Take time to prepare a resume that is informative and effective. This is often the first example of your writing that employers will read. 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!
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.
- Addresses, Telephone Numbers and Email - Your 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. We suggest you use your Cornell email address.
- Educational Background - List 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. Include a thesis if you wrote one for any previous degrees.
- Grades - The 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.
Here 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 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.
Students at Cornell Law School have the option of having their MPRs listed on grade reports (transcript) 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.
If 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 Awards -Membership 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.
- Experience -List 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. Do you have any lengthy gaps in your employment? Come talk to us on how to minimize this.Include a brief description beginning each phrase with an action verb. Consider the examples on the following pages.
- References - Do not include references on your resume. Instead, prepare a separate Reference Sheet (pdf) which you should have available at interviews, if requested.
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. Your resume should look neat, traditional, and easy to read. 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). We suggest either a left-justified or an indented style format, depending on your personal preference and how much information you plan to include on your resume. Make the best use of space. Experiment with capital letters, bold face type, italics. Leave white space in your resume.Check and double check for errors BEFORE PRINTING!!! Proofread, Proofread, Proofread, and then ask someone else to proofread your final resume copy. 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.
ReproductionResumes should be laser-printed. Money spent on your resume reproduction will be money well spent. You can purchase resume paper at most office supply stores. We recommend white or cream bond paper with a rag/cotton content of 25% or higher. 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.