When was the last time you updated your resume?

Now that your cover letter is ready, it is time to move on to the meat of your application: the resume. It seems to be a common occurrence that candidates do not update their resumes on a regular basis. The result of this is that resumes sit, untouched, for many years while the individual continues to gain experience and skills that go undocumented. If you take only one piece of advice from this blog, try to get into the habit of updating your resume on at least a yearly basis; this will ensure that your new skills and accomplishments are captured while they are still fresh in your mind.

In addition to out-of-date resumes, here are five mistakes we frequently see in candidates’ resumes:

  1. Irrelevant information: Not every experience you have is worthy of inclusion on your resume. We all had a series of jobs throughout high school and university that may make for funny stories but have no place on a professional resume. This means your camp counsellor position and time spent as a sales associate at the local video rental store should be removed. The exception to this rule is if one of those positions involved a significant leadership role, in which case, a description of the management skills you obtained may be of some relevance to the job you are applying to.
  2. Unorganized and unformatted: Your resume should be a collection of the highlights of your professional experience and these highlights need to be organized in a way that is easy for a reader who is unfamiliar with your experience to follow. Bullets and headings should be used to direct the reader to the highlights and to present your experience in a clear and organized manner.
  3. The Deal Sheet: It has become common practice for lawyers to include an additional page outside of their resume to list key deals that they have worked on. This is an opportunity to provide further information on the expertise you have in certain areas and the roles you have played on deal teams. This should not just be a laundry list of your Lexpert mentions with no further explanation. Again, it is important to customize this information to the job you are applying to: if you are applying for an in-house role with a public company, highlight your public company deal experience.
  4. No whitespace: If you have tried to skip the difficult task of paring down the information on an over-stuffed resume by decreasing the font size, shrinking the margins and keeping paragraphs close, you are not doing yourself any favours. A good resume should have whitespace; it makes it much easier for the reader to digest the information. A cluttered resume gives the impression that the candidate did not take the time to consider and edit their experience and may also ring as a warning bell that the candidate cannot communicate in a concise manner (a commonly sought-after job skill).
  5. Unnecessary embellishments: Yes, you want your resume to stand out, but this needs to be done in a professional manner which means your resume should never include your headshot, a lengthy list of your ultimate Frisbee accomplishments or your LSAT score. Similarly, you do not need to use a lengthy executive summary to state your objective in your resume. These summaries are off-putting and take up precious space. Everyone is a “hard working team-player” and including a long list of buzzwords in the opening paragraph of your resume is not going to make you stand out in a positive way.


The bottom line: your resume should be organized and customized for the job you are applying to. Take the time to read your resume over as though you are the hiring manager. If your descriptions raise questions that can be easily answered (for example, how long you worked at a particularly position) add that information in. If we see that a candidate has not included their dates of employment, this will raise further red flags as to what information the candidate may be trying to conceal. If you are left wondering how your experience has prepared you to succeed in this new position, revise your resume to create clear links between your experience and the skills highlighted in the job posting. Last, but not least, make sure your resume is free of any typos and spelling mistakes.

In the next piece in this series guest author Sherri Pinsler will provide her tips on the common mistakes candidates make during their job search process.

Louise Woollcombe is a Senior Consultant with The Heller Group. Louise is actively involved in recruiting and placing lawyers, of all levels, into law firms and corporations. She is also the primary consultant for compliance and risk management related positions. Outside of the office, Louise enjoys skiing, cycling, yoga and baking. She has three children and volunteers with their schools and sports organizations.

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