Is the Cover Letter a Thing of the Past?

Typing on a Laptop

In a world where time is of the essence, many students ask whether or not they should use a cover letter for an internship application. Over the last few years this question has also been a discussion with Human Resource professionals and Career Counselors alike. At the end of the day, the answer is still up for debate. Below are 5 reasons why you should use a cover letter for your applications:

  1. Writing a cover letter gives you the opportunity to reflect on the many reasons why you are a qualified candidate before you go into an interview.
  2. It’s a marketing tool to help you explain why you are a good fit for the position and how your experiences qualify you.
  3. It will demonstrate your communication skills, which is the #1 skill set employers look for.
  4. It builds rapport between you and the organization.
  5. And finally, a solid cover letter allows you to tell your story in a fashion that is unique and personalized which in the end, can help you stand out from the crowd.

The only time you wouldn’t send a cover letter is when a company has specifically asked you not to. This is a tricky way to see if you can follow instructions, so be mindful of this when applying.

For more tips, watch this video about cover letters.


Rebounding from Defeat: A Lesson in Perseverance

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin knows what it’s like to struggle in a job search.  The 23 year-old point guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was drafted by and then let go from 2 other teams before landing a spot on the New York Knicks roster.  Even then, as a fourth-string point guard on a team of big-name players, his chances of seeing any time on the court were doubtful.  Then, it happened; and he’s been setting records ever since.

Lin’s story has insights to offer beyond how to connect that field goal in the final seconds of a tied game to take home the victory.  His story is transferable to anyone pursuing a job or career path.

This article from Forbes highlights some of the key aspects of Lin’s driving forces that have brought him to where he is now:

1. Believe in yourself when no one else does.
2. Seize the opportunity when it comes up.
3. Your family will always be there for you, so be there for them.
4. Find the system that works for your style.
5. Don’t overlook talent that might exist around you today on your team.
6. People will love you for being an original, not trying to be someone else.
7. Stay humble.
8. When you make others around you look good, they will love you forever.
9. Never forget about the importance of luck or fate in life.
10. Work your butt off.

No matter where you are at in your own career journey, consider these tips as inspirations to push forward toward your dreams.

~Ashley Michelle

Savvy Seniors: Interviewing

The interview is usually the final hurdle to the job. When you get asked in for the interview, take the extra time to shine. This is your moment!

If you are in the beginning phases of the job search, the interview may seem a long way away. However, take a little time right now to learn about interviewing, you never know when that opportunity will come.

Interview Do’s and Don’ts

Each phase of the job search should help prepare you for the next.  A good resume and cover letter will have you thinking about your strengths and experiences and how they are a good fit for the position. If you are networking and doing info interviews you will already have some good information about industry trends and company culture. You can use this information in the interview.

Here are some more tips and resources:

When you shake hands and walk away from the interview, what are you hoping that they’ll remember about you? Think about which of your strengths and achievements you want to be sure to share with your interviewer. Be clear about your motivations and qualifications for the job. Show your enthusiasm, ask about follow up, and remember to send a Thank You.

Good luck!


World of Work: Scott Whitted ’74, Deputy Chief, District Court Litigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Homeland Security Logo

Scott Whitted ’74
Deputy Chief, District Court Litigation Division, Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
United States Government, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Williston, VT

Major: Political Science

What type of law do you practice and how did you choose that?
I’ve practiced civil law for my entire career, including private practice, with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and now at one of the agencies in the Department of Homeland Security. I’ve never been a full-time litigator, but before I started my federal job I spent some time in court, especially when I was in the Attorney General’s office. Although criminal law and criminal procedure were interesting classes in law school, I never wanted to practice criminal law. Civil law held more appeal for me.

What surprised you about law school and/or the practice of law?
One big surprise was how poorly many lawyers write. The textbooks for most law school courses are compilations of judges’ decisions that often are not well written. They tend to be too long and full of obscure language. Law students copy the style, which perpetuates bad writing. In addition, practicing law can be a real grind, with much tedium and little glamour. There are rarely quick resolutions to legal problems.

What changes have you seen in the legal job market?
With the current economy, the competition for jobs is heightened. It’s a buyer’s market right now. My office recently advertised for four openings and we received dozens of applications.

What advice would you have for students interested in a career in law?  What should they be doing now?
Take college classes that encourage you to think critically and analytically. Those skills will help you to identify problems (“issue spotting”) and develop realistic solutions, which are important aspects of a lawyer’s job. Also, learn to write clearly and concisely. Lawyers do a lot of writing, and unfortunately many lawyers do not write well.

In addition, don’t be afraid to work for a few years before you go to law school. Not only may you be able to save some money toward law school, but you’ll have the benefit of experience in the “real world” before you return to academia. Admittedly, I may be partial to this approach because I worked for five years between UVM and law school.