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By: Joseph Brewster-Bryant

Welcome back! As promised, Joe stopped by The Paralegal Society today to explain what NOT to do on that outgoing résumé, unless you want to ruin your chances of securing that next best job and guarantee that carefully typed paper a spot in that rectangular trash receptacle, otherwise known as the candidates’ graveyard of shame! Without further ado, here’s Joe:

I wear many hats at the firm, (The Law Office of Charles F. Braddock), and one of my many tasks is to play guardian to the head honcho protecting him from time wasting clients, calls, emails, etc… One of my many tasks is weeding through résumés, so as to not waste the boss’s time. We let the local schools know that we were looking for an intern, posted it on craigslist too. Apparently, I am too damn picky because none of them passed muster to get to an attorney.

I have a history of management, hiring and firing for about 15 years. I consider myself somewhat of an expert at networking and sales. I even taught seminars in my prior profession. In the end, I still have an old school mentality on work ethic, showmanship, and professionalism. Frankly, most of the legal profession is rather conservative. As I am going through the résumés, all I can see are glaring mistakes, so here is my list of things to do to make sure your resume gets to the trash can. Do this, and rest assured, you will probably stay unemployed:

1.  Send your résumé in MS Word format, rather than PDF. All resumes should be transmitted in PDF, unless stated otherwise for the giant databanks, so there are some reasonable assurances that it comes out formatted correctly for the recipient. Also, just for giggles, check to see the changes made to their documents (when they made that bad decision to send you the word file), so you can see who else they sent one to and the changes that were made to it. I have seen cover letters addressed to all kinds of companies because the prior versions of the document were stored within the Word file.

2.  Don’t use the Tab Key to delineate text across the page for nice formatting. If you can’t learn how to use the Tab Key, expect to earn minimum wage. Our documents are formatted correctly. Signature lines are not made with the underscore key. This is not the age of typewriters, so act like you know what a computer is.

3.  Use poor grammar. This is rather self-explanatory and we see all of the thousands of over-done articles on it for what is commonly done like: It’s and Its, Who and Whom, They’re and Their and There.

4.  Include a photograph. I heard the argument that people are now advised to do this. Bad idea. I was astonished to say the least because some states have ethics rules prohibiting the use of images for attorneys. I believe we need to hold ourselves to the same standard, as well. The important reason why though is that you should not be judged on your appearance before getting in the door. If the potential employer is a creeper, they can find you online to learn more about what you look like, how many cat videos you post on FaceBook, and your political persuasion even. (I am a staunch Libertarian). IF they wanted to know what you looked like, they could find out.

When you send a photograph, you are sending the message to be judged on your appearance rather than your abilities. Paralegals and attorneys do most of their selling in writing – to the judge. You could be a hideous beast and be just fine if most of what you do is contract writing in the back room. You aren’t selling in the court room, so unless you think you need to show cleavage to get a job, don’t send your picture.

5.  Send the résumé three times within 10 minutes with updates to your resume No joke, a man sent his résumé in with THREE changes all within a span of about ten minutes. I was not even willing to look at his résumé.

6.  Don’t proofread your cover letters and résumés. This was a clip of a résumé I received. If I need to explain what is wrong, you should retake English 101. “I have contributed to legality issues helping create legal files and preparing documents for court hearing and on going investigations other duties include but not limited to human resource, pay roll, office management, presentations, development of company policy procedures.”

7.  Always be clever in titling your cover letters: “Dear Whoever This May Concern” Seriously? Seriously? If you don’t know to whom you are writing, don’t send it. Do more research on the firm and find out to whom you should be addressing your résumé.

8.  Use extra words to sound more important than you really are. Redundancy is not a virtue, ” I currently just graduated”

9.  Use ambiguous objective statements so the employer can fill in the blanks.  “To seek a full time job that will not only be beneficial to me now but also in my future as I gradate as a Paralegal.” Just ditch the objective statements entirely, especially if they sound like that.  There is really no excuse for these kinds of blunders. I know, I know…these kids haven’t been taught, I shouldn’t blame them. Untrue. When I was 16, I was asking adults for tips on how to get a job. Since every school now seems to have a career center to go to and get advice, they should seek it out before sending out poorly crafted résumés. All it tells me is that they won’t bother to ask for review before sending out documents to the clients, court, and opposing counsel and risk making the firm look incompetent.

10.  Send your résumés to employers you couldn’t reasonably go to everyday. I frequently get résumés from individuals that live 2 hours away. The firm consists of general practice attorneys in Anderson, Indiana. We aren’t Big Law. Even during the school year, they may be an hour away.  We have two schools that are close by that teach Paralegal Studies/Legal Studies. That is the pool from which I expected to draw. Not that I have something against people from Kentucky or any other state, but I don’t believe that it will be worth it to them, or to us, to take in an intern with a high likelihood of not sticking around.

So if you want to make sure you do not get a job, just follow my tips. If you can’t handle sarcasm, you may not fit in here, as well. In the end, you wouldn’t know if we were a fit until you got your foot in the door and you do that by submitting a well drafted résumé.

Joseph Brewster-Bryant is the Office Manager at the Law Office of Charles F. Braddock in Anderson Indiana and is also working as a Domestic Relations (Divorce) Mediator and Tax Specialist for the firm.  He is currently working toward a Masters of Science in Taxation and pursuing law school. His bio can be found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/taxprojoe


How’s that for a list of candid tips, TPS readers? If you have any additional tips (or funny examples) you’d like to add, hit that comment button and tell us about it! We’d love to hear what you’ve seen on résumés in your corner of the legal world.

We’ll see you at the end of the week! Wishing you all the sanity one can muster as you put one foot in front of the other, prepared to charge through the legal gate into the swirling abyss of projects! See you soon.