Work + Growth

Creating an Effective Resume

  • Tailor your resume for specific positions you’re interested in
  • Make it easy for the reader–keep it simple and clean
  • Even minor errors will reflect poorly on you, so review it carefully one extra time

Crafting an effective resume that will get you in the door can feel like a chore, but a resume that accurately and persuasively sells who you are and what you can do for a potential employer builds a strong foundation for a successful job search and enhances your professional image. Here’s all you need to know to dive in.

The most important thing to realize is that your resume should be tailored to the specific position for which you are applying. While this means you may have to tweak your resume for multiple positions (depending on your job search), we are not talking about a complete overhaul for each.If you build a strong foundation by following the rules below, all you’ll have to do is make some cosmetic tweaks to what is a very solid chassis of a resume. Just make sure to save each version with a name that simply and clearly conveys the position it’s for so you can easily keep track of your different versions.

Most resumes should be limited to one page, two at most. If your resume is too long, you run the risk of burying the most important high-level information and overwhelming those looking it over. If yours ends up being two or more, you should take another look at it and see everything you’ve included is really necessary. Or have a friend take a look and see if it comes across as just too much information. In most cases, it’s likely that the supporting details you’re including are more appropriate as a separate document (e.g., Deal Sheet, Representative Matters List, List of Publications and Speaking Engagements).

The Three Rules of Style

1.  Make it Easy to Read

Keep the layout simple by following these guidelines:

  • Font— Use a professional-looking font (Arial, Perpetua, Cambria, Verdana, Tahoma, etc.), between 10 and 12 points.
  • Form— Make sure that the document has a simple, organized look overall and contains ample white space (e.g., appropriate margins and headers) so that it’s easy for the reviewer to read it. Remember, one key for lawyers in anything they do is to make life easier for people.
  • Use Bullets— Bullets are a good way to make the reader focus on substance without having to wade through dense narratives. Generally, people will gloss over more than two lines of narrative, so if you have more to say, break it apart.
  • Clean Formatting—  Make sure the font, spacing and anything else stylistic is consistent throughout. If you’re using a two-page resume, revisit whether you really have to. If you must, make sure you include your name in a header on the second page with a notation indicating it’s the second page of your resume (e.g., Jack McCoy, Resume Page 2)
  • No Frills— While it’s okay to use bold-face, underlining, italics and capitalization to emphasize certain points or delineate subheadings, avoid having too many of these which can look sloppy and chaotic. Keep it simple by choosing one style and sticking with it.
  • Make Sure It’s Current and Professional— Include your contact information (your home address, phone number and personal email address) in your heading. While it may be fun to dust off your old Yahoo, Hotmail or other email accounts with creative names or phrases, for professional correspondence like this make sure you use a professional-sounding email address on one of the main personal email platforms. We recommend using Gmail with some form of your name.
  • Use Personal Contact Information Only— Do not list your work email address or phone number, since you don’t want to give the impression that you’re conducting your job search on your current employer’s time and using their resources.

2. Make It Error-Free

Print it out and proofread it, then review it again. You’re more likely to miss mistakes when scrolling through on a screen. Ideally, you should also have another person take a look, since another set of eyes will often find something you’ve missed. Just like with any client work you send over, any typos or other errors can reflect poorly on you, so take the little extra time to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

3. Make It Accurate

It’s becoming more common for links to other media to be included (e.g., a link to an article you authored), so if you include this make sure the links are current and live. Again, including a dead-end link just gives the reviewer a reason not to advance you along the process.

Working on resume is not usually on the top of a lawyer’s list of things to do, but following the above rules will make it less painful to create an effective resume that will get you in the door.

What's Next

Print out your resume. Carefully look for any typos or stylistic inconsistencies in your resume, updating your resume to reflect the best practices laid out here. Then, it’s cover letter time.