Think your resume is up to par? Think again!
I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes in the last ten years or so, while working at large law firms in various recruiting, professional development, legal personnel, and HR-type positions. I would first screen for the basics (school, work experience, GPA), of course, but once I weeded out the quick rejects based on these basic criteria, the process became more interesting.
There are students with all the credentials we’re looking for who had glaring typos and other mistakes – including misspelling my name in the cover letter, getting the name of the law firm wrong, and once actually applying to our previous firm (which had not existed for over two years due to a merger).
The longer I did the job, the more shocking resume mistakes I would see. Somehow it never got old (and sometimes very funny), but I mostly couldn’t understand how easily someone would pass along a resume that had major mistakes, both grammatical and substantive.
Based on my years of resume reviewing, I became very picky about what I would be willing to pass along to the partners, even when the applicant went to a top school and had excellent grades. Many mistakes that may seem small to a law student will prevent you from ever being seen by any attorney at the employer.
With that in mind, here are a list of my key do’s and don’t’s:
- Have at least two people review what you consider your final draft of your resume before you ever pass along to an employer. Preferably, they would be people who have never seen it. You need a fresh eye.
- Always convert the document to a PDF. This will prevent possible metadata from showing up by mistake from your word processing software.
- Print the resume to make sure it looks the same when printed as it did on the screen.
- Review any job, degree, interest, etc. that you have put on the resume. Anything at all is fair game for questions. I’ve been shocked at how many people don’t remember something they’ve included on their resume.
- Add an interest section if you don’t have one. It’s nice for an interviewer to have some general chit chat options outside of your work and school experience. It also gives them a little more flavor for who you are as a person.
- Make sure your contact information is up to date, and that you regularly check the accounts and numbers you have listed. I once had a law student tell me he didn’t know why I was contacting him at a certain Gmail he never uses (it was the one listed on his resume!).
- Check and double check and triple check the names of the person you are submitting the resume to, as well as the firm or employer name, address, etc. These must be correct!
- All margins, headings, etc. should line up. It would drive me crazy when some parts were aligned differently than others. If the recruiter is reading many resumes every day, you want to make sure they can read yours easily.
- The most important tip: PROOFREAD. There should not be one spelling, grammar, or any other error on your resume. There are no excuses. Spend as much time as you need to, but your resume is your introduction to the working world, and you don’t want someone judging your skills based on a sloppy resume.
Law students may not realize how scrutinized their resumes are, but as someone who spent part of everyday reviewing resumes, I did look at each and every one. My eye would notice mistakes pretty quickly, and that person would automatically have a mark against them no matter what their qualifications were. Your resume can make a huge impression on an employer before you even meet anyone in person, so make sure to put your best foot forward.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Resume and Cover Letter Basics (podcast)
- Did You Work on Your Resume Over Break?
- Getting an Offer: Being a Professional in a Generation-Gap Workplace
- Five Tips for Job Hunting After the Bar Exam
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