Resumes and Cover Letters

For public interest opportunities, it is essential to demonstrate two things: relevant public interest experience and commitment to public service. Therefore, your cover letter and resume have got to be tailored to the individual employer / job opportunity.


  • Your resume should demonstrate a commitment to the organization’s specific public interest issue by highlighting relevant public interest experience. This is what differentiates a public interest resume from other resumes you may submit for other jobs/fellowships.
  • Be specific when you are describing what you have done and who you have worked with (organizations and client populations).

Cover Letters

  • Avoid repeating simply what is in your resume. Highlight most significant public interest experiences. Your cover letter is a chance to discuss what it is you want to do with their organization and why you feel that you would be very successful in the position for which you are applying.
  • Discuss how you will be an asset to the organization; are there any projects that the organization/firm is working on that you have a particular interest in working on or feel that you could aid due to your experiences and skills? Remember these organizations are often small, and people work closely together on issues about which they are very passionate. They are looking for like-minded applicants.
  • Demonstrate that you have a long history of public service. Use examples of your non-legal public service experience to demonstrate that you can perform similar tasks required by this organization, and that you are dedicated to serving the public good.
  • Note any and all experience working with underserved populations (i.e. domestic violence survivors, immigrants, the disabled).

Resumes for International Opportunities

If you are applying for international positions, do not feel constrained by the one-page rule for resumes. It is critical that you fully describe the work that you have done in jobs, volunteer positions, externships, and clinics. Formatting and standard section titles should remain the same (Education, Professional Experiences, Languages, Publications, etc.).

  • Dates should be spelled out (October 18, 2006, not 10/18/06 or Oct. 18, ’06).
  • Spell out state or country names (Washington, not WA).
  • Spell out degrees or other acronyms (Bachelor of Arts, not BA).
  • Describe your language proficiency (fluent, conversational). Do not overstate your proficiency level! If you have completed a certificate program or taken a nationally-recognized language test, include that information, including your score (TOEFL Score: 600).
  • If you have traveled extensively, you may want to include a section entitled “Travel” to indicate your experience adapting to new living environments.

For general information on writing resumes and cover letters, please see CPD’s Preparing Materials.