Are you on the first step or halfway to the top of your paralegal career ladder? What is a skill needed to launch a career and to keep it growing?
Creating a winning paralegal resume: one that has the power to open doors.
Warning: A bad one slams them shut!
Most importantly, a great paralegal resume moves you to the next step: landing an interview. Number 6 trips up more candidates than all the others combined.
A paralegal resume answers simple questions. Who are you? What have you done? When did you do that? Why do you think you are a good match for the position?
To be considered for a position, your paralegal resume has to be seen by the decision-makers. To do so, it must pass the first of the gatekeepers.
While there are many avenues for your paralegal resume to land on the desk of your future employer, most job seekers submit applications online (via an online job site or directly to potential future employer’s websites).
Employers do not want to wade through a stack of unqualified candidates. The majority of employers utilize applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sort resumes (and the software eliminates 75% before sending them forward for further review).
These days all resumes must be created to pass the first gatekeeper: the machine or software gatekeeper. A paralegal resume geared for both machine and human review is the answer.
#1. Make It Easy To Find You
Your contact information answers the question “Who?” Let’s make it easy for your future employer to contact you! At the top of your paralegal resume list:
- Your Name
- Your Professional Email (this is not the time to use a silly, nonsensical, or suggestive email address – simple is best – your name at gmail or yahoo)
- Your Mailing Address
- Your Personal Phone Number or Personal Cell Phone Number
- Your LinkedIn Profile (once you have the professional experience to showcase)
#2. Show Why You Are The Best Paralegal Candidate
Your future employers are very busy attorneys. Let’s make it easy for them to see just how qualified you are for the paralegal position.
How do you do that?
A well-written objective statement (for those targeting a specific position or entry-level position) is your 30-second elevator pitch. In 2 to 3 sentences, you will display your skills, feature your relevant experience and present why you are a good match for the position and for the company. TIP: Review the job description, glean the skills wanted and capture your matching skills in your objective statement.
Professional Resume Statement and Areas of Expertise
Mid-Career and Senior Level Paralegals are best served using a resume statement listing Core Competencies or Areas of Expertise instead of an objective statement. Include the keywords and key phrases which illustrate your hard and soft skills proficiencies.
The inclusion of keywords and key phrases in your professional statement, work experience, and education is another tip for crafting an ATS-friendly resume.
#3. Work Experience
Your future employer has a number of questions about you. Where did you work before? What responsibilities did you have and what were your achievements? When and for how long were you at your past positions?
Many of those questions are answered in the work experience section. As you create your paralegal resume, remember that you are creating for two audiences: the machine and the human.
The chronological resume format (list current position first) is the most ATS friendly – your best bet for getting past the online gatekeepers.
Should your work experience have a laundry list of the tasks you performed in each of your jobs?
Your work experience should be packed with gold. Let’s make it shine!
How do you do that?
- List your ACCOMPLISHMENTS, not the responsibilities you handled.
- QUANTIFY each accomplishment in each bullet (what cost savings was achieved, how much was revenue increased, what time savings was created, etc.).
- Organize bullets by IMPORTANCE & RELEVANCE (TIP: glean what is most relevant for each potential future employer from their job description).
- Use ACTION VERBS and use the past tense
- Sprinkle KEYWORDS & KEY PHRASES throughout (obtained from the job description and industry expectations for each specialty).
- Demonstrate your SOFT SKILLS & TECH SKILLS
- Show internal promotions.
- Same responsibilities? Stack the titles with the current on top and the former below. In your bullet points, have the first one start with “Promoted.”
- Different responsibilities? List current title followed by bullet points of accomplishments and then former title with bullet points of the former responsibilities and accomplishments.
#4. Education and Certifications
In the past, a college degree was not considered essential to become a paralegal.
These days the expectation is that you will have completed, at a minimum, an Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies or a similar AA degree. A BA degree is a requirement in many job descriptions for paralegal positions.
In addition to listing the colleges attended, degree obtained, major, minor, and graduation year, don’t forget to include certifications received and awards won.
Note: if this is your first professional position (aka your entry-level position), list your education first and then your work experience, including any internships.
#5. A Great Paralegal Resume Highlights Your Achievements and Skills
How will you be able to get your work done? Using all of those skills and talents you have gained throughout your life: from your education, from jobs, even from the playground and dinner table.
If you did not include your core competencies on the top of your paralegal resume, include your relevant technical skills, job-specific soft skills, and transferable skills in a Skills section.
Review the job description to see what skills your future employee is seeking. Highlight the skills you possess which match those being sought.
ATS TIP: use the exact words used in the job description.
If you do not yet have any or little paralegal or professional work experience or want to be considered for a different paralegal specialty, help your future employer understand how the skills learned in a prior position could transfer to your paralegal work.
This is especially true for entry-level, first professional job applicants. Remember that summer job at a burger joint honed your customer service skills and your ability to remain focused and calm during the crushing rush periods!
#6. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread Your Paralegal Resume!!
You’ve sweated over your paralegal resume objective; ensured that your work experience demonstrates your skills and abilities; and sent your resume to your hope-to-be future employer.
Your never-to-be employer scans on your resume and the fact that you are “tea-oriented” pops out of the page. And into the trash goes your resume.
Is it fair that your paralegal resume was rejected for 1 error? Maybe not, but it is a brutal fact. Your paralegal resume must be error-free.
The employment agency Robert Half even keeps a depository called Resumania filled with the cringe-worthy errors found in candidates’ resumes.
Proofreading tips to do after having run spell and grammar check:
- Read your resume out loud
- Have your computer read your resume out loud
- Have someone else proofread your resume
- Put it aside for a day and review it the next day
- Read it backwards
- Read from the bottom to the top
Bonus tip: One and done Paralegal Resume?
Your magnificent paralegal resume, polished to such a point that it outshines the sun, is poised to be sent to all of your potential future employers.
Your paralegal resume is not a one-and-done document!!
For this sales tool to work hard for you, refine your resume to suit each job position pursued. Review the job description to find out the specific skills and abilities being sought. Research the company by reviewing its website and read any recent press reports and investor information.
Your paralegal resume is the first impression of you for your potential future employer. Make it the best first impression possible!
Would you go on a first date in grubby clothing? Of course not! Make sure that each paralegal resume is dressed perfectly for each position being pursued.
To help you remember all of these tips, we have created a resume checklist. Grab the resume checklist to help you create a polished and ATS-friendly resume that will help you progress to the next step of the hiring process: an interview!
Follow the resume checklist to make sure that your resume is an interview-magnet! A great resume will open doors but a bad one will slam it shut and lock you out! Let’s get your resume in front of your future employer.
Here’s to your success on your paralegal career journey! Share your challenges and successes in the Official Paralegal Club Facebook Group!