Revamp Your Resume to Stand Out from the Crowd

Question:

I’m planning to revamp my resume over the year-end break, with the hope of finding a new legal position in the next few months. Any advice on what I should do to stand out from the crowd when a prospective employer reviews my resume? 

Answer:

Review your resume to see if it can pass the one-minute review test. Could a legal manager scan it and gain enough insight into your professional experience to consider you for the job? If not, here are some tips that will help convey your background and abilities in a clear and concise manner to help your resume stand out from those of other job applicants: 

 

Do’s

  • Include your name and contact information at the top of the resume; note your personal address, email, and phone number, not those of your current employer.
  • Include a career summary that concisely (two or three sentences max) outlines your key skills and experience. Consider it a written version of your elevator pitch.
  • State your current title, company, start date and a summary of responsibilities that relate to the position to which you’re applying.
  • Describe career highlights, including specific actions you took and the positive impact or quantifiable outcomes of your work. Also, emphasize relevant professional capabilities, such as advanced technical skills or eDiscovery experience.
  • Briefly note prior work experience include positions, titles, companies, start/end dates, along with a summary of duties and achievements, and any industry or practice area expertise that aligns with the open position.
  • List educational achievements and degrees (college and post-graduate only) in reverse chronological order and any specialized certifications you’ve attained. Note relevant law articles you’ve published.
  • Use a simple and clean format – black type on a neutral background is best. Use bullet points, headings and bold words to help hiring managers scan and identify critical details quickly. Avoid using flashy graphics, images and complicated layouts that distract from your message.
  • Customize your resume for each job application. Tailor it to focus on your experience, skills, and achievements that pertain to the specific requirements of the opening to demonstrate you are uniquely qualified for the position.
  • Incorporate keywords in your resume that match skills and qualifications noted in the job description and posting.
  • Proofread your resume thoroughly before submitting it; ask a friend (or two) to review for typos to ensure it is error-free.

“Don’ts”

 

  • Include a career objective: While a candidate’s “career objective” statement was preferred years ago, that’s no longer true. So, don’t include it. Anyone who reviews your resume is looking for what you can offer their organization, not how they can help you achieve your professional goals.
  • Note that “references are available upon request.” Legal hiring managers will ask for references if they’re interested. 
  • Indicate previous or current salaries. The appropriate time to discuss salary expectations is later in the process, during final in-person interviews. And note that with recent changes to state labor laws, many employers aren’t able to inquire about your previous salary history. Be sure to know the laws in your state before the interview.
  • Similarly, don’t explain why you left prior jobs. Just be prepared with an answer if asked during an interview.