Frequently Asked Resume Questions
If you are applying for jobs in or near your home state, and your connection to that area is not already apparent on your resume, you may want to include your permanent address to demonstrate that connection. Keep in mind, however, that including your permanent address on your resume highlights to employers that you are from some location other than New Haven. This may not work to your benefit if you are from the Midwest, for example, and seeking jobs in New York City.
2. Are there any issues I should consider as a joint degree student or as a student with another advanced degree?
If you are a joint degree candidate or already have other advanced degrees, give careful consideration to the amount of space you devote to those other degrees on your resume. Think about the level of connection between the degree and the position you seek. If you are working towards an MBA and are applying for private sector business-oriented positions, then it is likely that your MBA will work to your advantage during the hiring process. However, if you have a Ph.D. in art history, and are applying for legal positions in either the private or public sector, it is likely that the Ph.D. will not be helpful in your job search. Remember, the presumption of many legal employers is that Yale Law students with other graduate degrees are more interested in academia than law practice. Think strategically about this issue in drafting not only your education section, but also your experience and publications sections.
3. Should I play the numbers game and include my undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores?
In an unscientific survey of employers participating in the Fall Interview Program, slightly more than half thought listing undergraduate GPAs on resumes was “somewhat useful,” a third thought it was “very important,” and the rest thought it was “irrelevant.” Given this information, you may wish to include your GPA on your resume if it is outstanding or if you need it to counter any irregularities on your YLS transcript. In that same survey, the vast majority of employers thought listing LSAT scores was “irrelevant,” and a few found it annoying. Given this feedback from employers, you most likely will choose not to include your LSAT on your resume.
4. Should I list ALL of my non-YLS scholastic activities? If not, how do I decide? Is it different for sports, academic activities, and service?
Generally speaking, you should not list all of your non-YLS scholastic activities, but should instead select those activities that best exemplify your skills and interests and the skills and interests that the potential employer will find useful. Ask yourself these questions: which activities were most important to you? Which activities took up most of your time? Were some of the activities “legal” in nature (i.e., Student Judiciary Board)?
Narrow your list of activities by selecting only one of a number of activities that are of the same genre. For example, if you sang in three different glee clubs, don’t list all three. Include activities that demonstrate qualities that employers generally seek: leadership, speaking and writing ability, teamwork. For students applying for public service positions, include all of your service related activities to demonstrate your commitment to public interest work. With respect to social activities, don’t overdo it. While your YLS activities are still sparse you may note that you were a member of a fraternity, but consider dropping it for more relevant activities as they arise.
Students often have concerns about whether to include experiences on their resumes that reflect an affiliation with a particular political, ethnic, gender, or other similar type of organization. Your affiliation with certain organizations may help your ability to secure an interview or job with certain employers and hinder your chances with other employers. It is wise for you to think about this issue and talk it over with a counselor before sending out your resume.
5. What about awards and honors?
YLS awards exceptionally few honors before graduation. You may have received a scholarship or grant from YLS as a means of providing you with need based financial aid. This is not an honor and should not be listed on your resume. The YLS summer funding from Student Public Interest Fellowships and the Schell Center are also not honors. Similarly, if you are a Coker Fellow (selected to be a teaching assistant for a 1L small group); this is a job or activity, but not an honor.
When describing your awards and honors (typically undergraduate) it does not help the employer to know the name of the award without knowing why you won it. So, if the award title does not explain the award sufficiently, include a very brief description, i.e. “Tommy T. Tomilio Award for best senior paper.”
6. Can any of my high school stuff stay on?
Generally, no. However there may be a couple of reasons to leave on your high school information. First, there is the “snob appeal factor.” If you attended a prestigious high school and you are applying to employers whom you know to have connections to that high school, you may wish to include it on your resume to flag this to them. (Although you could just as easily share this information in your cover letter.) Second, for students applying for public sector positions, public sector employers are interested in your commitment to public interest work and may be interested to see what you have done as far back as high school. However, if you have numerous other examples of your public service work throughout college and after, including your high school information may just be redundant.
7. Is it better to list an unimpressive, nonlegal summer or short term job, or just show a gap?
It is probably better to just show a gap. Having said that, you should be aware that employers are often curious about gaps in time on a resume, especially if those gaps are of greater than one year in duration. Not including a summer job because you were a waitress and instead including a prior summer job when you worked as an intern for a senator is a good decision and the short gap in time will not raise eyebrows with an employer. You may wish to use a summary line on your resume such as, “Various jobs as sales clerk, waitress and receptionist while in college.”
8. What if I don't have ANY legal experience?
Don’t worry. Many law students don’t have any legal experience, especially during their first year of law school. Employers are not looking for law students with impressive pre-law school legal experience. They are looking for students with common sense and intellectual ability. Think about what experiences you do have—are you currently involved in a clinic or pro bono project at the law school? It may be a good idea to list that in your experience section instead of the education section and then provide a description of the work in which you are involved. With respect to the job experiences that you have had, did you develop leadership skills? Analytical ability? Speaking ability? If so, be sure your descriptions reflect that information.
9. How much of a description should I give for my jobs?
You should provide enough of a description so that the potential employer learns something about the projects on which you worked and the skills you developed. A one sentence description of the work of the employer is not good enough. Don’t assume that because you were a summer associate at a law firm or an intern with a legal services organization that everyone will know what you did. Students are given very different levels of responsibility and projects during the summer, often based on the employer’s perception of their ability. Be sure you take the opportunity to highlight your achievements.
10. What’s with the “Skills and Interests” section? Who cares?
Maybe no one. But employers seem to use this section as an icebreaker during interviews. It provides them with some simple way to get the conversation flowing on a casual basis. This is by no means a mandatory section on a resume and you should feel free to leave it off unless you think your skills would be useful to the employer (i.e., a particular language fluency). An additional reason to include interests on your resume is to humanize you. Many resumes sound very intellectual and serious.
11. When is a two page resume okay?
It is acceptable when you have relevant, non-redundant information that helps you to sell yourself to an employer and requires two pages. Listing 20 publications in a “Publications” section of your resume, when all of them relate to research on molecular biology you conducted in graduate school, is probably not relevant and is definitely redundant. However, you should include significant prior work experience that is relevant to the work of the employer to whom you are writing. First-year law students typically have no need for a two-page resume. Third-year students with professional experience prior to entering law school may need to use two pages. Ask a CDO counselor for advice if you are uncertain.
-Updated May 2015