventually may be forwarded to your file.
You should try to mail your thank-you letter within 48 hours of your interview. If the letter is typed, you should use the same bond paper you used for your resume. You may also send a handwritten note with a professional looking thank you card. Lastly, you could e-mail your thank-you letter (in fact, some employers may expressly state a preference for e-mail correspondence). However, be aware that this method of expressing your thanks is not without risk, as the recipient might be offended by its (unintentional) informality. If there is any question regarding a recipient's reaction to an e-mail thank-you, we strongly advise the more formal option of sending a typed letter via regular mail.
The letter should be no more than a couple of brief paragraphs. Thank the person for meeting with you and reiterate your interest in the firm/organization. Try to mention something specific you learned or discussed in your interview. For example, you can reiterate briefly how your skills and experience would be a good fit for the firm/organization. You should also offer to provide any further information that may assist in the hiring decision process.
Finally, be sure that your letter is error and typo-free. If possible, have a friend or family member proofread it before you send it off. The worst thing you can do is misspell the name of the person to whom you are writing or the name of the firm/organization. In order to ensure proper spelling, we recommend that you check resources such as Martindale-Hubbell or the firm/organization's web site. Better yet, ask for a business card from each person with whom you meet.