Attorney’s New Resume Makes Her Case

A legal-services job seeker receives a new resume from Ladders Does My Resume Stink? contest.

resume_magnify_glassWould you like resume advice from the experts? Resume Service is here to help. Contact our experts directly, or if you’re feeling lucky, send us your resume for entry in our Does My Resume Stink contest. Each month one winner will receive a full resume rewrite for free. Now onto this month’s transformation.

Based on a quick reading of her old resume, Eunice Napolitano appeared to be an average, run-of-the mill associate in a typical New York City law firm.

Nothing about her jumped off the page saying, “Hire this person!” Eunice’s new resume makes a better first impression; showcases some recent highlights; and presents her story in a more distinctive, easy-to-read format.

Best of all, her new resume effectively sells her without compromising the conservative and formal style expected of an attorney.

Add the wow factor to your resume

Resume clients often ask, “How do I add the wow! factor to my resume?” The only way to do that is to put the spotlight on the accomplishments that delivered great results for your employer. No amount of clever verbiage can wow readers as well as a solid accomplishment.

In Eunice’s case, we identified three concrete results — missing from her old resume — and posted them at the top. To make room for the new “Recent Highlights,” we reformatted her education section and presented the same information using half the space.

Without those three accomplishment statements, her resume sounds dead. The old resume consisted entirely of job descriptions, which summarize what she did in her various legal-services jobs — unlike accomplishment statements, which describe how well she did them.

Resume tip: Delete the phrase “responsible for” from your resume because it sounds weak and passive to a hiring manager. Simply replace “responsible” with an active verb:

  • Weak: “Responsible for handling New York and New Jersey cases in state, federal and appellate courts involving construction site accidents..”
  • Strong: “Litigated New York and New Jersey cases in state, federal and appellate courts involving construction site accidents..”

In short, start with active verbs.

Make your resume easy to read — otherwise nobody will read it!

Eunice’s most important information — her five years’ experience after graduating from Brooklyn Law School — was squeezed into a single, nine-line block of hard-to-read text. Her new resume breaks that key paragraph into three easy-to-read pieces.

The person reading your resume — on first pass — typically spends about 10 to 15 seconds to make a quick decision (“pass or trash”). Because the reader cannot quickly digest a nine-line paragraph, she will probably skip over it. As a rule, limit paragraphs in your resume to four or five lines.

In addition to fixing that key paragraph, we reformatted her entire resume for improved readability by adding subheads with horizontal rules.

Finally, we achieved a more distinctive appearance by replacing the Times Roman typeface with Garamond. Roughly 80 percent of resumes use Times Roman or Arial; select a standard font other than Times or Arial, and your resume will make a more memorable first impression. I know Eunice’s will.