When you’re working and actively networking, you have constant opportunity to update and revise your biography. But it’s all too easy to let your resume lie fallow at the bottom of a desk drawer between job searches. Not a good idea.
Every lawyer needs both an updated biography and a resume. Why both? Your biography is the marketing or informational piece written for colleagues and clients. A resume is a chronology of your work history, summarizing your legal experience for potential employers. Hiring partners and headhunters want a more technical and specific description of your career than your bio provides—they want to identify holes in your employment timeline and your connections with specific organizations and people.
Since most people make job changes when they are not actively looking, you want to make certain your resume is always in top form. Otherwise, you will be unprepared when you get the message that says, “Hey, send your resume over. I think I’ve got something hot for you!”
What Do You Need in That Resume?
A resume should be clear, concise and tailored to a specific audience. Here are some dos and don’ts:
- Don’t draft it as summary paragraphs. Employers want to know you have the exact experience they are seeking. So make sure the experiences you list reflect your skills accurately.
- Do use keywords. Many employers use technology to do the initial cull through resumes by keywords. So it’s a good idea to have multiple versions of your resume that use specific keywords tailored to the particular audience.
- Do cover all bases. All dates should be accurate and there should be no unexplained gaps between employers.
- Do be age appropriate. If you are an experienced lawyer, it is not necessary to put your education at the beginning of your resume—but it is important to list your bar admissions.
- Don’t include a written objective. Objective statements can cause confusion, especially when your objective doesn’t match the expectations of the employer. For example, stating that you are looking for a general counsel position and then applying for an associate counsel position is not a good idea.
- Do keep updated records. By all means include a transaction list or litigation summary that outlines deals, matters or significant regulatory accomplishments. Be sure to update your list regularly!
Melinda Delmonico is President and CEO of Gibson Arnold & Associates, Inc., a national legal staffing and recruiting firm, with more than two decades of experience. Melinda frequently speaks to organizations and law schools about the legal industry and job market.