Getting Your Resume Reviewed? Consider The Source


Once you’ve prepared a great legal resume—whether with the help of a professional resume writer or on your own—there’s great temptation to have others review it. In fact, you should get feedback on it before you send it out to prospective employers. However, there’s a caveat: consider the source of the feedback. Be sure the feedback is relevant. Does the person you’ve asked to review your resume have any experience practicing law or in legal hiring? For many reasons, resumes for lawyers are not “typical” achievement or numbers-oriented resumes. Much of the “standard advice” is inapplicable to lawyers and can actually hurt your chances of getting a legal or quasi-legal job. Therefore, a critique from your brother-in-law, your roommate, or even a resume writer, may not be helpful to you. In other words, altering your legal resume to look like the award-winning resume of a pharmaceutical sales team leader might damage your credibility to prospective employers.

Another caveat in asking friends and family for feedback: be sure you ask for feedback, not for a critique. Using the word “critique” often suggests to people that you’re asking them to nitpick and find everything “wrong” with the document. Instead of providing you with useful information, they may simply undermine your confidence. In resume writing, reasonable people can have different opinions; there is usually no one and only one “right” way (although there may be many wrongs ways!) and so if you ask 50 people what their opinions are, you may get back 50 different answers. What you want instead is balanced feedback, including their gut impression when seeing the document.

Also be sure the feedback is not a sales pitch for a resume mill. Large career services companies often offer free resume critiques. You can conduct internet searches of these companies to find complaints of clients, would-be clients, and others reporting that these critiques are offered for the primary purpose of generating sales to farm out to their writers (whose quality and experience widely vary)—which means they offer a lot of scary, overblown criticism no matter how well written the resume actually is. If the resume reviewer hasn’t really read your resume and knows nothing of law or legal hiring, or if the resume reviewer’s primary goal is to scare you into purchasing a resume written by a farm of subcontractors working for his company, then his critique might be of little (or negative!) value to you.

On the other hand, it can be difficult for someone to give you a thorough resume review if they don’t know you, your background, and your work. Why? Because, while it’s easy to someone to judge whether there are typos or whether the format is reader-friendly, it’s harder to judge whether the content of the resume accurately reflects your abilities or what you offer to prospective employers. This a problem that becomes greater and greater as you gain experience and expertise, and as your career past and future become more complex.

Seek feedback from qualified persons—attorneys with experience in your current or desired practice area, attorneys with experience on hiring committees, recruiters, human resources personnel, and the like. After all, these are the people who will be hiring you (or not). It is their opinions that matter.

Help proofreading, on the other hand, is always a good thing.