Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tips for law students trying to write a better resume

From the ABA's Student Lawyer Magazine:

Creating the Best First Impression

Résumés have two stand-out moments in the application process. The document’s first job is to generate an interview. The second is to serve as a springboard for questions and conversations during the interview. Approach résumé creation with an eye toward both. All formatting and content decisions should be filtered with a focus on audience and purpose.

Cater to your audience. A one-size-fits-all document isn’t to your advantage. This is particularly true if you’ve amassed experiences prior to and during law school. More experiences don’t mean better experiences—they sometimes just mean more. The kitchen-sink approach to constructing a résumé is largely ineffective. Bogging reviewers down with information that is off-point can overwhelm a reader and make him miss the good stuff. You need to sell the value of your experiences to each reader, which requires thoughtful choices. It’s up to you to push to center stage the information that showcases your requisite qualifications.

To the degree that it’s possible and appropriate, résumés should be tailored to individual recipients.

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Build an infrastructure that accentuates the right information. Résumés are a quintessential vehicle for establishing fit. When a lawyer or recruiter quickly scans your document to determine whether to extend an interview, she’s looking for a particular set of experiences and skills. This requires an easy-to-digest format. An effective means to spotlighting fit is through use of headings.

Don’t give short shrift to headings and subheadings. Résumé templates and examples provide options, but they are generic by design. Your experiences and credentials are unique and should be treated as such. I’m not suggesting you go rogue and get cute and creative. Rather, be deliberate in determining what professional headings will resonate best with your reader.

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Control content with a willingness to discard. Content decisions need to be deliberate. Generally you have a single page to promote your candidacy, so it’s important to draft power-packed, dynamic statements of skills and achievements. Your descriptions shouldn’t simply rehash your past work. The description, “Assisted with general office duties,” offers no benefit. What do you mean by assisted? Did you plan, organize, edit, create, manage? Is the new employer hiring you as an office assistant? Descriptions needn’t include everything you did, but rather the skills gained and accomplishments reached that make you stand out in the context of the reader’s filter.

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Design a document that is polished and welcomes review. Strive for professional and pristine. Bold colors, graphics, unconventional fonts, funky bullet points, and personal photos have no place on a traditional legal résumé. Let the content be the standout factor. Stick to classic fonts in a basic black color. Create emphasis through judicious use of upper- and lowercase type, bold, underline, and italics.

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