Creating Your Resume

At first glance it might seem unfair. Every applicant condenses their life down to one page, and seemingly at random an employer chooses one. One page cannot possibly contain how talented/out-going/incisive/studious/punctual/amazing you are.

Of course you have already grabbed their attention with a well-tailored cover letter. But if you want to get the interview, you will also need a resume that pops. Some employers spend as little as thirty seconds scanning your resume, so your resume should make employers want to meet you to find out how you got so clever/scholarly/amiable/diligent/brilliant.

Do ...

  • Keep your resume to one page. A general rule is one page for every ten years of relevant experience. It is acceptable to go to slightly more than one page only if everything on the resume is clearly relevant and important to the potential employer.
  • Make it easy to see, easy to read. You want a layout that is user–friendly, not cluttered or disorganized. Use capital letters, bold and indentations to separate sections and guide the employer. This is your marketing piece, and you have one chance to make a good impression with your credentials on paper, so make it look good.
  • Use reverse chronological order. That's the format that legal employers are used to seeing. While you're in law school, the Education" category goes first.
  • Type size. For most fonts, somewhere between 10 and 12 is good. Go too small and it gets hard to read. Try an in–between size, like 11 if you're pushing over one page by just a bit.
  • Margins. Keep a left margin to 1." If you list "education" and "experience" on the far left, they can be less than 1" away, but solid block descriptions should be 1" or more. Top and bottom should be a minimum of .75". Employers like to have room to write notes and having plenty of white space invites the employer to read the content.
  • Type styles. Keep them simple. You want your credentials to stand out, not your word processing skills. As a rule, only have two or three different things going on, such as bold, bold italics and plain. Adding UNDERLINE or ALL CAPITALS makes it too hard to read. Do use italics for publications.
  • Use a professional–looking font. Fonts such as Times New Roman, New Century Schoolbook and similar type styles all work well.
  • Have someone else proofread your resume for typos, spelling mistakes or omissions. This is in addition to running spell check. It is nearly impossible to read your own work with the same eye as someone who isn't familiar with it. If you can't find someone to proofread, do the next best thing and read it out loud, every word and number.
  • Use light neutral bond paper. White, ivory, beige and light gray bond paper are all acceptable. Remember, you don't want to give the employer a reason to toss your resume. Play it safe and use conventional colors. Use the same paper and envelopes for cover letters and lists of references.
  • Include an Interest Section. This information gives the reader a bit of insight as to who you are as a person and also provides something to discuss during an interview.

Don't ...

  • Use Pronouns. Never use "I" or any other pronouns.
  • Be dishonest. Never embellish your GPA or class rank. Please make sure that this information is exactly what is listed on your transcript. Putting false information on your resume can cost you your job and your professional reputation.
  • Include "objective". An objective should not appear on a legal resume – this information should be saved for your cover letter.
  • Include "References Available Upon Request" – employers will ask you for references if they want them. Prepare a list of three references. Include the following information for each reference: full name, title, employer, city, state, telephone number and email address.
  • Use too much bold typeface or excessive underlining. This tends to distract the reader. Make sure your resume is easy to read.
  • Include personal information. Never reveal your age, martial status, children, physical characteristics. This is information that employers are forbidden to discuss during an interview.
  • Put anything on your resume that you're not comfortable discussing during an interview. EVERYTHING that is on your resume is considered fair game during an interview.


Source: University of New Hampshire School of Law