The competitive nature of the marketplace leaves little room for mistakes, that’s why having a great resume to showcase your skill set to a potential employer is essential. This guide will help you with some key elements of resume writing, as well as explore some of the more nuanced elements to consider. In the present day looking for a job has become a full-time job and weeding out generic advice that can sometimes hurt more than help will save you time in your job search.
THE A-B-C and D-E’s OF RESUME WRITING
Countless online guides, career advisors, and recruiters will have input on how your resume should look. While it is important to listen to most of it and take it all in with a grain of salt, at the end of the day you must be confident that you’re presenting yourself to the best of your ability to a potential employer. Before getting into the nitty-gritty, there are a few things that everyone needs to consider when writing a great resume.
Your resume absolutely has to be tailored to each job you apply to. There are instances when you can send out a generic resume, but those are reserved for entry-level jobs with little educational background necessary. A lawyer, or legal professional that has gone through extensive schooling, articling, and summer internships with a law firm (at the very least), is expected to put in extra efforts when applying for a position in the legal field.
Your resume should include clear headers or titles. You are in essence creating a persona that should fit well with the position’s description. The headers or titles don’t have to match the job exactly, but they should speak to the job description. Your resume can start off with either a summary of the skill set relevant to the position or go straight to work experience. Make sure, however, to relate each skill to some sort of an experience or accomplishment you have had. Education should follow. Lastly, you should add any other skills that may not be directly relevant to the specific position, but may add to your candidacy in a positive way. A good example would be the ability to speak a foreign language or languages.
In fact, if you have a number of achievement awards or have served on a board of directors, have volunteer experience, have been published or have done any sort of extra curricular activities that may impress a potential employer, don’t be shy and add those right at the top or below your educational experience, depending on how relevant they are.
It should go without saying that your resume should be clean, well formatted and free of spelling or punctuation errors. Use action verbs and be consistent in your writing of headlines, sub-headlines, and description keys. Avoid passive language and focus on performance and results or accomplishments you made in a job, school, or other settings.
Now that we have covered the basics, the A-B-C and D-E’s of resume writing will catapult your resume to the next level.
This point is as obvious as it is necessary. Accuracy does not just refer to correct spelling and a well-placed comma. You should be accurate in your work experience description, your skill set, and your education. Large organizations and law firms may use software to weed out candidates who do not meet the basic criteria for the job. This is where accuracy becomes essential. You have likely heard the advice to modify your resume a little to meet the criteria for the job. There really should be a disclaimer on this piece of advice. While it can be beneficial to modify things in certain instances, in order to clarify or relate a previous job to the one you are applying for, this should be done without being misleading or untruthful. Changing a title or a description to a point beyond truthfulness may put you in an awkward position during the interview with potential employers or even worse, you may be weeded out by software due to misrepresentations on your resume. It’s important to remember that not every position you apply for is necessarily for you and that you are trying to figure out whether the job would be fulfilling for you, just as much as they are trying to find someone to fulfill the needs of their company or firm. It’s also important to remember that not getting the job but maintaining your integrity feels a lot better than the alternative.
Have you ever heard the saying that balance is key? You probably have, because it’s become a bit of a cliché. And there is a good reason for that. A recruiter or a potential employer will take about five minutes to look over your resume and make a decision. Your resume needs to be concise and well-edited. Each section and sub-section should be either similar in length or help guide the eye along to the next item on the list. In other words, the resume should have a flow. Unless you are planning to work as a writer, less is usually better. Stay away from frivolous designs and colourful headers. Keep your resume classic with the standard black and white shades. Bolding and italicizing should be kept to a minimum as well. You should use Cambria or Calibri as the typeface for your resume because those are the most modern yet conservative fonts.
The best way to achieve clarity is to have a number of knowledgeable individuals look over your resume. We often do not have a great grasp on how we are perceived and the same goes for the way our resumes are viewed. Structure the resume in a logical order, but remember you are free to step away from the standard format if there is a need to clarify or underline a point. Giving yourself a title that fits the job description, for example, should be sufficient and can serve as a mini-objective. The outdated practice of adding an objective sentence or two to your resume has largely been abandoned due to the fact that it takes up valuable space and filled it with unnecessary details that did not serve the potential employer and employee in any concrete way. Really think about each sentence you write down and how that sentence helps showcase you as a great candidate for that specific position. Only add what is absolutely relevant and keep verbose statements to a minimum.
Pay close attention to detail. This is especially important in the legal profession. The habit of dissecting legislation and language to the root of the meaning and issues is at the heart of the legal profession. Hence you can be sure that if an employer is interested in your candidacy, they will do a little dissecting as well. It is only natural. Keep your resume consistent and formatted the same way throughout. Add clear examples of skills and accomplishments to help you paint a picture. Look through your resume after you finish writing it, put it away for fifteen minutes, and then look through it again to find anything you may have missed. Repeat this process at least two more times, perhaps with shorter time intervals for the latter rounds. This process will help you focus on the details a little better. Ask a trusted wordsmith or adviser for input and suggestions.
Writing a great resume is an art and after you’ve covered all the practical aspects, it is time to think about how to bring it to life. Eloquent writing speaks volumes to your educational level, how you think, and how you perceive the world. Thus it is paramount to have a well-written. It is the balance of keeping a resume concise and to the point while still using effective and persuasive language. Generally, you should follow most of the well thought out advice you read, but if there is something that you feel you just need to have in your resume even though it goes against most of the common advice, go ahead and add it in. After all that something extra is what makes YOU – and the employer is hiring a person they can work alongside with, whose presence they would enjoy, and with whom they hope to have a long and prosperous relationship.
ACTIVITIES & INTERESTS
Don’t forget to add a section on your current activities and interests. They will show your strengths and personality and will no doubt become a talking point and ice-breaker during your interview.