You may have the talent, right experience, and whatever it takes to deserve the best legal job in the market, but if you don’t select the right words and themes while preparing your resume, top legal firms and corporate legal departments may easily pass you by. Let’s face it, in a tough legal job market – such as the present market – you need a precise and focused approach while you apply for jobs in the legal sector. The first step towards this approach is to write a spot-on resume that can catch the eye of any legal employer or legal recruiter.
Great care should be taken by all professionals to create a quality professional resume, but for legal professionals resume style may reflect more on a job candidate than it may for any other profession. Legal professionals are expected to be a master of words: like a mathematician can play with numbers, a legal professional must know how to play with words. An experienced human resources team in a law firm is adept at culling through resumes and weeding out resumes that do not stand out above the crowd.
The three basic formats for resumes are: chronological, (list jobs in chronological order); functional(where job functions are displayed instead of a chronological listing); and the combination of chronological and functional (where functions are listed on the top of the resume and jobs are listed in laundry list fashion below the functions in chronological order). Choosing the format which is best for you will vary based upon such factors as experience, job stability, and the like. A separate article can be written about these formats and, thus, I simply highlight them here.
However, aside from a basic format, there are no hard and fast rules for personalizing your resume in such fashion as to grab the attention of the hiring authority. Keep in mind that each law firm and corporate legal department may prefer different styles and standards. Hence, since writing a resume boils down to as much art as science it is important to develop your own unique style while writing a resume. A fresh style and a résumé that “pops” will always catch the eye of the employer. Nonetheless, there are a few key pointers that one must keep in mind while putting up his/her resume together. Among them a few are discussed below:
1) Avoid Common Traps: Every professional resume should demonstrate a character that is detail oriented; the same applies to resumes for legal professionals.
a) The most common traps while writing a resume is overdoing the detail part, as it is said rightly “too much of everything is as bad as too little.” When you describe your accomplishments and achievements in excess detail, your resume can not only become unpleasant to read, but also, very difficult to understand; you can also hurt your professional character by laboring too hard to prove yourself.
b) We discussed above about trying too hard, now it’s time to discuss when people do not provide the right information or may even forget to include important details. Legal firms do not want to simply know whether you can do your job, they also seek to determine how well you can do your job. To satisfy this inquiry, you must emphasize the quality of your experience and not simply list the quantity of your experience.
c) The most important aspect of your resume is spelling and grammar. A single typo in your resume can destroy your chances of landing a job despite a display of superior skills and achievements. As a legal professional you are expected to be well versed in the written language- spelling or grammatical errors can be fatal.
2) Emphasis on Abilities and Recent Achievements: Think about what you are good at and emphasize it. A resume is not a simple autobiography where you can write everything you have ever done in your life. Rather, it’s a summary of your professional accomplishments and collection of skills. Employers are interested in what you bring to the table now. Therefore, omit or briefly mention your accomplishments that are more than 10 years ago. Instead focus on your recent achievements and work product. The best resumes are those that perfectly match the set of abilities and skills that the employer seeks. This is why it is highly recommended that you tailor your resume for the specific position that you are applying for.
3) Choose the Right Words: Make sure your resume is well written, a clumsy worded resume suggests that you are a bad communicator and you miss a key skill required to be a legal professional. Your resume speaks your voice and if you sound awkward you will end-up in lower level jobs. Also, avoid clichés like team-player, self-starter, motivated, etc. these make you sound too TheBusinessDaily.org common. Your goal is stand above the crowd not with it. It is a given as a legal professional that you are “motivated.” Instead use words that capture the true essence of your character and you will shine.
4) Make it Attractive: A resume is the first impression that you convey to your prospective employer. By submitting a “normal” resume you blend in with the crowd. However, an attractive eye catching resume instantly allows you to gain an advantage over your competitors. It is not about coloring your resume everywhere like a play-school kid, but it is about using your imagination to turn a sheet of paper into a creative masterpiece. A properly designed professional resume will always have advantage over usual white paper with words on it. Consider, therefore, employing a professional resume writer as the investment is small in comparison to the benefits received.