If you are looking for a new position, you may be tempted to dust off your old resume and begin sending it out to every available job. Before you do, you need to know that some of the rules have changed, technologies have evolved, and the hiring tables have flipped. A computer may scan your resume before it ever reaches human eyes. A hiring manager might only spend 15 seconds or less reviewing your life’s work before moving on. For lawyers or legal support staff, there are additional considerations. Here are some tips to up your resume game:
Put information in the correct order.
If you’ve worked in the legal field for more than three years, begin with your experience. Did you attend a top-tier law school? You can start with education even if you’ve been working for a few years. New associates should also list education first. In either case, list your experience in reverse chronological order with dates. If you still list internships on your resume, consider placing it as a bullet point under law school.
Check your contact information.
Put your contact information prominently at the top. Hiring managers don’t want to hunt for your phone number or email. Make sure all of the numbers, letters, and symbols are correct. Use your personal email, not the email of your current firm. If your email address is something like Bigbadboy89@myemail.com, you will look ridiculous. Use something neutral or a variation of your name.
Forget the “one-page” rule.
Despite what you may have heard, there are no rules set in stone about resume length. If you have five-plus years of experience, your resume may run longer than one page. Many people try to squeeze everything onto one page. Other candidates include dissertations about irrelevant qualifications or redundant experiences. The correct length is precisely the space it takes to showcase your most relevant experiences concisely. No more, no less.
It’s not an art project.
Hiring managers are not impressed by a resume with four different fonts, boxes, borders, clip art, and garish colors. A well-laid-out resume with clear headings, correct spacing, 12-point type, and plenty of white is much easier to read. Use a professional font such as Helvetica, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
Objectives are out. Summaries are in.
The objective section used to be the traditional opening for most resumes. That tide has shifted. It’s not about what you want. It’s about what the employer wants. Use a summary statement to represent what you’ve accomplished and how you can benefit your employer. Focus on your value as an employee, not what you want from the company.
Strike these from your resume:
The word “I.”
The phrase “references available upon request.”
Your photo, date of birth, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or religion
High school education
Select outside interests carefully.
Hobbies can serve as an ice-breaker and show that you’re a well-rounded person. Any hobbies and interests you list should be work-appropriate. Include memberships or affiliations with alumni, law, or special interest groups.
Include keywords and skills.
An increasing number of firms use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to automatically screen resumes. The ATS searches for keywords that match the open position. Review the job description carefully and use the same keywords. Include any technical skills such as experience with eDiscovery software.
Use action words.
Don’t simply list duties. Describe how you made a difference at each company and provide specific examples. Here are some effective action words: achieved, delivered, directed, secured, resolved.
Highlight your publications.
Include any law articles you’ve published, especially if they’re related to the firm’s practice area.
Customize your resume.
Many job seekers create a generic resume and use it for every position they apply. Your resume should be a dynamic, living document, and you should continually update it. Find out as much as you can about the job, the firm, the partners, and the practice group. Then, modify your resume to match what they are seeking.
Then proofread again! Maybe once more for good measure. Did I mention that you need to proofread? Typos and spelling mistakes are among the first reasons a resume gets tossed. Lawyers, in particular, are expected to have impeccable writing abilities. Spelling and grammar are indicators of two essential skills to any job: attention to detail and communication.
Work with a professional.
Collier Legal Search is a full-service legal staffing company. We place well-credentialed partners, associates, and legal professionals at every level in law firms and corporations. Our experience, connections, and unique approach to building our candidate database deliver consistent results that clients can depend on. We are committed to the success of our clients and our candidates. Find out what we can do for you. Contact us at 832-239-5253.