Are You Sure You Have a Winning Resume? Part II

Mariana Fradman, MBA
January 14, 2014 — 1,693 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

In Part I of this series, we started to speak about the evil in our lives: “the resume” and how to write a winning one.  I got a lot of responses and would like to answer some of the most common questions in this article. 

One or two pages? I personally prefer a one-page resume. Your resume is your ticket for an interview. Your job is to grab reader’s attention as they all are busy people and the likelihood that your resume is the only one that came their way is close to null. Unless you are applying for a C-level job or a teaching position, most of information provided will be disregarded if the reader lost interest after 10 seconds. Can you read two pages in 10 seconds? Neither can the employer.  The resume must be a marketing piece that compels your reader to pick up the phone and give you a call or to send you an e-mail. It should be concise, crisp and to the point.

Should I use Arial, Tahoma or Times New Roman. What about pictures and colors? We are in a professional world. Entering (and staying) in the field is not an easy job and you should know that documents need to be in a certain format using certain guidelines. Your resume is one of those documents. While you may be a very creative person, using hearts for bullet points, animation and fancy colorful frame or headlines won’t put you on top of the pile…unless it is a recycling bin. Don’t take a risk.

Remember: most of the time your resume won’t be printed out, but reviewed on-screen. Use the most conventional fonts used in the legal word. Times New Roman and Arial are a few of them. Your font size shouldn’t be less than 11 pt and your heading shouldn’t be more than 14 pt. I am not a fan of tables – ever. The document may look great when printed out, but on the screen it just won’t look crisp and concise. Period.

Why I can’t use one resume for all positions? They are all law related. The key word is “Focus.” Do you want to get that job? Focus on THAT job. Never use a “one-size fits all” resume. There are no “one-size fits all” jobs, so, your resume won’t work. I know great candidates who couldn’t land a single interview until they revised their resumes. I know mediocre candidates who were getting interviews just because they had a winning resume (not necessary a job, but the resume is your ticket for an interview, isn’t it?).

I won’t use an “Objective” statement on my resume. We all have one objective, don’t we – to get a job!  However, a nice summary statement or qualifications summary at the beginning may help. The idea is to grab reader’s attention. Don’t forget that your summary should be tailored for each position you submit your resume for, but you statement should be clear…and short. I saw summaries that were running from two to ten sentences. Your summary shouldn’t be more than two lines long. If you can’t write it as short as two lines, omit it. Save it for your cover letter. It will look much better there.

Why can’t I put “all” my experience on the resume? “Everything?” You can order a bagel with “everything.” You can’t add everything to your resume. I know what you are thinking: I have 25 years of experience and if I don’t list everything, they would think that I don’t have enough experience. The answer is “yes” and “no.” It is all in presentation. Your most current job should take the biggest chunk of your resume. It is also recommended to keep your experience to your last ten years of employment. If your past two-three positions were similar, if not the same, be creative. Don’t just copy and paste. And leave out your part-time job while in college, if you graduated…ten years ago.

My husband said that my resume is boring! If he said it, he is right. Trust him! Don’t be the one who is boring. Don’t just list down your daily routine and (as I mentioned above) copy and paste it from one job to another. You must use action words and highlight your achievements. Don’t say “assisted in preparation of exhibits for a trial.” Say “prepared exhibits.” You drafted documents, managed people, ran events and created presentations. So, say so!

How can I organize my resume? I can’t stress enough how important it is for your resume to be organized. It is not only important for your resume, but it is an integral part of our profession. If you rushed and created a messy resume with your experience, education and skills strung together here and there, what will an employer think about your organizational skills?

There are a few sections of your resume that are a must: Education, Experience, Membership and Associations, and Skills. Depending on your situation, the first two can be switched; however, all of your education should be listed under Education and all your experience should be listed under Experience. Period.

I also recommend bullet points for your job description. Start off each bullet point with a strong action verb. Stand out on your resume. Show your actions and your organizational skills.

Miscellaneous. No, this part is not about some random additions to your resume. It is about those extra things that need to be taken out: your hobbies and past activities. I spoke about them in my first article, but I see this on nearly every resume. You may not believe it, but this is the last thing candidates typically agree to take off of their resumes. They are okay with the majority of my comments and suggestions…except for when it requires them to take off their extra-curricular activities.  They seem to cling to the activities.  Why?  Let’s discuss this further.   

So, you were an active member of a civic group in the 80’s. Not only will you give up your age by listing that, but the activity is irrelevant to the job you are looking for today. I understand that this was part of your life, but you never know the outcome. It can either assist you or hurt you — it’s a toss up. There is no middle ground.  Don’t take any chances.

You were a “prima donna” at your high school musical. Congratulations! But we are not competing here for a role in the next musical. Paralegals don’t sing…at their desks or in a courtroom. 

I understand that you need to fill up your resume and put as much as you can in order to convince an employer to give you a shot, but you never know what he or she has in mind. Stick to boring activities like volunteer-paralegal for a divorce clinic or immigration clinic. By the way, they are not so boring – and actually related to your profession.

Spelling and Grammar.  Last, but not least — and one of the most important subjects on resume writing is proper spelling and grammar. What would you think about a candidate who can’t spell? It is very easy to miss a word here or there. Even if you re-read your resume a few times, it is easy to miss a typo or fail to spot a grammar mistake. Get someone else to look at your resume. I heard that if you read backwards, you would spot your mistakes (and yes, the human brain can accept backward information – try it and let me know if it works for you).

I encourage you to review your resume again. Take the time needed to make sure that you have a winning resume. If you would like me to take a look at your resume – don’t be shy! Email it to [email protected] and I will do my best to assist you.


Mariana Fradman, MBA

The Paralegal Society