There are many good students looking for jobs. You will not get a job without an interview. Your application – cover letter, resume, transcripts, and, if you supply them, reference letters – will be the major determinant of whether you get an interview, so the time and effort devoted to creating a strong application is well spent. Here are a few suggestions for your consideration:
(1) Make your application error-free.
- An application containing errors will make us wonder how attentive to detail you would be in your work on client files.
- Use the correct form of address for a business letter if you are writing to Mary Smith, your letter should be addressed “Dear Ms. Smith”, or “Dear Mary”, but not “Dear Mary Smith”.
- Check spelling. Avoid common spelling mistakes eg. using “council” when it should be “counsel”. Check to make sure that you are using the correct name of organizations you are mentioning eg. if you belong to the “International Law Students Society”, don’t describe it as the “International Law Student’s Society”. You will particularly want to avoid spelling errors involving the name of the firm to which you are applying, or the name of the contact person at the firm.
- Ensure there are no missing words, or spelling, grammar or punctuation errors.
(2) Proofread your application yourself, but also enlist a “second pair of eyes” to help.
- Closely tied to the point above, it is critical that you proofread every application you submit ie. proofread every one of your cover letters, and not just the template cover letter which you intend to customize for use with individual firms.
- If you have authored a document, you may well gloss over mistakes because you know what the document is supposed to say. Enlist someone else (roommate, parent, some other person who is not intimately familiar with your application) to review all of your applications before you submit them.
(3) Keep your cover letter succinct and simple.
- Avoid using big words if simple ones will do.
- If words or phrases do not add meaning, leave them out, i.e., “I am enclosing my application for an articling position” is more direct than “I would like to take this opportunity to submit the enclosed application for an articling position”.
- Be wary about making broad, unsupported generalizations when describing your strengths. A sweeping sentence in your cover letter that says “I have a superior work ethic, excellent interpersonal skills, well-honed time management ability and exceptional written and oral communication skills” will not, in itself, convince a reader that those claims are all true… especially if the reader sees similar claims in almost every application he/she reviews.
(4) Tell us why you’re applying to Willis Business Law.
- Be genuine.
- Be accurate, i.e., do not tell us that you are applying because you are very interested in its extensive real estate practice if more careful research would have told you that the firm has only a limited practice in this area.
- It is fine to speak positively about the qualities of a firm that have impressed you. Going “over the top” with praise, however, may sound insincere. Be brief, and don’t gush.
(5) Don’t overstate your accomplishments and interests.
- If your involvement in an activity or organization has been minimal, or took place a long time ago, it may be better not to mention it at all. If, at the interview stage, we discover that, during your three-year membership in the “ABC Society”, all you did was attend two meetings and read its quarterly newsletter, we may wonder how many other aspects of your qualifications have been made to sound more impressive/current than they really are.
(6) Make it easy for us to figure out what you did and when you did it.
- We will want to get a picture of what your journey in life has been so far. While a strict chronological format isn’t necessary, don’t make it hard for us to figure out what you’ve done and when you’ve done it.
- Explain significant gaps in your academic or work history. For example, if you took a year away from school to travel, reflect that in your resume, so we are not left wondering why you did not explain what you did during that year.