Starting with the resume

Sandra J. Bishop, president of Executive Solutions, is an executive coach and career strategist.

For my next blog, I decided to shift  gears and take you back to basics.  I didn’t have the opportunity to do this initially because my piece on interviewing was duplicated from an event I participated in for “Attorneys in Transition.”

For me, the place to start is a good understanding of the resume.  A resume is simply a brief, descriptive summary of your career-related life experiences, expertise, and accomplishments.  There are two types of resumes to choose from:  The reverse-chronological resume and the functional resume.

This will be part one of a two-part series on resumes.

The reverse chronological resume is the most popular type used today.  A reverse chronological resume summarizes a potential candidate’s professional experience in reverse chronological order, generally covering the last 10 years.  They are most effective when past work experiences are similar to the current career preference and search.

In using this format, please begin with a robust and articulate career summary.  This kind of summary should run no longer than 100 words and must describe your industry, experience, expertise, personal strengths, any distinctive qualities, and education.  Use this opportunity to excite the reader, encouraging him/her to read further  to get to know you better.  A career summary might look like this:

“Articulate, highly ethical, and persuasive attorney with 20-plus years experience in corporate/international banking law serving the financial services industry globally.  A unique combination of high-tech training and experience in international business and transactional legal experience in more than 25 countries.  A persuasive individual possesses strong negotiating skills, oral and written communication skills, as well as I.T. and telecommunications experience.  A history of successfully reducing legal expenses, including the use of appropriate insurance and risk-management measures.  Demonstrated experience in managing outside counsel in litigation matters in hundreds of cases.  Resourceful with the ability to assess all issues to adequately protect clients and complete projects producing professional results while adhering to rigid deadlines. Fluent in Spanish and French.”

The main body of the document is the professional experience section.  This section should be formatted as follows:

• Begin with your current or most recent position.  Your title, company, address, and dates of employment (in margin)

• List core responsibilities.  These are the responsibilities you were hired to perform.  Always detail in the present tense.

• Accomplishments.  Should play off the core responsibilities using the past tense.  Always quantify using a $, %, or #.  A slick approach is to use the words “resulted in …” after the initial statement and before the quantity expressed.

There is a great temptation to list every job ad nauseam all the way back to high school.  Please don’t do that.  No one cares how successful you were as a lifeguard at summer camp or a waitress in college.  Instead, go back and detail only 10 years.  Beyond 10 years, simply list the position title, company, address and dates of employment.  Underline this and do not indicate core responsibilities or accomplishments.

Contrary to what most people think, unless you are a new graduate, detail your educational credentials at the end of the resume.  Please do not share your grade-point average.   Again, no one cares.  Unless of course, you graduated cum laude from  Harvard, Yale, USC, etc … you get my point, right?

Finally, you can end by listing any significant professional associations, all legal licenses, and military service.  Do not list seminar or conference attendance.

A few more things:

• No reference to age, marital status, gender, race, or health.

• NEVER include a picture of yourself.

• No fraternity listings.

See you next week!


2 responses to “Starting with the resume

  1. You say recruiters are death to associates in this economy– I disagree. If you are a bright associate with great credentials, you are placeable. I have placed a number of associates this year!! – I have long time clients that come to me when they need a qualified person!

  2. This may be fine for a business resume, but it is terrible advice for a legal resume. Skip the intro, law firms know what you do. If you are an associate, put your school up top if your academic credentials are impressive. Focus on your skills and accocmplishments and use bullet points to make it easier to read.

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