5 Things to Leave off Your Legal Resume

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on September 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's a tough legal job market out there, and you might be tempted to do some crazy, overzealous things with your resume.

Or maybe you just don't know what should go on a resume when it comes to looking for a legal job. Whatever your motivations might be, here are five things you should probably leave on the cutting room floor:

1. Languages You Don't Speak So ... Um, Good

We live in a melting pot -- or haven't you heard? Language skills are more coveted than ever, especially Spanish and Mandarin, depending on where you live. If you took a Russian class 10 years ago, though, you'd best leave that off your resume. Someone is going to find out, and it's probably going to be at the interview stage, where you're presumed to have the qualifications necessary for the job. 

It's frustrating for employers to find out that the candidate selected for an interview actually doesn't possess some of the skills he claimed to have on his resume. This raises a flag that maybe there are other things the applicant is embellishing.

2. Irrelevant and/or Really Old Jobs

Like we said several posts ago when talking about resume myths, don't put down that roofing job you had back in college. The jobs listed on your resume should be fairly recent (within the last five years) and relevant. If you're a recent law school graduate, by all means put some of your internships down as "experiences" to let prospective employers know you've had exposure to whatever field of law that was.

3. Esoteric Honors

Pop quiz, hotshot: You've got one page to list your academic accomplishments. You can go with Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif or "English Department Superstar Honors" and "The First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence." What do you do?

Always put the most recognizable honors first: Phi Beta Kappa, etc., go right up front because everyone recognizes them. If your school has an esoteric honor society unique to that school only, put it last in the list of honors or consider leaving it off (unless you have reason to suspect the interviewer would know what it is; that's why it pays to have more than one resume).

4. Software Skills* (Note the Asterisk)

It's 2014, so every employer can correctly presume that people applying for jobs involving a lot of typing are proficient in the various word processing programs out there. As a result, you don't need to put down that you know how to use Microsoft Word or Windows or even Mac OS. With that said, by all means put down knowledge of things like document review or e-discovery software. Because there's a learning curve, firms would much rather hire people with previous experience on those types of things.

5. Creativity

Sounds depressing, doesn't it? Especially when we've heard the "viral" stories of creative resumes that landed people jobs: the resume made of Legos, the resume printed on a piece of wood, the video resume ... and so on. These stories, like a TED Talk, are meant to inspire you to go do great things. To a hiring partner, however, these types of resumes can also be annoying -- like a TED Talk. The fact that these stories are so interesting is evidence that they're rare. An overdose of Malcolm Gladwell might make you think you're an "outlier," but in fact, you're not, because if you were, you'd know it by now. Unless you're super duper sure that the hiring partner loves these sorts of things, leave the "disruptive" resume at home.

Any more suggestions for things to leave off a legal resume? Share your thoughts via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

Editor's Note, September 15, 2015: This post was first published in September 2014. It has since been updated.

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