You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s right, I’m talking about your resume. I see every kind of resume there is, from “newbie” IP lawyers to mid-level real estate associates, up through and including senior litigators and in-house corporate generalists. After eight years of reviewing resumes, I have a keen understanding for what kind of resume will get you to the next level and what mistakes can derail you before you even start. Regardless of your experience level or practice area, there are a number of take-home rules that we can all benefit from.
DO keep it short. A resume should not be more than two pages in length, and one page is preferable if possible. Edit, edit, and then edit again to make sure that you are including only the most relevant information. Once you’ve gotten to 3+ pages, you’ve lost your reader.
DON’T shorten your resume by using a tiny font size. Times New Roman, 11 point font is the smallest I recommend. And avoid “creative” fonts, too – keep it professional.
DO use bullet-points to organize your experience in short, concise blurbs, not lengthy paragraphs. Your reader has a limited attention span and will decide whether it merits further scrutiny and consideration within a few seconds. Make sure we know immediately what you have to offer.
DO include your bar admissions and your language skills.
DO proofread. A resume riddled with spelling or grammatical errors makes the wrong kind of impression.
DON’T submit a lengthy cover-letter filled with irrelevant information. A cover letter should be a short introduction of who you are and why you are applying for a particular position. Keep it concise and to the point.
DON’T send a generic “To Whom It May Concern” cover letter. Take the time to research the firm or company with which you are applying and find the appropriate person to direct your resume. If you aren’t sure who the exact recipient should be, then search the firm’s database or hop into Sullivan’s and find a fellow law school alum and, appealing to your shared educational history, kindly ask him to direct your resume to the right person. It works! Trust me.
DO send resumes out on an individual basis. Don’t send them out en masse by blind-copying every firm, company, or agency in the city. You will find that recipients are much more likely to respond if they feel you took the time to reach out to them individually.
DO set up a professional-sounding email address for your job search. Email accounts like luvstoshop@_____.com or ratherBfishing@_____.com do not convey professionalism or seriousness.
DON’T use an email “tagline”. While fine for a personal email, a cutesy phrase (“Live. Laugh. Love.”) or a witty quote (“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein) that automatically appears at the end of every email you send can look unprofessional when applying for a job.
Happy job hunting!