Potential Problems While Drafting a Paralegal Resume

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If you have potential problems in your background, such as gaps or jobs that you do not wish to draw attention to, then grapple with these issues in the "hard chronology." Each should be dealt with independently so that different approaches can be utilized. Some choose to avoid explanation. This approach lets the interviewer "discover" the gap or other problem. Some choose to cover the period with volunteer experience or part-time jobs or a combination of such. After assisting with the creation of thousands of paralegal resumes, I recommend that these problems be dealt with creatively and with a number of different approaches. Each person must assess these questions:
  1. How big is this gap? How bad is it, really?
  2. Am I just overly sensitive about this period?
  3. Can it be subordinated for the purposes of the resume? Will this hurt my chances of getting an interview?
  4. Will I be able to feel comfortable with this explanation in my interview?
  5. When I explain this in the interview, will it soothe doubts or create suspicion?

Seeking an internship and potential employment position as a paralegal in a challenging environment that provides exposure to many areas of the law!


San Gabriel Valley Paralegal Studies, Pasadena, California - Enrolled in program for Paralegal Studies. University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California-Began work on a Master of Arts degree in Theater. Accumulated approximately 40 credit-hours!

Originally pursued a major in Linguistics and Theater, but then switched to the specialized B.FA. Theater degree program!


Paralegal Training: Classes to date have covered legal research, litigation, business organizations, torts, real estate law. Dissolution and investigations to follow!

Client Relations: Extensive background in the theater is excellent preparation for dealing with interpersonal situations. Can make people feel at ease.

Computer Use and Knowledge: Exposed to computers. Primary experience is on MS-DOS systems, also with Windows and Macintosh.

Software Familiarity: WordStar, WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Spreadsheets and database management packages.

In every case of doubt or question, consult a counselor or knowledge able friend for advice. The two crucial questions are: Will this keep me from getting an interview? When I get the interview, will this explanation help me?

The skill assessment section

Don Tollefson Resume shows you that there is a way of summing yourself up that transcends the "hard chronology." This is true of everyone, especially those of us who are younger. Your skills, talents, and qualifications constitute much more of what you are at the age of 24 than does your work experience. This is the reason for the Skill Assessment/Summary of Qualifications section. Regardless of our age, we are more qualified than we look (or certainly feel we are). If it is not so in reality, it is certainly so from our own personal perspective! Therefore, most of us should labor at the creation of a section in our resume in which we sum up our talents, qualifications, or skills - the resume within the resume.

Note that Mr. Tollefson has been in the theater and worked in restaurants. He also discusses his self-employment. Now, pay attention to his Skills section. He covers "Paralegal Training," "Client Relations," "Computer Use and Knowledge," and "Software Familiarity." When an interested party reads this part of his resume, one discovers a much fuller elaboration of a person than would be expected from one who has just worked in theater and restaurants. If this applicant had not handled that elaboration with detail, color, and sophistication, he might have been relegated to paralegal unemployment. As it was, this paralegal described him as a well-trained professional paralegal with an ease in dealing with many types of people and who could handle the busy congestion and activity of a law office with the commensurate demands of word- processing and other computer technology. This Skill Assessment section gives an interested employer a look at a full and complex individual who would probably be a wonderful asset to a law office. Without the Skill element, he could have been labeled with broad-brush characterizations that eliminated him from the interview.

There are many examples of the treatment of skills, summations, and profiles in professional resumes today. It is easy enough to find an outstanding example or create a look that will satisfy you and take an important visual place in your resume. The appropriateness of a certain form or format for your particular resume is something about which you should seek advice and input. But the basic elements of a good skill assessment section, apart from its visual appeal, are important to consider.
  1. Does it truly reflect your skills?
  2. Is it easy to see how you developed your skills from reading the rest of your resume?
  3. Are your skills valuable in a legal setting or law office?
  4. Have you put your skills in the proper order? (Most important to legal first, and then in descending order)
  5. Will you be able to base a strong oral presentation-your bio-upon the Skills section and make it believable and compelling?
The special/technical skills section

Many people are concerned with one element in a paralegal resume: They desire to make clear their complete qualifications with computers, hardware, and software. The devotion of one part of your resume to these skills is highly recommended.

A common error is to place this section too close to the bottom of the resume, thus risking that a hurried perusal would miss this vital part of your value package.

When you're Qualified, You're Qualified!

Something must be said for the simple approach. Some people do well with resumes that are very spare. For example, those with previous medical qualifications often have a "free pass" into an interview situation. Their qualifications are in demand. The man revealed that following Don Arnesson Resume, he got entry employment soon after graduation and was rapidly advanced. This man, however, took the "lean" approach and did not suffer for it. This is not to say that his next position might not require a different kind of approach.

This is a bare bones resume, but it is unmistakable in its statement that the applicant has a medical background. He did not clutter the resume because he knew that he would probably get an interview based solely upon his qualifications. This created a specific image. The image being communicated was one of maturity and qualification. It almost says, "Interview me and you will see how qualified I am." Some people might have a problem with this resume, but the proof is in the pudding. He got a job at the first firm to which he applied, right after graduation.

Using the "Resume within a Resume," many paralegal applicants today sum themselves up quickly in a tightly written summation of experience that includes (besides a simple listing of skills) a kind of "biography" structure.

University of California


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