4 ways to make your resume really stand out

Whether you are a 1L, 2L or 3L, you want to find ways to be competitive in the job market.  How do you differentiate yourself? Especially with your resume, which is what potential employers see first? Now that you have worked on a good all-purpose resume, it’s time to be strategic and think of ways to make it really stand out.

Here are some ideas:

Don’t use the same resume for every job listing. You may want to consider crafting different versions of your basic resume to use when applying to certain jobs so that you can show more specialized experience. Most law students I meet with have one basic resume. It may be good, but it is not specialized. Take a page from practicing lawyers, who often utilize different versions of their resume. You can create a specialized resume for a particular practice area, for example, by including all of your coursework throughout law school in that practice area.

Don’t just use one heading for all of your experience. Most law students list all of their jobs and internships under one heading, generally titled “Experience.” But you don’t have to do that. You can break your experience down into different headings to emphasize a particular practice area. For example, if you are looking for a position in entertainment law, you can break your experience into an “Entertainment Law Experience” heading and an “Additional Legal Experience” heading. This way a potential employer can focus on your entertainment law experience. This method also allows you to go out of chronological order, in that your resume just needs to be in reverse chronological order under each separate heading.

Don’t write up every position the same way. You want your resume to emphasize the most relevant experience, so put the focus on certain positions by writing a more detailed description for those jobs. I have seen a lot of resumes where the student will give each and every job the same number of bullet points and space, whether or not the job was recent or from five years ago, relevant or not. Focus on the jobs you have held that are most relevant to the type of jobs you are applying for now. Give them more space and more bullet points so the employer can really focus on those positions.

Do use professional affiliations sections to buildexperience. What if you want to go into entertainment law, but don’t have any experience in it? I would suggest you join several bar association student entertainment law committees. You can list the committees and any projects you are working on for them under a separate section towards the bottom of your resume called “Professional Affiliations.” Practicing lawyers will often do this to list bar association committees, professional affiliations, boards they are on, professional activities, and/or pro bono work. Even though you are a student, you can use this method, too. It will help you compensate for lack of paid experience or coursework in a particular area. 

Remember: Whatever you choose to focus on when writing your resume is what the employer will focus on when they are reading it. 

Want more tips? Check out Hillary's Six ways to beef up your resume.


Hillary Mantis works with pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is director of the pre-law program at Fordham University, and author of “Alternative Careers for Lawyers.” You can write to Hillary at altcareer@aol.com