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IntroductionThere is no such thing as a perfect resume, which can be used for all employers. You may, in fact, want to have more than one resume, so that you can choose, organize and emphasize your background effectively to different potential employers. Ultimately your resume must please you, and it must attract the potential employer who will use it as a tool to match you to a particular position.

Your resume is often your first communication with a prospective employer and represents you to people who have never met you. Your resume also functions as part of the agenda for any interview, and is a reminder of who you are after you leave the interview.

Take time to prepare a resume that is informative and effective. If it is poorly organized, untidy, or words are misspelled, you've already created a negative impression. Bear in mind that it is estimated that decisions about whether to interview you may be based on as little as a 60 second review of your resume! A good resume highlights strong points in an ordered, straightforward fashion.

While there are some general rules to bear in mind, such as adhering to brevity and listing highlights in reverse chronological order, each student has special skills and experience to offer to potential employers. You should make every effort to differentiate yourself by effectively marketing those unique qualifications.

It is also important to remember what a resume should not be. It is NOT necessarily a listing of every work, educational and outside interest you have ever had. Anything on your resume becomes “fair game” in an interview. Students are encouraged to make an appointment with a career counselor to have a draft of your resume reviewed.

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CONTENTPrepare a first draft of your resume. The following is a listing of the information that should generally be on your resume:

School and Permanent Addresses, Telephone Numbers and Email AddressYour name should be printed at the top of the page, in the center, in capital letters and/or bold type. You may want to use both your law school and home address, depending upon where you are seeking employment. If you have a “gender ambiguous” name, you may (or may not) want to indicate gender by Ms. or Mr.

Educational BackgroundList schools attended in reverse chronological order, including, if applicable, any law school from which you may have transferred. Under each institution, list honors, extracurricular activities, sports, etc. Note leadership positions - president, chairperson, captain, etc. List publications on which you worked or to which you have contributed.

GradesThe inclusion/exclusion of grades is an important issue to consider when drafting your resume, and we strongly encourage you to speak with one of us if you have even the slightest bit of uncertainty. The following are some general points to keep in mind, but they should not be viewed as a substitute for a counseling session.

Your MPRHere at Cornell, the “merit point ratio” or “MPR” is what many other schools call the “grade point average” or “GPA.” Generally speaking, Cornell Law School does not rank its students. However, the following limited information is made available to students and outside parties such as employers:

  • The MPR marking the cutoff point for the top 10% of the class.
  • Each semester, all students whose semester MPR places them in the top 30% of their class are awarded Dean’s List status. Dean’s List will be noted on the grade report for that semester.

Your MPR and Your Grade ReportStudents at Cornell Law School have the option of having their MPRs listed on grade reports obtained from the Registrar’s Office. The decision as to whether or not you should use a grade report that includes your MPR mirrors the decision as to whether or not your MPR should be included on your resume.

Your MPR and Your ResumeIf you decide to include your MPR on your resume, please note that rounding is not permitted. For example, a 3.48 can be listed as 3.48 or 3.4, but not 3.5.)

Honors and AwardsMembership on a journal, receipt of a CALI Award or any other accomplishment that results from an academically-oriented selection process should be listed on your resume, usually in order of prestige. Speak with someone in the Career Services Office if you have questions about choosing or ordering your Honors/Awards.

ExperienceList in reverse chronological order. You may want to call attention to previous legal experience by listing it separately from other work experience. Volunteer experience should not be overlooked. Include a brief description beginning each phrase with an action verb. Consider the examples on the following pages.

Personal InformationMarital status, children, or health are not relevant items to include on a resume. Do not include birth information unless it is done to establish connection with a geographic region. You might want to include information about other interests at this point: sports, hobbies, travel, languages, etc, but be selective. Emphasize activities which will add another dimension to the paper person displayed thus far, and perhaps engage an interviewer's attention.

ReferencesDo not include references on your resume. Instead, prepare a separate Reference Sheet (pdf) which you should have available at interviews, if requested. The references presented should have some relation to your work and study experience and not be solely social acquaintances. At least one, and perhaps two, of the references should be a member of the law school faculty. Undergraduate professors and prior supervisors can also be excellent references.

First year students: Establish contact with a professor during your first year. Those of you who are interested in obtaining a judicial clerkship should note that letters of recommendation from faculty members are highly valued by many judges in that selection process.

Courtesy and common sense dictate that you request references' permission before using their names, so that they will not be caught off guard when an inquiry is made. It is a good idea to furnish your references with an updated copy of your resume to refresh their memories and to keep yourself and your job search fresh in their minds. You will need to sign a release of information form with the Main Office so that professorial references can have access to your academic record.

