How to DRAFTING A RESUME

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DRAFTING A RESUME

 

INTRODUCTION 

 

The importance of your resume cannot be overstated. Your resume frequently will serve as an

employers first impression of you. Like it or not, employers will often decide whether or not to

interview you based upon the content of your resume alone. Consequently, your goal in creating

a resume is to make it an effective marketing tool. Because studies indicate that employers

spend on average no more than 60 seconds looking at each resume, it is critical that your resume

be succinct, descriptive, and easy to read. The following general guidelines will help you

maximize the effectiveness of your resume.

 

BEFORE GETTING STARTED

 

Before you start drafting your resume, sit down with a piece a paper and list all of your work and

educational experience commencing with your undergraduate years. Include your achievements, volunteer experiences, publications, special skills, activities, honors, awards, hobbies, and interests to determine what information you may include on your resume. Spend some additional time clarifying your career objectives. You may decide to emphasize different interests, work skills, and experiences for different types of opportunities.

 

RESUME FORMAT AND STYLE

 

Length: Your resume should be ONE PAGE. Students with many years of relevant work experience or those applying for post-graduate scholarly positions can use a two page resume.

 

Appearance: The visual aesthetics of your resume are very important. Typographical,

grammatical, and spelling errors are the fastest way to disqualify yourself from consideration.

Your resume must be free of typos, be formatted consistently, and be easy to read. Our advice:

Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then have someone else proofread. Then proofread again. Do

not rely on spell check. Try proofreading by reading backwards, as this helps you to read your

information out of context and to spot typos more clearly.

 

Use white, off-white. or cream color bond paper that is the standard 8 ½ “  x l1” . You do not need to use heavy “resume” paper. Also, do not attempt to attract attention by using color paper or an overly graphic format. Do not use legal-size sheets. There is no need to purchase matching envelopes; the plain, white variety is just line, and much cheaper.

 

Your format should be reader friendly so that the employer can skim through your resume

quickly and find the information needed. Make sure your resume is easy to read by using an

outline form and omitting personal pronouns, rather than using narrative form. Consistency is

very important. For example, if you choose to underline "Education," you must underline all of

your other headings as well. Do not overwhelm employers with too many different fonts or

types of emphasis. Do not use sans serif font types. Do not be afraid of margins (ideally we

recommend O.7" to l”on all sides). Some blank space creates a more organized look. Any font

smaller than 10 point will be too difficult to read (in some font types, even 10 point is too small).

 

RESUME CONTENT

 

Name and Contact Information: This information goes at the top of the page. List your

present address, a telephone number, and an email address that you regularly check. Make sure your email address is professional. (we recommend using your law school email address). You must

have a telephone number where employers can reach you and leave confidential messages. Do

not rely on roommates to take messages. Make sure that you record a professional outgoing

message on your voice mail. Keep in mind that it is a common standard in the legal

community to return messages within 24 hours it at all possible. You should also include your

permanent address if it connects you to the geographic area in which you are hoping to

interview.

 

Education: Law school resumes list education first. (You will not list your experience section

first until you are several years out of law school.) List your education in reverse chronological

order (i.e., North Carolina Central School of Law will be your first entry) with the name of the

school, city, dates of attendance, and the degrees received or anticipated:

 

North Carolina Central School of Law                           Durham, NC

Juris Doctor         May 2012

 

Additional graduate degrees are included in this section as well. Study abroad programs can be

included as a separate entry or as a bullet point underneath the main school you attended while

participating in the study abroad program. If you are enrolled in a joint degree program, you can list the programs separately or combine them depending on your space constraints and aesthetic sense.

 

Honors and Activities: Honors and activities should be listed after the corresponding institution

and degree information. Some resumes include separate subheadings for “‘Honors’” and

"Activities" within the Education section while others will list both together without

subheadings, with Honors traditionally listed first.

 

Honors would include any awards or distinctions you received, such as Dean”s List or Phi Beta

Kappa. Be sure to include a brief explanation of any awards or distinctions that are not

commonly known or self—explanatory.

Activities would include student organization memberships, elected offices, and activities or

sports in which you participated. Be sure to include a brief explanation of any activities that are

not self—explanatory. Be mindful of listing too many entries in this section, as it may detract

from the most relevant activities or honors.

