Perfect Your Resume
Your resume should provide a brief, targeted glance at your accomplishments and give employers a concise yet realistic, honest, and positive impression of you.
No recruiter will spend more than 30 seconds initially reviewing your resume. A good rule-of-thumb is one page for every 10 years of experience. When you’ve updated or drafted your resume using the guidelines below, make an appointment to have your resume reviewed by our directors.
- 1L (Version with Notes and Joint Degree Information)
- 2L (Version 1 and 2)
- 3L (Version 1, 2, and with Bar Information)
- Federal Government
What Goes Into a Resume
There are certain kinds of information, organized in a particular way, that legal employers expect to see on your resume:
- Name, address, phone numbers, and e-mail address
Always put your contact information at the top of the resume for easy reference.
- Educational background
List in reverse chronological order (law school, other graduate or professional programs then undergraduate college).
- Relevant work experience
Usually listed in reverse chronological order, but exceptions should be made if an earlier job was more impressive, professional, or relevant. Focus on the work experiences you have had which required writing ability, supervisory experience, counseling skills, case management, negotiating skills, information management, regulatory knowledge, research skills, public speaking experience, and analytical skills. Be specific. And don’t list every job you’ve ever had, particularly those that aren’t applicable.
The practice of law requires excellent written communication skills. Virtually any of your writing that’s been published, including outside the legal field, should command space on your resume.
- Special Abilities or Skills
The practice of law is complex and always changing. Being a good lawyer requires more than just a thorough grounding in legal principles; it requires everything you have to offer. Be sure to list specific relevant skills, such as foreign language fluency, advanced computer expertise, or non-legal professional certifications or licenses. If you can’t decide whether a skill should be listed, ask yourself if it is job related.
List your home address as permanent address if:
- You are originally from another state and wish to return there for work after law school
- You are from Indiana and you know the firm to which you are applying likes to hire people from Indiana
- You are from the hometown of the person to whom you are writing
To Include or Not to Include?
- Objective statements
Generally printed at the top of the resume following name and contact information, objective statements express the applicant’s goal. While they can be useful for experienced hires, they are inappropriate for most entry-level positions and may work to your detriment. Some employers use these statements to screen out applicants. We suggest not using an objective statement.
- Personal Data
Including personal information such as age and marital status wastes space and invites discrimination. Remember, the resume stands alone until you get the interview. If you do not make the first cut, you will not get an interview.
If your outside interests complement your professional skills, it is appropriate to list them (for example, you are an aviation lawyer and your avocation is flying). Otherwise, listing hobbies is mainly just a way to break the ice during an interview. Be judicious about what you list; substantive work experience always takes priority over interests.
- Military Service
Military service can be a positive addition to your resume, but only if the service has been recent (within four or five years), and you had a position of leadership or authority, or received awards or commendations.
Do not include salary demands or salary history.
- Political affiliations, religious organizations, fraternities/sororities, controversial groups
Approach with care. Your goal is to make the initial cut and score an interview. How the organization reacts to your political, social, and religious affiliations may be important, since it might have an effect on your “fit” with the organization, but you do not want to be screened out initially because of such affiliations.
- Gender and/or Race
Obviously, your name or certain group affiliations can provide hints about your minority or female status, and an employer could, consciously or subconsciously, discriminate against you. List them anyway, with confidence.
- Relocation Preferences
Do not indicate relocation preferences on the resume. The employer will assume that if you are applying for the job in Warsaw (make sure that you know whether it’s Poland or Indiana), that you are willing to move there. Use the cover letter to draw a connection between the job’s location and your career interest.
Don’t waste precious resume space by listing references (or the obvious “References Available Upon Request”). Use a separate sheet references sheet with your name at the top, followed by a list of your references (include name, title, company, address, phone number, and e-mail address of each person). Hand this sheet to employers when they ask for your references.
- Misspelled Words/Typographical Errors
Inexcusable. If you cannot produce a one-page document free of errors, what employer will believe that you have the requisite intelligence, education, and diligence to be a good lawyer?
Your resume must be easy to read. Arrange the information so that it flows. Allow enough “white space” so that it does not look difficult to read. Avoid sentences, paragraphs, and prose.
- Outdated and Inaccurate Information
Everything contained in your resume must be up-to-date and accurate. If you list class rank and/or GPA, you must change your resume immediately when the numbers change. Employers are aware of resume fraud: a hint of suspicion can be sufficient to end your promising application.
If you do send your resume by mail, use high-quality paper, 20- to 24-pound stock, in white, or a close relative of white (ivory, cream, or eggshell). Size: 8.5 x 11 in.
- Electronic Submission
You will often forward your resume electronically. When you do, consider using a PDF format so that your carefully crafted resume is not inadvertently modified by different computer software. Be sure to name your electronic file with your actual name (e.g., JohnSmithResume.pdf) rather than a generic “resume.”
The type size should be at least 11 pt. and the font conservative (Geneva, Palatino, Times, or Bookman). The Office of Career and Professional Development has a laser printer and computers that you are welcome to use to print your resume.
Content is vital, but appearance counts too. Your margins should be at least .8 inches; the page should look neat, straight, and balanced; and the overall effect should be pleasing to the eye.
- Gaps and Omissions
You are not required to disclose things you would rather not discuss in an initial interview. If you are concerned about incidents in your past that are potentially embarrassing, talk to our staff. You are not the first to experience these problems, but you must learn how to handle this now.
Hiring partners from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) say: “In an effort to make a resume brief, students should not simply list a series of job titles. Hiring officials look for descriptive evidence of leadership skills through employment, extracurricular activities, team sports, and serious volunteer efforts examples of candidates working with the public, solving problems, and getting results.”