J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing. Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.
Whenever I post an open position at a local law school I receive a deluge of fresh resumes, all hot off the same press. While I appreciate the career service office writing guidelines, I find it tough to distinguish among the candidates whom all seem the same. The following advice is based on resume review for small-midsize firm entry and lateral transfers where a personality type and fit was sought in addition to customary credentials.
Your resume should make you 1) identifiable and 2) memorable. The first run of vetting eliminates the candidates lacking specifically required qualifications. Assuming you meet the basic requirements and your resume passes the first round of review, your resume will likely be remembered as one that was easy to read or cryptic, you don’t want the recruiter to “read between the lines” to figure out your knowledge, skills and abilities.
The second review of pre-qualified candidates often results in a few quick decisions. I recall flagging a few resumes with interesting job skills listed, or unique employers, languages or places of employment. I often try to remember one thing about each resume I like when reviewing so as to not toss the resume too quickly if the candidate peaked my interest.
I frequently place quick phone calls to the candidates who seem unique and interesting or have a particular job experience about which I want more information. During that call, my impression of the candidate can move them towards the front of the line, or not based on the quality of the call. Catching candidates unprepared for screening calls serves several functions for a recruiter – especially in determining if they crafted their resume for my position, or if they are serial job applicants.
It is possible, during the review process, that the best candidate never caught my interest; it is easy to assume I passed right by them, if their resume looked like all the others and did not catch my eye. The other candidates may have not made it to the table for failure to follow directions.
Too often job sites ask employers to identify how an applicant should submit their candidacy for a posted position. The employer selects requirements, i.e., cover letter, resume, references, writing sample and so on. When a candidate fails to follow the posted directions, I wonder if I was clear in the directions or if the candidate missed them. You never want to jeopardize your changes by not following submission instructions.
Sometimes position descriptions are unclear. When a potential candidate makes a phone call inquiring about position details, that candidate shows specific interest and most recruiters and employers respect honesty when asking for clarity. Showing respect and courtesy in the application process is your best bet, and this also helps a recruiter separate you from the “apply for everything” candidate pile.