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Resume Strategies for Paralegal Job Applicants

published January 22, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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( 16 votes, average: 3.9 out of 5)
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Personal marketing is seventy percent of finding a job. Only thirty percent depends on actual background and skills. That personal marketing is in the form of a well-written resume and good interviewing skills. Your first marketing tool is your resume.

Plan your resume around the following: Your abilities, skills, and talents; what direction you want to take in your career; what type of firm, corporation, or public agency you want to work for; and your interests. Take an inventory of your skills.

Write out a list of your accomplishments, no matter how insignificant they may seem to you. Examples could be: getting a driver's license, working your way through college, raising six children. Then select several accomplishments and write a paragraph or two about each one.

State what you did, why you did it, how you did it, and what resulted from your activities. Then get someone to help you identify the skills you used to accomplish the tasks. You will then begin to realize the extent of your skills. Recognizing these skills will make you feel more comfortable in your job search. Your resume is your sales brochure and you are the product.

Your resume should reflect your skills and talents but it won't get you the job. It will introduce you to prospective employers and get you an interview but it will not get you a job. Your resume is your basic selling tool. It is a representation of yourself.
Without a well-written resume a prospective employer will not even consider you for an interview. Your resume for the legal community will probably not differ too much from a resume for the general business community. The most important adjective to remember when writing this resume is "conservative."

The resume should be reproduced on white or cream-colored paper and every resume sent out must be accompanied by an individually typed cover letter on the same kind of paper that the resume was copied on.

If possible, use a matching legal-sized envelope. It may seem unnecessary but remember that this is the employer's first impression of you. It is important that this first impression be a good one so that he/she will be sufficiently interested and impressed to ask you in for an interview.

As mentioned before, your resume is your marketing tool used to elicit the interview. Depending on your experience and background you may choose one of the following resume formats: the reverse chronological approach or the functional approach.

Since the paralegal profession attracts people with all kinds of experience and backgrounds, I suggest these two different approaches to resume-writing based on the paralegal's existing experiences.

The reverse chronological approach is simply an historical review of your work experience and educational back ground with the most recent listed first. Dates should be included in this type of resume. Usually, recent college graduates will put their educational background first, under the heading of "Education."

The first school to be mentioned should be the paralegal school that you attended, with a listing of the courses or areas of legal study that were offered. Some paralegal programs may offer bachelors' or associate degrees in paralegal studies.
Remember to clearly emphasize the areas of study included in this paralegal program as well. Your internship experience, if any, can be included here, too. Leave room to add any academic distinctions if the resume is prepared prior to graduation.

Employers are impressed by better-than-average grades. If you have graduate level courses in a field unrelated to the legal field you may include that information as well. Many interviewers seek out students with some postbaccalaureate courses. And last in the reverse chronological list of your educational background should be your undergraduate institution, with your major and minor areas of study.

Any honors received should also be included. High school is included if you have not taken any college courses. Unless your work experience is relevant to finding a position as a legal assistant, you should put your educational history first. This is the area which will be most attractive to the interviewer since the paralegal program you graduated from will be listed first.

Your work experience follows your educational background in this type of resume. You may think that the jobs you held in order to put yourself through college or the jobs unrelated to the legal profession are not important to the employer.
This is not so. Lawyers and legal administrators are very interested in noting longevity on a job or the fact that you put yourself through college. So include this information. Include a description of your job duties. Responsibilities such as interacting with the public, performing research, and writing reports are skills that can be transferred to the paralegal profession.

Remember, too, that you must list these jobs in reverse chronological order. I sometimes recommend to paralegals that "Hobbies" or "Special Interests" be included on the resume. I suggest this either when the resume looks a bit skimpy because the paralegal has had very little work history or because by including some personal facts, the paralegal will have an easier time interviewing.

More than just a few paralegals have secured positions based in part on the fact that they had a hobby in common with the interviewer! At the bottom of the resume page you should include the statement ''References Furnished Upon Request." This signals the conclusion of the resume. I suggest you prepare a separate sheet of paper listing your references by name, title, address, and phone number.

This should be photocopied so that during the interview, if and when you are asked for the names of references, you can present the interviewer with this list of references, in stead of wasting time thumbing through an address or telephone book. You will appear more professional by doing so. Of course, you will always ask your references for permission to use their names. Some paralegals put a job objective on their resume.

This is not necessary and is totally up to the paralegal. An objective simply is a statement of the kind of position you are seeking. Unless your objective is general in scope, it can narrow your job search. If you are willing to relocate or travel, however, you should include that information. This can either be put into a synopsis or in a category labeled "Of Special Interest" toward the end of your resume.

I also recommend the functional approach resume. In this kind of resume you need not put any dates, names of employers, or job descriptions. This resume basically highlights a person's experiences and groups skills together, and analyzes and draws out the traits common to them. For example, a graduate of a paralegal certificate program might have worked as a teacher and a social worker before he/she decided to change careers.

The educational history would be listed in the same fashion as it would be in the reverse chronological resume but only the job titles would be listed. A separate category entitled "Analysis of Experience" would follow. This category would analyze the skills used in the jobs of teaching and social work. Possible categories could include: administrative skills, interpersonal skills, counseling skills, and writing skills. These skills are emphasized since they are applicable to skills used when performing paralegal duties.

Once your resume is letter-perfect it is ready to be reproduced by offset. You must decide how much you are willing to invest in these resumes and your job search. I feel that the cost of making copies of the resume is negligible when you consider all of the doors that will open for you in your new career as a result of a professional-looking resume.

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.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

published January 22, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 16 votes, average: 3.9 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.