5 In-House Resume Warning Signs to Avoid

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 23, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Putting together an effective resume is an art. And if you're looking for a position in-house, you already know that your resume must be specially tailored for an inside counsel position.

But accidentally including warning signs -- mistakes that make a hiring manager question your resume -- can undo all your hard resume-building work. Even the most skilled candidates can be relegated to the bottom of the pile if they make these errors.

1. Overemphasizing Industry Experience

Business experience is a great benefit to in-house attorneys, just as science and engineering knowledge is to IP lawyers. But you can't pull experience out of nowhere. Overstating your knowledge of the industry, of the legal issues facing the company, or of your experience in business might get your resume noticed, but it can destroy your chances if a screening call or check with your references shows that it's mostly hot air.

2. Static Responsibilities

You were an M&A associate with firms one, two, and three. In each firm, you handled mergers and acquisitions, represented public corporations, drafted and negotiated documents, etc., etc. It's like Groundhog Day, except that it's your career.

Ideally, your resume shouldn't be repetitive. Static responsibilities without advancement or growth can make it look like you've plateaued. Instead, emphasize accomplishments, increasing responsibilities, or new areas of expertise gained in each position. If you don't have those, as with industry experience, start by seeking out that growth before applying.

3. Sloppy Appearance

You're not applying for a graphic design position, but that doesn't mean your resume shouldn't be visually appealing. Break up long blocks of text, focus on short sentences and digestible bullet points, and don't overstuff the page with information. Make sure you have a readable, appropriately sized font, and save your resume as a .PDF so that your formatting is preserved across platforms.

4. Vague, Deceptive Wording

If you say you "participated in" a business merger, are "familiar with" corporate law, or have worked "in association" with corporate counsel -- you might lose points for vagueness. Use concrete descriptions, letting the reader know exactly what your responsibilities and accomplishments were. Specifics are your friend, while ambiguous wording can raise a hiring manager's suspicions.

5. Wasting Space on Education

Unless you graduated law school three years ago, your educational information should come after your work experience. Keep it brief, too. Too much extraneous filler can make it look like you're padding your resume.

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