Your resume is a summary of important information about yourself. It should contain only information that is relevant to the position for which you are applying. Often, an initial first pass of a resume to determine whether you could be a good fit for a job is less than 30 seconds. You want to make those 30 seconds count. Including superfluous or unfavorable content will likely hurt your chances of getting passed over on that first pass.
- See 6 Things Attorneys and Law Students Need to Remove from Their Resumes ASAP If They Want to Get Jobs with the Most Prestigious Law Firms for more information.
One of the most common questions about resume content is: Should I put my GPA on my resume? There are two factors to consider when answering this question. The first is the caliber of your GPA. Only put your GPA on your resume if it is exceptional. In the legal world, this means at least a 3.5. If you had a not so great overall GPA in law school, but had a high GPA in classes in your area of practice (such as tax or intellectual property), you could include that GPA only. The second factor to consider is how long you have been out of law school. If you are ten years out, your work experience becomes more important than your grades, and you can leave your GPA off of your resume regardless of its level.
Because that first review of your resume is so quick, you want to make your resume easy to read and pleasing to the eye. If you include too much information, your resume may become difficult to read. Too many words are exhausting to the reader. Use italics and bold to highlight and distinguish difference facets of your information. Use bullets to identify your experience and achievements. These tools will draw the reader's attention to where you want it to go.
As you choose what to include in your bullet points, remember again that your resume is a summary of important information. Only include work experience that is relevant to the job you are seeking. If you are concerned about any gaps this may create in your timeline, try to fill in those gaps with volunteer work or other community activities. If you get an interview, you can also explain those gaps during your interview. Additionally, only include in your bullet points activities that would be considered achievements; for example, a professional award or a merit-based scholarship. While interesting, it is very likely not relevant that you were the social chair of your sorority or that you are the secretary of your knitting club.
There are also few things to absolutely avoid putting on your resume. First, never include salary requirements unless they are specifically requested. Second, don't include an objective. Your objective is to get the job. If you state an objective that is too general, it adds no value to your resume. And, if you state an objective that is too specific, you may write yourself right out of the job. Finally, the statement that “references are available upon request” is antiquated. If references are required (and they will be), have them ready on hand, but wait to be asked.
Your resume is often a potential employer's first impression of you. Use it to put your best foot forward.
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