The purpose of your resume is to convey your qualifications to a prospective employer in a clear, easy to read, and organized manner. It should highlight the most important aspects of your background, including your academic and employment experiences as well as your unique accomplishments. Keep in mind that your first opportunity to make an impression on a prospective employer is through your resume. Although a resume will not guarantee you a job or an interview, a poorly prepared resume will undermine your ability to put your best foot forward.
Guiding Principles for Drafting a Resume
While there is no such thing as a perfect resume, there are certain guidelines that you should keep in mind when preparing your resume. The goal of a resume is to direct the reader’s attention to the significant accomplishments that fit your professional objective in a clear, well-organized manner.
1. Do's & Don'ts
- Be positive. Convey confidence and enthusiasm in your abilities and experience
- Be accurate. Stick to the facts
- Use action verbs to describe what you did or what you have accomplished.
- PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD. Check carefully to avoid spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. Your resume must be absolutely error-free - no typographical, grammatical or spelling errors. Be sure to have several people review your resume; do not rely on spell check
- Use negative statements or seek to explain perceived problems.
- Use technical jargon, wordy sentences or personal opinions.
- Use abbreviations where space permits.
- Use phrases such as "fluent in..." or "proficient at..." unless you are.
- Use personal pronouns such as I, you, he, she, it, we, they.
- Include an Objective statement or category.
Your resume should be one page unless significant experience warrants a second page. Employers spend an average of 8.5 seconds reviewing one resume. The employer may miss valuable, relevant information if your resume is not concise. In addition, anything over two pages and you run the risk of alienating an attorney who has been practicing for years but still has a one page resume.
Use a font and size that is easy to read (i.e. Times New Roman, and no less than 11-point font size).
Refrain from using resume templates that are found on many word processing programs, as these templates usually do not create a resume in the proper legal format. Sample resumes are provided here. However, you are discouraged from merely copying the wording in the samples, as your resume should be an expression of your own experiences. The samples are provided primarily to illustrate how a proper resume might look, as well as some of the formatting options.
Resume Format Guidelines
- One page (sometimes two pages)
- Margins between 0.7” – 1”
- Font Size: at least 10.5 point font, 11 point is better, no larger than 12 point
- Standard font type (e.g., Times New Roman, Century, Cambria, etc.)
- Black font color
- Neutral colored resume paper
- Maintain consistency in formatting
- Do not overdo it with bold and underline
- Balance text and white space
Basic Resume Sections
- Name – Bold and in a larger font size (16-18)
- Address, City, State and Zip
- Professional e-mail address (with no “e-mail” title)
- Phone number (with no “cell” or “Phone” titles)
- Institution, Location, Degree and Graduation Date Needed
- Can include GPA, Class Rank, Honors, Activities, etc.
C. Experience (listed in reverse chronological order)
- Organization, Location, Title and Dates Needed
- Bulleted point action statements outlining what you did and/or your accomplishments demonstrating the skills you developed
D. Additional Information
- Skills (specific to position, exclude “computer skills” that are basic and expected)
- Community Service
- Foreign Languages
- Interests (if there is room and they have some unique quality)
Final Resume Checklist
The final resume copy should be meticulously reviewed before multiple copies are produced. Be sure to have an advisor review your resume before you submit it to a prospective employer.
- Is the resume visually appealing or is it cumbersome and difficult to read? Is the layout attractive? Does spacing achieve an uncluttered look?
- Are the margins between 0.7 – 1” equally for top and bottom, left and right margins?
- Are there any typos? Be sure to carefully proofread, not just rely on spell check. Spell check does not catch grammatical mistakes such as “trail” versus “trial” or “form” versus “from.”
- Are bold, caps, or underlining overused?
- Is the language direct and concise? Is it free from jargon and easy to understand?
- Did you check for verb tense? For previous employment responsibilities, use past tense. For present employment duties, use present tense.
- Are job responsibilities described vividly and with full description?
- Is it repetitive?
- Is irrelevant information excluded?
- Does it represent you at your very best?
- Is the formatting (use of bold, underlining and italics; spacing before and after parallel entries; tab stops, the way dates are entered, etc.) consistent?