Covering letters are usually sent with a CV as a form of training contract or vacation scheme application where the completion of an application form is not required.
However, some firms do request a covering letter as part of an application form.
In either case, a covering letter can make or break your application.
Where Can I Get A Covering Letter Template?
I am regularly asked for template covering letters for training contract and vacation scheme applications.
However, there is no one template that is right for everyone. There is also a high risk that any template provided will be used to guide the drafting of the substance of the content much too closely.
Instead, it’s better to work to a pre-determined structure (see below) and then draft the content of the letter from scratch each time.
How To Produce A Winning Covering Letter
Here are our tips on producing a winning training contract application covering letter:
- Personalise Your Letters – address it to the actual person who is in charge of receiving trainee applications. Always telephone or email the firm to confirm who you should address your application to – don’t just rely on what is published as it may be out of date.
- Include Your Address – your address goes at the top right of the letter and the addressee’s name and firm’s address goes below the last line of your details but on the left of the letter. The date goes below their address. There is no need for your name at the top as this appears at the bottom. You also don’t need to include your telephone number and email address as these will already be on your CV or elsewhere on the application form.
- Presentation – covering letters should fit on one page of A4 paper and, in the rare cases where they are to be posted as opposed to emailed, be printed on good quality white or cream paper and typed in a common and professional-looking font such as Times New Roman or Arial.
- Spelling & Grammar – check, check and check again – any spelling or grammar mistakes will usually see your application being filed in the big round filing tray marked ‘bin’ no matter how good a candidate you are.
- Write Clearly – write in a simple, direct and concise manner – help the reader by getting your points across in a succinct manner.
- Tailor Your Letter – tailor each letter to the specific firm you are writing to – this obviously takes more time than mass mailing the same letter but the time spent will be the difference between success and failure in most cases.
The Structure Of A Covering Letter
The body of a good covering letter would read along the following lines:
1. Why you are writing
Open the letter with why you are writing.
For example, you are writing to apply for a training contract with the firm commencing in September 2014.
Mention the advertisement if you are applying in response to one (but not necessary if the vacancy is a recurring annual vacancy that appears on the firm’s website or in one of the law firm directories).
2. Introduce yourself
A quick summary of what you are doing now or have done/achieved recently so as to give a quick snapshot.
For example, you are currently studying the LPC at the University of Law, having previously graduated with a 2:1 from the University of Hull.
3. Why that firm?
This is where you show that you are not just applying to firms in a scatter-gun fashion.
Avoid using generalisations here that can apply to many firms. For example, do not just say you are applying to XYZ LLP because it is a leading firm with a good reputation.
Instead, be more specific about appealing aspects of the firm and tell them why those things are important to you. This can still include a firms reputation in an area of law but they will want you to explain more specifically why that has influenced your decision to apply to them.
This is where you display the knowledge you have gained when researching the firm.
What is it specifically about the firm’s size, location, areas of law practised, training contract, etc, that has made you apply to them (and therefore ignore many other firms)?
Seek to back up your reasons and personalise them by mentioning how your work experience and other experiences and knowledge have helped you make an informed decision to apply specifically to them.
4. Why you?
Highlight a particular quality you have and/or competencies or achievements of yours that show you have what they are looking for (as discovered during your research).
Focus on those parts of your experience to date that might help persuade them that you are the right person for them.
The key with a covering letter is to avoid just repeating lots of things that are already on your CV or elsewhere on your application form.
Instead, briefly mention a couple of the highlights from your CV but tie this into some reasoning as to why you feel you would be a good fit for the firm.
5. Sign off professionally
Thank them for their time in considering your application, state your availability for interview and ask that they contact you with any queries.
Do not waffle or go overboard here by stressing your desire to work for the firm or saying you want to contribute to the firm’s future success.
These should be obvious given the care you have taken over your research and your application.
Help The Recruiter
Finally, as with all drafting in your applications, be sure to help the recruiter by writing in a clear and concise manner.
Use short sentences and paragraphs in order to ensure the points you are presenting do not get lost in a sea of words.
They will be assessing your writing skills when reading your application so ensure you give a good account of yourself.
Learn How to Master the Watson Glaser Test
The Watson Glaser Test is a critical piece of the training contract puzzle.
Each year, more law firms use the Watson Glaser Test to filter our candidates from their recruitment processes.
It's simple, if you don't know how to pass it you won't get a job offer from them.
We teach you the nuts and bolts of this test and how best to practice it to get to the required pass level.