Crafting the Perfect Resume

In this nutty economy, job seekers must find ways to stand out from the crowd. A well-crafted resume -- typically the employer's first exposure to the candidate -- is a great way to do that. In general, a good resume shows an employer how you're qualified for a specific job by summarizing your work experience, education and other pertinent information. A resume should also provide some insight into your personality. When drafting a resume, put yourself in the shoes of a law firm hiring partner or a company's general counsel, and write a resume that'll make them immediately pick up the phone and invite you for an interview.
If writing up your background in resume format instantly gives you writer's block, start the process by simply getting out a piece of scratch paper and just listing your recent projects. Ask yourself: How have I spent my professional time the last few years? What have been my most significant contributions and victories? How has my non-billable time contributed to my marketability? Review your year-end time notes to refresh your memory.

Importantly, be prepared to alter your resume for various positions. For example, information will be organized and emphasized differently in a resume for a securities litigation job than a resume for a general commercial litigation job.

Here are some additional resume Do's and Don't's.

Do's

-- Find ways to quantify your professional achievements. For example, did you manage a million-dollar litigation budget? Supervise a 10-person M&A team? Save the client $250,000 in structuring an IP deal? Be specific rather than using vague buzzwords.

-- Organize your experience chronologically, which will show your progression and increased responsibility at various jobs.

-- Include a skills section only if they're relevant to the particular job. For example, mention that you speak fluent French if you're applying for a job at a multi-national firm. But mentioning a proficiency with Word or even HTML won't get a lawyer many places these days.

-- Be consistent with style and formatting -- use the same verb tense, punctuation and indenting throughout the entire resume.

-- Constantly update your resume. In fact, we recommend scheduling it into your Palm for every three months. That way, when you see a great job advertised, you can easily shoot out your resume without a major overhaul.

Don't's

-- The most obvious warning we have is: No Typos. Even a simple punctuation mistake will land your resume in the proverbial "circular file."

-- Avoid fancy fonts or paper. Make sure the bolding and italics you use are logical, consistent and easy on the eyes. A clean-looking resume shows your professionalism and attention to detail -- important traits for any lawyer.

-- Don't provide cutesy e-mail addresses such as "Luv2Run@aol.com." If you don't want to list your current work e-mail, get a Hotmail or Yahoo address based on your name.

-- Nix an "objective" section, which could too easily rule you out from certain jobs. Also, if an objective is too vague, you could be pegged as unfocused. Better to just leave it out.

-- You can safely leave off your college and law school GPAs unless you earned a 4.0.

-- Don't waste space listing references or even concluding your resume with the phrase "references will be furnished upon request." That's implied.

Our bottom-line advice is to spend quality time crafting your resume -- it's one of your most important job-hunting tools. And before you send it out, have at least a couple of people critique it for substance as well as typos. Good luck!

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