 

Thesis or Other Significant Writings: If you completed a college thesis or another significant

paper. you may want to indicate the title in italics under the appropriate educational degree.

 

Grades: Generally speaking, if your GPA puts you in the top third of the class, it should be listed ALONG with your class ranking as a percentage of the class (i.e. top 25%, exact rank is not necessary unless you are among the top 10 or 15 students). A GPA  by itself does not tell a potential employer anything about where you place in the class. In addition, some law schools suffer from grade inflation, and a hard-earned 3.0 at NCCU Law may not be recognized as the top-ranked GPA that it is.

 

Students often struggle over whether or not to include undergraduate or other graduate grade

information under the “Education”  section of the resume. Remember that your resume is a

marketing tool, designed to highlight your accomplishments and strengths. If you do not

consider your college grades to be an asset, do not list your GPA. Whether you state your GPA

on your resume or not, some employers may ask you about your grades and you should be

prepared to discuss them. If you have concerns about how to respond to questions on this topic,

make an appointment with someone in the CSO to discuss your particular situation.

 

EXPERIENCE / EMPLOYMENT

 

What Should I Include? Paid positions, clinical work, internships, and even part—time work

may be included in this section. Volunteer work should also be included, as it counts equally

with paid work towards experience. lf you have a significant number of volunteer experiences,

you may want to create a separate heading such as "Volunteer Experience" or "Community

Service" on your resume and group your volunteer work there.

 

Do not feel compelled to list every job you have held, remember your resume is a marketing tool

designed to highlight your most significant and relevant experiences. Accordingly, you can

choose to omit certain work experiences. However, be mindful of any gaps in your resume. The

most obvious omissions should be your earliest work experiences, particularly non-legal work

that has little to do with your current job search. In choosing which experiences to include,

consider the following;

 

What were your primary responsibilities?

What tasks or projects did you undertake?

What specific examples can you give of your work?

What skills did you develop?

What results did you achieve?

 

How Do I List My Experiences? Continue to use reverse chronology to list your work

experience. Give dates of employment along with your job title. Rather than writing the exact

months of employment during the quarters at school or during the summers. you can refer to the

dates as Summer 20_, Fall 20_, etc. Also, do not worry about the exact dates of your

employment. lf you worked at an organization from March 15, 2007 to December 26, 2009,

simply put March 2007 to December 2009 or 2007 — 2009. If you have held more than one job

with the same employer, enter both jobs under one heading.

 

How Do I Describe My Experiences? Dynamic descriptions are the key to this section of the

resume. You want the employer to understand the essence of your experience, the scope of your

responsibilities and accomplishments. and the skill sets you developed. Remember, all law

clerks  “Researched and wrote legal memoranda.” This is your opportunity to distinguish

yourself with specific information about the kind of work you have done. All of your experience

descriptions should be broken down into shorter phrases rather than read like a sentence. Omit

subjects, each segment should begin with an action verb.  The proportional length

of each job description is relevant; use longer descriptions to accentuate the work experiences

most critical to your current search, even if they are not the most recent experiences.

 

Hunton & Williams                             Washington, DC

Summer Associate           Summer 2010

  • Researched legal issues and drafted related memoranda on various topics, including the legislative history of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, international trade regulation law in the European Union, and the antitrust implications of a proposed merger.
  • Assisted in drafting documentation for a bank loan to a Major League Baseball team.
  • Attended hearing and client meetings for a class action under the Cable television Consumer Protection Act and Competition Act.

 

Avoid self-aggrandizing descriptions. In a competitive market, it can be tempting to exaggerate

your credentials. Do not do this! It is important to be scrupulously honest in preparing your

resume, as well as all of your materials. All of the information on your resume can be, and

increasingly is, verified.

 

To Divide or Not to Divide: Some students choose to divide this section into two parts (e.g.,

"Legal Experience" and "Other Experience"), thinking that this organizational tactic makes it

easier for employers to locate the legal experiences on your resumes. Others believe that you

need to emphasize all relevant prior jobs as part of your professional growth. Whether you

choose to divide this section depends upon how you choose to organize and to highlight your

information. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you do not want to make it difficult for the

reader to understand. Remember that prospective employers are likely to spend no more than 60

seconds reading your resume, and you do not want them to spend half of that time guessing

about your responsibilities or the type of work that you did.

