5 Ways to Tailor Your Resume for an In-House Position

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 14, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Finding a good in-house position isn't easy. There are plenty of lawyers ready to jump ship from their firm in order to get a relatively comfy (or so the assumption goes) in-house gig.

With so much competition, you don't just have to have the right experience; you've got to have the right everything. That starts with the right resume. Here are some tips to help make yours shine:

1. Emphasize Relevant Industry Experience

We know, it's obvious; you've got to emphasize your relevant skills and experience. But, for an in-house job, this can mean more than simply making sure you're qualified for the position. The best in-house candidates are familiar with the industry and the inside workings of similar companies. "Renegotiated vendor contracts for large health care provider" will look a lot better than "successfully argued appellate brief in support of summary judgment."

Avoid taking in legal generalities such as "developed case strategy" and "advised clients on likely outcomes." Focus on specifics, and hopefully specifics on point with the company's needs.

2. Hit Key Words

You'd be surprised how many companies scan resumes for key words. Many corporations (and their robots) digitally scan applications to make sure that they're actually responsive to the job posting. Incorporating key words in your resume, cover letter and e-mail, "can help your resume make the first cut," according to the Association of Corporate Counsel. Not sure what the key words are? Focus on the important terms from the job description, paying particular attention to required qualifications.

3. Stick With a Chronological Presentation

You might be tempted to try out a "functional resume," one which lists relevant skills and positions first. These aren't verboten, but they're no one's favorite. Hiring managers don't want to have to search through your resume to see where you last worked and how your career has evolved. Stick with the classic, chronological presentation. If there's information that you fear will get buried, consider highlighting it in a resume summary statement.

4. Work Comes Before Education

If you haven't applied for jobs since you were recently out of law school, you'll want to reverse your resume order. After three or so years of work, you no longer need your education at the top. Instead, start off with your work experience and leave your alma mater at the end, along with information on bar membership, professional associations, and awards or recognitions.

5. Make It Pretty

You're not applying to be a graphic designer, but that's no excuse for an ugly or poorly formatted resume. Take a few minutes to make sure that your resume is visually pleasing, readable and functional. Usually, this means breaking up long blocks of text into smaller sentences and bullet points, not over-stuffing the page with information, and making sure you've selected a font type and size that's readable not just on a computer but on the printed page.

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