Life at Allens
Tips for CVs and cover letters
By Lisa Millar, Early Careers Manager
A standout first impression is important during clerkship application season. Our Early Careers Manager, Lisa Millar shares some of her top tips to help you put your best foot forward in your CV and cover letter.
What should I put in my cover letter?
People often repeat their CV in their cover letter, but make sure to treat them as two separate documents.
Your cover letter should be treated as your personal sales pitch: why should we invite you for an interview? Why are you interested in Allens and commercial law? It should leave us wanting to know more about you.
Your CV and cover letter are your only chance to get your foot in the door, so don't forget to highlight all the great things you do!
Your cover letter should be no longer than a page. Make sure you address it to the right firm and person. The application process is time consuming, so I would recommend you prepare early and think well in advance about the firms you want to apply to. Make sure you research each firm and tailor your application to Allens, so it's specific to us.
It's important to show your interest in commercial law and Allens specifically: eg how did you hear about Allens? What industries are you particularly interested in? Again, try to avoid repeating your CV, but do highlight your key achievements and what you think will stand out to a commercial law firm.
It's not essential to include in your cover letter whether you have an interest in a particular practice area, but if you do, we would encourage you to highlight this and be prepared to discuss it in your interview. If you have an interest in, say, banking and finance, be ready to talk about: eg how that interest developed, what you know about the area, and any matters that interest you specific to Allens.
What should I put in my CV?
Your CV should list your education, your work experience (legal and non-legal), volunteer work, languages, extracurricular activity etc – anything that has shaped you or brought you to where you are today. There are plenty of templates online, or that your university can supply, to help you understand how it should be structured.
There's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to structure your CV or cover letter.
Be honest in your CV, and make sure you know it through and through, as you will most likely be expected to speak in detail about what's in it. It should be clear and concise – ideally, no longer than two pages – and keep it high level.
My key advice, is that your CV is where you list your experience to date, and your cover letter is your sales pitch. We want your cover letter to tell us about you and what you are passionate about.
Your CV should be presented in an easy-to-read format, using a simple font, minimal styling and bullet points to break down information. Start with your name, address and contact details, and go through your education and work experience in a logical manner.
What kind of experiences, grades, achievements and hobbies do you look out for on the CV?
The initial stage of the application process is all about highlighting what you consider to be your strengths. You should make your CV and cover letter personal – consider what your interests are outside uni and how you've learned to juggle a few different obligations/interests at once. While working at Allens, you generally won't have just one thing on the go, so it is useful to demonstrate your ability to manage obligations with competing priorities. Flag your strengths!
Is it helpful to include interests/hobbies in your CV?
We believe adding this information helps to personalise your application. We like to hear about your education, work experience, volunteer work, extracurricular activities etc, and we also enjoy hearing about what makes you 'you' – ie your interests outside your career.
Visit our graduate careers website for more information on key dates and next steps in the clerkship application process. You can also reach out to the Early Careers team via email at Student.Careers@allens.com.au with any questions.