 

Resume Gaps: It is important to give careful consideration to how to address any weak spots on

your resume. If you leave out a bad work experience, you still may find yourself having to

explain the gap. In short, it is best not to try to disguise gaps (as this may actually draw more

attention to them) and to be prepared to explain these gaps to employers during interviews. lf

you have individual concerns, please make an appointment to see one of the career coaches in

the CSO so that we can discuss the best strategy for dealing with your situation.

 

Future Employment and Activities: Only include prospective items if they are certain. For

example, once you have accepted a summer position you can add it to your resume without

bullet points listing the work. If you have an article accepted for publication you can list this,

noting “accepted for publication” or “forthcoming Fall 2012.”

 

OTHER POSSIBLE CATEGORIES

 

After you have included all of the necessary information discussed in the previous sections, you

may also be able to include some of the following additional categories of information on your

resume.

 

Publications/Papers: Publications, even those in a non—legal discipline, indicate writing and

research skills and should be considered for your resume. Citations for law—related publications

ideally should follow Blue Book format; at a minimum you should list the title, publication, and

date, as well as the authors if you were not the only credited author. To list on the resume, you

should provide the title, date, and name of publication.

 

Languages: In our increasingly global economy, language skills are highly regarded by

employers. Definitely include languages skills on your resume if your level of proficiency is

such that you could carry on a conversation with a client or could write or translate the language.

For example. "Fluent in French. Conversant in Japanese.`” Do not overrate your skills, as you

may be asked to demonstrate them during an interview.

 

Professional Licenses or Affiliations: You may decide to have a separate section for licenses

and relevant past and present memberships, positions held, and responsibilities, particularly if the

time spent demonstrates the use or development of skills or expertise. Remember to list the full

names of organizations, rather than acronyms.

 

Community/ Volunteer Activities: You may include this information under a separate heading

on your resume. If you are applying for a public interest position, these activities should be

included in the “Experience” section of your resume. Remember to include dates, positions held,

and key responsibilities if space allows.

 

Interests: Space permitting, some people include information about outside hobbies, interests,

or travels on the resume. Some interviewers will “break the ice” by starting with a question

about this section. lf you include an interests section, try to be specific and stay away from

generic words. For instance,  “traveling to Nepal”, “reading historical fiction,” training for ironman”,  “ Italian cooking”; rather than “travel,” “reading”, “sports”, and “cooking.” As with all of the items included on your resume, you should be prepared to talk about the items you list in this category in your interview. So, if you list “reading historical fiction” as one of  your interests, you should be ready to talk about the most recent book you read or which novel is your favorite and why.

 

ITEMS NOT TO INCLUDE ON YOUR RESUME

 

Job Objective: Legal resumes do not include job objectives. You will have an opportunity to

express your career plans and objectives in your cover letter and at the interview.

 

References: Previously, convention was to include the following line at the end of every

resume: “References will be furnished upon request.” The current preference is to omit this line

because everyone assumes it and because it takes up valuable space on your resume.

 

Computer Skills: Omit these. The exception would be if you were applying for a position that

requires a specific technical knowledge and you possess highly technical skills (i.e., something

beyond Word, Word Perfect, Lexis Nexis/Westlaw).

 

LSAT Scores: The Law School Admission Counsel (LSAC) discourages the release of LSAT

scores for non-admission purposes and specifically indicates that LSAT scores are not

considered predictive of success as an attorney and, therefore, should not be used for hiring,

employment. or salary purposes. For this reason, LSAT (and other standardized test scores)

should never appear on your resume.

 

Personal Data: Information about your age, birth date, marital status, religion, and health may

foster discriminatory interviewing and hiring practices and should not appear on your resume.

 

Prospective Items That Are Not Yet Certain: Do not include any prospective item that is not

solidified on your resume. Do not list a journal until you have accepted a position. Do not list a

Law School Clinic if you are on the waiting list. Do not list an internship or other work position

that you have not yet accepted.

 

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