Three Mistakes You May Be Making With Your Legal Resume (and How You Can Fix Them) - Burnett Specialists

Three Mistakes You May Be Making with Your Legal Resume (and How You Can Fix Them)

Feb 21, 2024 | Resume Tips

Having a compelling legal resume is essential if you want to land your dream job. While many professionals assume that crafting a standout resume means simply showcasing the right capabilities, that’s not necessarily the case. A few seemingly innocuous decisions can have a surprising negative impact, making them mistakes even if they don’t seem like an issue initially.

Fortunately, avoiding these missteps isn’t difficult. By making small changes to your resume, it’s easy to meet the expectations of today’s employers. Here’s a look at three mistakes you may be making with your legal resume and how you can fix them.

Three Mistakes You May Be Making with Your Legal Resume

1. Using an Outdated Font and Format

Many legal professionals use highly traditional resume fonts and formatting. They may assume that Times New Roman, Garamond, or similar serif fonts add an air of sophistication, making them the best choice. However, in the digital age, they’re not necessarily the best choice.

Compared to sans serif fonts, serif fonts are potentially hard to read on digital devices. As a result, serif fonts can incidentally make a poor impression. Instead, switch to a modern alternative like Calibri, Helvetica, or Arial, as those are typically more readable when viewed on screens.

When it comes to formatting, having everything – including headers – aligned to the left isn’t ideal. It can make your resume seem heavy on one side and isn’t the most comfortable for skimming. For an updated approach, center your headlines instead. That allows the hiring manager to quickly review the headings with a fast glance.

Centering your contact information is also a wise choice. Again, the strategy feels more visually balanced, and it makes skimming the document more comfortable.

In some cases, adding subsections within the main sections – such as adding them to your work history to differentiate different types of positions – can work in your favor. Generally, this is worth considering if you have unique professional experience in a different field that may provide unexpected value to a new employer.

It is critical to note that it’s usually best to avoid some of the highly contemporary resume formats. For example, while a multi-column design is attractive when printed, it’s often challenging for an applicant tracking system (ATS) to read correctly. Since many companies use an ATS for automated application screening, keeping the single-column format is a better choice as the technology can review it correctly.

2. Squeezing Everything onto One Page

Many legal professionals see guidance that says a one-page resume is the expected approach. While a single-page document is appropriate for entry-level candidates without much professional experience, it’s not necessary after you’ve been working in the field for several years. Instead, a two-page resume is usually the norm.

If you’ve held several relevant positions, the amount of detail you’d need to remove to make it fit on a single page is likely substantial. That’s the reason a two-page resume is the wiser strategy. It provides enough room to properly showcase your experience and skills without overdoing it.

However, you do need to position the various elements of your resume correctly. Generally, the top half of the first page is what hiring managers focus on most when reviewing resumes. As a result, you want to make sure it provides a solid overview of what you bring to the table.

For many legal candidates, beginning with a professional summary is the best choice. Next, following that up with a quick, bullet-point skills list is potentially wise. Then, shift into your work history if you have ample experience. If you’re new to the field, then leading off with your education or similar credentials may work in your favor.

3. Discussing Duties and Not Achievements

Not long ago, resume work histories discussed the assigned responsibilities associated with the role held. However, that approach is now considered highly antiquated, mainly because it doesn’t give the hiring manager insights into your strengths and capabilities.

Today, it’s best to focus on achievements when listing information about a position. Discussing what you accomplished provides critical context. Plus, it’s a chance to highlight the best of what you have to offer, as well as show how you bring value to an organization.

When outlining achievements, quantifying the details is a must. Numbers stand out visually from the other text, essentially encouraging the hiring manager to read the information nearby. Additionally, it showcases your value in a clearer fashion.

As you describe each previous position, it’s also best to limit the total number of bullet points included. For most legal professionals, four to six works incredibly well. It’s enough content to highlight relevant achievements but limited enough to prevent unnecessary details from taking up valuable space.

Remember, the goal is to present an enticing snapshot, not a complete description of everything that occurred while you worked in a role. That means not mentioning details that aren’t relevant to the position you’re trying to land is a wise move, as it ensures everything you do include is suitably compelling.

Are You Looking for a New Legal Position? Burnett Specialists Can Help!

Ultimately, the tips above can help you create a standout legal resume, ensuring your application feels modern and complete. Once you have yours ready, it’s time to find your dream job.

While launching a job search can seem daunting, the journey is far easier with the proper support. At Burnett Specialists, our team prides itself on helping legal professionals find their ideal role. Our team will assist you throughout the process, providing critical guidance while increasing your access to exciting career-boosting opportunities.

If you’re looking for a new legal position and want to partner with experienced, professional recruiters, Burnett Specialists can help. Learn more about our available positions today and see how our skilled team makes finding your dream job as simple as possible.

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