Make a list of your strengths. Realistically examine your liabilities and weak points. Can you explain gaps in your employment history? How can you minimize them?

Evaluate the first draft of your resume. What is missing? What is unnecessary? What is not clear? Could you call attention to your assets by some reorganization, some more descriptive headings?

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Action Verbs

  • accomplished
  • decided
  • instructed
  • remodeled
  • accounted
  • decreased
  • integrated
  • renegotiated
  • achieved
  • defined
  • interpreted
  • reorganized
  • acquired
  • delegated
  • interviewed
  • repaired
  • acted
  • delivered
  • introduced
  • reported
  • activated
  • demonstrated
  • invented
  • represented
  • adapted
  • described
  • invested
  • researched
  • addressed
  • designated
  • investigated
  • reshaped
  • administered
  • designed
  • involved
  • resolved
  • adopted
  • detected
  • judged
  • responded
  • advanced
  • determined
  • launched
  • restored
  • advised
  • developed
  • lectured
  • restructured
  • advocated
  • devised
  • led
  • retrieved
  • aided
  • directed
  • liquidated
  • reversed
  • allocated
  • discharged
  • lobbied
  • reviewed
  • analyzed
  • discovered
  • located
  • revised
  • anticipated
  • displayed
  • maintained
  • revitalized
  • applied
  • distinguished
  • managed
  • scheduled
  • appointed
  • distributed
  • manipulated
  • schooled
  • appraised
  • diversified
  • marketed
  • screened
  • approved
  • documented
  • measured
  • secured
  • arbitrated
  • doubled
  • mediated
  • selected
  • arranged
  • drafted
  • minimized
  • served
  • assembled
  • earned
  • mobilized
  • serviced
  • assessed
  • edited
  • moderated
  • set
  • assigned
  • educated
  • modernized
  • settled
  • assisted
  • effected
  • modified
  • set up
  • attained
  • eliminated
  • monitored
  • shaped
  • audited
  • employed
  • motivated
  • showed
  • augmented
  • enabled
  • negotiated
  • simplified
  • authored
  • encouraged
  • observed
  • sold
  • automated
  • enforced
  • obtained
  • solidified
  • averted
  • engineered
  • operated
  • solved
  • avoided
  • enlisted
  • ordered
  • sorted
  • balanced
  • established
  • organized
  • specified

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DesignA one-page resume is preferred, especially for applications to private sector employers. Eliminate sentences, especially first person narrative; use phrases to elaborate on accomplishments.

This is a conservative profession. Clean, simple resumes are preferred by all types of employers. Use simple and often-used fonts — Times New Roman (the font you are now reading) is a good choice. Do not use a type size smaller than 10 point or larger than 12 point in the body of your resume (although your name can be a little larger).

Make the best use of space. Experiment with capital letters, bold face type, italics. Leave white space in your resume.

Revise and improve the final draft. Does it reflect your organizational abilities? Does it highlight your strengths? Does it present an accurate picture of your self image? Maximize the impact of experiences that may interest employers, minimize the impact of unimportant jobs!

Get another opinion. Several books in the Career Services Library include sections on resume preparation. Show your proposed resume to a Career Services Office staff member, to your advisor, to a professor, or to another student. The final product should be something that YOU are comfortable with, however, in terms of organization and emphasis.

Check and double check for errors BEFORE PRINTING!!! Proofread, Proofread, Proofread, and then ask someone else to proofread your final resume copy. Every year there are students who indicate the wrong year of graduation, who misspell their undergraduate institution, or who even overlook that they have misspelled their name. Double check telephone numbers and zip codes. It is very easy to see what we expect to be on the resume, rather than what is actually there. Even if numerous other people have looked over your resumes, you are ultimately responsible for your resume, and errors will be attributed to you alone.

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ReproductionResumes should be laser-printed. You can print out many originals, or photocopy an original. It is a matter of individual preference, but it is important that your resume have a high quality appearance. Money spent on your resume reproduction will be money well spent. You can purchase resume paper at most stationers. We recommend white or cream bond paper with a rag/cotton content of 25% or higher. When selecting paper, purchase one or two sheets first and photocopy your resume on it to make sure that the paper holds print when folded or lightly rubbed. It is not necessary to use matching envelopes - the least expensive white business envelopes will suffice. Your cover letter and resume should be on matching paper.

A number of private companies offer students the opportunity to place their resume on-line, and act as intermediaries between employers and students (billing arrangements vary, with the company charging the student and/or the employer for the service.) In our experience, few Cornell students have found these services an effective way to connect with employers.

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