What firms really think about your application

By: September 16, 2013

PrecedentJD asks 3 firms recruiters to let us in on their secrets

Gail Wong Gail Wong

Director of Student Programs (Ontario)
McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Q: What makes for a great cover letter?
A: The most compelling are able to convey the kind of person you are — your drive, what motivates you and the things you’ve done in your past. The thing to avoid is using catch phrases like: “I was a leader” or “I have strong communication skills.” Those who can share specific experiences and connect them with skill development are the best. That might mean sharing a story about how you met a challenging deadline or worked on a team where there was difficulty working with other members and how you overcame that. The best letters have a theme — often leadership — and a story that revolves around self-reflection. We find that the students who do best are those that really understand themselves.

Ari BlickerAri Blicker

Director of Student and Associate Programs
Aird & Berlis LLP, Toronto

Q: How should I get ready for an interview?
A: Don’t rehearse, prepare. When you come in with memorized lines and jump in with sound bites, it sounds very canned and your real personality doesn’t shine through. Instead, research the organization. Look at the company website but do an online search too. Sometimes students mention areas of interest in an interview that don’t align with what the firm does. The best research is to speak to other students from your school who summered or articled there. You’ve also got to prepare questions. If students ask questions that are designed to impress, or if they ask questions they already know the answers to, it often falls flat.

Sharan SanghaSharan Sangha

Director of Professional Development and Recruitment
Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP, Vancouver

Q: What’s the biggest mistake a student can make?
A: When you’re sending out your resumés to a lot of firms, cutting and pasting the name of the firm and not being careful about it. Sometimes we can tell you’ve done it. The font is different from the rest of the letter, or it’s all in caps. It’s not the end of the world, but it does show me your level of interest. And sometimes the letter has the wrong firm name, or the right firm name but the name of the recruitment contact is switched up with someone else’s at another firm. I see it every year. Boy, what a way to make a first impression. It’s not always the kiss of death but it gives me a sense of a student’s attention to detail. In this profession, that’s everything.

Also found under: