Details Matter

Posted on: 2017/02/09

As the administrative manager of a small law office, my responsibilities are varied. Pretty much anything except the practice of law can and often does fall within my purview. From time to time, I conduct searches for part-time administrative assistants. I don’t have a lot of time to review scads of resumes; therefore, I have crafted my advert in such a way that I can tell by the initial response whether a candidate has what it takes to warrant an interview.

Honestly, I don’t want to waste your time any more than I want to waste my own.  I’ve provided all of the details about the job that are pertinent: it’s part-time; it’s morning hours; it’s Monday through Friday; and it’s mostly reception, light admin duties. Its purpose is to support the attorneys and the admin manager\paralegal for 20 hours a week. I’ve even included a description of the person I’d like to hire.


I also require that a properly addressed and formatted cover letter accompany an applicant’s resume. This is an important detail. Think you can send me just a resume with no cover letter? Forget it. If you can’t take the time to provide what I’ve requested, I’m not taking the time to consider you, let alone call you for an interview.

Now I know that properly addressing the letter is difficult without a little assistance, so I provide the information necessary: my name and title. Proper format – now that one can be tricky – who determines what the proper format for a standard business letter is?

Well…. In ancient times when I went to grade school, my English teacher taught us that the basic parts of a business letter are sender’s address, date, inside (recipient’s) address, salutation, body, and closing.

A Google search of “proper business letter format,” shows that it hasn’t changed. Given that you’re applying to a law office and that the law is steeped in precedent and tradition, attorneys and their support staff tend to be sticklers for form. Details matter.

Here are a few samples of things that make me hesitate to consider you or, worse, just reject your submission outright.

  1. Letters addressed to: To Whom it May Concern, Dear Sir\Madam, Dear Hiring Manager.  Why?  I’ve given you my name and title in the job posting. Please follow directions
  2. Letters addressed to: Dear Victoria (or better yet a nickname variant of that, usually misspelled)- Excuse me, have we met? The proper salutation for a named, but not personally known individual is “Dear Ms. (or Mr.) Last Name.”
  3. Reference the wrong field: I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve received for people wanting to work in a, “busy medical practice.” That’s nice, but you won’t find that with us.
  4. Reference to afternoon hours. Too bad, this is a morning job.
  5. Failure to use standard grammar and usage. Seriously, please make sure that nouns and verb tenses match, that pronouns are appropriate, and that punctuation is correct.
  6. Typographical errors.

There is an old idiom that a former manager of mine used to use, “The devil is in the detail.” Details are important. So is following directions. Your submission forms the first impression I have of you. Make it a good one, and you’ll get an interview.




5 Responses to "Details Matter"

I totally agree! If you are required to reply by letter then you should know how to write one properly-something I made sure both my sons could do.
Also…I paid some money into our account in person at the bank today, and the teller-who, might I add, I have never seen before in my life-as I was walking away, said :”Thanks Sam!” Really???

Ha! It must be a British thing – to take umbrage at the use of strangers using one’s first name. Most of the folks here don’t seem to care, but I remember my mother being very upset at (go figure!) a bank teller calling her, Cathy. For one thing, while it was her legal name, Mum NEVER went by Catherine and the assumption that she was a Cathy just undid her. I remember her turning and snapping in that “imperious” tone that goes along with RP, “That’s MRS. E— to you!” Oh, Mum could be quite regal and scary when she wanted…..

LOL – it must be, although I totally understand her annoyance! It’s just the assumption, I think…I answer to most things, after all while Alex was at school I spent a few years being “Alex’s Mum”…but for this teller, who was younger than me, to presume such a degree of acquaintance annoyed me…your mother sounds like a true lady :)xxx

She was, indeed, a true lady. I sometimes think she despaired of me, her little half-breed, LOL!

No-you have the best of both 🙂

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