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The following guidelines summarize points for you to keep in mind as you develop your resume.
Appearance of the Resume
Choose high-quality bond paper in white, off-white, gray, or beige. The latter colors will offer distinction without distraction. If you choose these shades, use envelopes of a matching color.
With so many professional duplicating processes available today, it will not be difficult for you to choose one that will make your resume take on the professional appearance you want. Many print shops will photocopy your resume inexpensively. If you choose this process, be certain that the original typing is flawless and is completely camera ready. You may wish to have your resume typeset and find that the cost is reasonable enough for you to make this investment. A reminder: Always proofread your printed copy before leaving the print shop. If you do not, any errors you later find will be corrected at your own expense.
Laser printing is equally acceptable, and if you have access to a computer, you may find this process will provide many options, particularly if you want to revise or change details for various employers. You also have the advantage of choosing different sizes of lettering or boldface and italics for emphasis. However, take care not to overdo the use of these varied letter styles and prints. Attorneys who will be reading your resume are very conservative.
Some final notes on the duplication of your resume: Dot matrix computer copies are not suitable for final resumes. Never use poorly reproduced copies of your resume. It also goes without saying that handwritten resumes (as well as cover letters and follow-up letters) are never acceptable, no matter how fine or elegant your handwriting.
Use the standard paper size of 8 by 11 inches. The envelope may be regulation business size or a larger envelope that allows you to mail your resume without folding it.
Whatever process you choose, your resume should be error free. Remember that ultimately, you are responsible for any misspellings, typographical errors, or printer's errors.
Use capital letters sparingly. The same holds true for underlining. The purpose of these devices is to make words stand out. If they are overused, nothing will stand out. The sample resumes included in this book demonstrate the effective use of print format.
Do not abbreviate. All organizational names should be spelled out. Degrees, special awards, and all titles should also be spelled out fully.
If the institutional or organizational name of a former employer has been changed, indicate the current name as well as the former.
Be consistent in your layout and composition. Complete sentences will take up valuable space. If you decide to use phrases instead, be certain they are grammatically correct and free of ambiguity.
Use past tense for previous activities, experiences, or acquired skills. Present tense refers to ongoing or current activities.
Consult a dictionary for correct spellings. If you are a poor speller, have someone else proofread your final copy. It is also a good idea to have someone else proofread the final copy you receive from the printer, if at all possible.
Use white space for eye appeal and easy reading. Use ample margins, and make certain they are uniform. Use indentations and tabs to add white space and emphasize key points. If you have extensive information you want to include on your resume, you may be tempted to cram in as much as possible onto one page. Doing so will use up the margins, as well as make the resume difficult to read. You want an employer to be able to easily identify the skills and experiences that you have. One solution to this problem is to use a smaller print size in some categories. Typesetting or laser printing will enable you to do this easily.
Edit your resume to make sure you include all the essential points, but avoid unnecessary details. Do not ramble on or include a philosophical statement about yourself, your profession, or the world in general. If your employer wants to get to know you, you will be called in for an interview.
Use precise language. Avoid jargon. Do not use pompous or self-serving descriptions, such as invaluable, highly creative, sensitive, or perceptive, to describe yourself in your career objective or any other part of your resume. Let your reader come to such conclusions based on what your credentials and accomplishments, as well as your references, say about you.
Constantly update your resume. Never send an old resume to which you have added recent items. If an important event such as the receipt of an honor or award occurs after your current resume has been printed, you may include the specific item in your cover letter.
Your resume will be a reflection of you, your style, as well as your history of professional accomplishments. Therefore, you should not allow anyone else to write it for you. Suggestions and comments from others are helpful insofar as they can improve what you say or what you omit. But your style and format should be as unique and individual as you are.
In the sample entries that follow, notice the use of action verbs to depict skills and achievements.
Sample Career Objectives
Experienced paralegal seeks position using background in library science and legal research.
Career objective is a challenging paralegal position involving coordinating, communicating, and researching, with opportunity for growth.
Career objective is an entry-level paralegal position to use my experience in real estate sales and marketing, in combination with my training in legal research specializing in real estate.
Professional paralegal will incorporate experience in patents and trade-marks, anti-trust litigation, bankruptcy, and legal research. Supervisory and administrative background combined with verbal and written communication skills.
Professional paralegal specializing in corporate real estate acquisitions with proven results in developing innovative and cost-saving procedures.
Extensive experience in legal environments has enabled me to develop communication skills (specifically, research and writing). Additional intensive training in a generalist curriculum has broadened the scope and depth of my understanding of the duties and responsibilities of a paralegal.
Sample Employment Descriptions
Researched, compiled, and wrote corporate report documents.
Developed methods and procedures to ensure efficient work flow.
Supervised hiring and management of clerical and paralegal employees.
Analyzed and reviewed preparation of tariff filings for submission to the Civil Aeronautics Board.
Supervised and trained tellers.
Balanced accounts of daily transactions.
Sample Community and Professional Activities
Guest lecturer for Illinois Paralegal Association.
Designed and presented salary negotiation seminar.
Campaign coordinator: Managed all aspects of local drug awareness program for elementary and junior high school students, including issuing press releases, contacting speakers, and moderating panel.
Volunteer for Chicago Literacy Foundation.
The following provides sample resumes. They illustrate different formats and techniques that have been discussed in this chapter. As you review these, note the differences between chronological resumes and functional or skills resumes.
A variety of formats have been included. Again, depending upon what you wish to emphasize, one format may be more appropriate than another. For example, although most employers prefer to see education as the initial entry, you may wish to emphasize your strong experience over your education. Check with your local paralegal program or association to determine if attorneys in your area have expressed a preference.
The organization of your material may also change based on your career advances. For that reason, several different types and formats are presented. Always keep in mind the position for which you are applying. Study the qualifications they are looking for, and make them easy to identify in your resume. This may require changing your resume for different positions to focus on specific, relevant details in your background and experience. It is not difficult to make these changes, and it will be well worth your time and effort to do so.
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About Harrison Barnes
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 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.