Resume Layout Guidance

 

Header
List your present address and a telephone number  and email address where employers can reach you.If you are a current student, use your HLS email address.
Be sure that your voicemail greeting is professional.You may decide to include your permanent address as well, both to allow employers to get in touch with you when you are not at school and to let them know the geographic area you consider home.
Do not include a job objective here or elsewhere on your resume; your career objectives and plans should be expressed in your cover letter. 
     

RACHEL MOSS
81 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 495-3108
rmoss@jd11.law.harvard.edu

 

Education
Unless you are more than three years out of law school, your education section should precede your experience section.For current law students, indicate the degree you expect to earn, e.g., J.D. and date of graduation, e.g., June 2013.
List your advanced degrees, starting with your law or most recent degree and working back to college.If you have earned two degrees from the same institution, list them separately.
Your education section should reflect whether you transferred as an undergraduate, studied abroad, enrolled in a joint degree program or received a graduate degree prior to law school.Omit your high school education in nearly all cases. If you think it would be helpful to include for geographic or alumni connections, indicate that when submitting your resume for review.

EDUCATION       HARVARD LAW SCHOOL, J.D. Candidate, June 2011                                    
                               Activities:     Harvard Law and Policy Review
                                                      American Constitution Society                                                                    
                                                      Women’s Law Association                                                                    
                                                      1L Section Events Committee

 

                               UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN                                           
                               B.A. with High Honors in American Studies and English, May 2008                                           
                               Honors:         Phi Beta Kappa                                                                   
                                                      Rapoport-King Honors Thesis Scholarship                                                                   
                                                      Kemp-Foreman Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship                                           
                               Activities:     University Democrats                                                                   
                                                      Blanton Museum of Art Student Guild                                                                   
                                                      First-Generation College Student Mentorship program, mentor                                           
                               Thesis:         “They Aren’t Hearing Us – They’re Rich”: Consequences of Social Difference
                                                       on Public Housing in New Orleans and Nationwide

 
Honors & Activities  
You should include two separate subsections for each educational degree: "Honors" and "Activities."Be sure to include a brief explanation on any awards or distinctions that are not familiar to most readers.At most, you should include three to five entries; listing too many detracts from the most relevant activities or honors.
The "Honors" section should list any awards or distinctions you received, such as Dean's List, cum laude or Phi Beta Kappa. Because they are Latin phrases, magna, summa, and cum laude should always appear in italicized, lower case letters. (Note that honors such as Dean's List may seem redundant if you also graduated with Greek or Latin honors. )In the "Activities" section,  indicate any student organization memberships, reading groups, elected offices, activities or sports in which you have participated.Do not include your undergraduate grade point average unless it is specifically requested by an employer or not well-reflected in honors received. An impressive GPA is often self-evident from your honors — if you graduated magna cum laude for instance. If you do choose to include your grades, do so in brackets next to honors: such as cum laude (GPA 3.7).
Of note, public service employers are interested in much more than how you perform on tests. While they may ask you about grades during an interview, they almost never impose strict grade cutoffs.LSAT and other standardized test scores should not appear on your resume. 
Thesis or Paper
You may want to include a separate "Thesis" subsection under the appropriate educational degree and indicate the title of your thesis in italics.
Any notes or articles you are writing for a journal should go under a separate publications section, in blue book form or with a notation such as: (publication pending) or (forthcoming in the spring edition).

 

Experience
List your work experience in reverse chronological order, with your most recent work experience listed first, going back no more than five jobs.Clinical work during law school, internships and even part-time work may be included under your "Experience" section, particularly if you came straight to law school from college. Remember that volunteer work counts equally in terms of experience and need not be singled out under a separate heading on your resume. On the other hand, if you have a significant number of work experiences, you may want to create a separate heading such as a "Community Service" section on your resume and group your volunteer work there.
Do not feel compelled to list every job you have held before or during law school, as your resume should be designed to highlight your most significant and relevant experiences. The most obvious omissions should be your earliest work experiences, particularly nonlegal work that has little to do with your current job search.You can choose to exclude more recent work experience, such as one part of a split summer, but be careful; gaps may grab an employer's attention. If you leave out a bad work experience, you still may find yourself having to explain the gap in your resume.
Descriptions are everything in this section, since they capture the essence of your experience and any recognition and accomplishments. Paint a dynamic picture of the type of work you did and the extent of your responsibilities. Try not to exaggerate your responsibilities and avoid self-aggrandizing descriptions. Detail what you did in each job. For example, if you worked at a legal services center, list the type of clients with whom you worked and the scope of cases you handled.
The proportional length of each job description is key. Use the longer descriptions to accentuate those work experiences most critical to your current search. Employers will assume that the longer the description, the more priority you give to the experience. Thus, you can downplay certain experiences by either merely listing them on your resume or by abbreviating their descriptions.Do not make the employer search for information on your resume. Just as you do not want him/her to have to decode your resume format, you also do not want to leave the employer confused about your responsibilities or the type of work you did.

EXPERIENCE               TENANT ADVOCACY PROJECT                                                     Fall 2008 – Present
                                         Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA                                                
                                         Represent tenants facing eviction and other housing issues such as application denials,
                                         transfers, and reasonable accommodation in Housing Authority grievance hearings.
                                         Advise tenants of legal rights by telephone.

                                         CENTER FOR AMERICAN HISTORY                                              Summer – Fall 2007
                                         Austin, TX  
                                         Served as student page in University of Texas archival library. Retrieved archival
                                         materials for researchers. Entered data in a biographical newspaper database, compiled
                                         newspaper clippings for vertical files, and assisted with special projects.

                                         UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RESIDENCE LIFE                              Fall 2005 – Spring 2007
                                         Austin, TX                                                
                                         Provided support, peer education, conflict mediation, policy enforcement, emergency
                                         management, and event planning for a floor of 40-50 student residents. Performed
                                         administrative shifts at residence hall front desk.

 

  
When employers review your resume, they should be able to figure out quickly what you did at a particular job. If an employer becomes frustrated with the information on your resume because it is incomplete or a struggle to interpret, your resume will be put aside.Your experience descriptions should be broken into shorter phrases so that they read more quickly than sentences. Each segment should begin with an action verb like these examples: Assisted in scheduling city projects. Drafted Congressional testimony. Created summer intern program. Advised freshmen on course selection.
Action verbs should dominate your resume —see our list of action verbs for ideas. Review your entire experience section and omit any passive verbs, particularly any form of "to be." Phrases such as "was responsible for running" should become "Ran," for example.Unless you need to fill space, job titles should be used only when they indicate relatively high level positions or help define jobs, such as Director of Legislative Advocacy or Education Outreach Coordinator. List them in italics on the line directly below the employer's name. Titles such as "volunteer," "research assistant," "paralegal" or "law clerk" should be omitted; instead, you should plunge directly into a description of your responsibilities.
If you have held more than one job with the same employer, enter both jobs under one header, putting the title of each job in italics. 
DatesPublications
Clearly delineate dates on your resume. Place them flush right on the page.Include publications in a separate section of your resume, especially if they are law-related pieces, such as a note or comment for a journal.
Refer to the dates of summer or semester-long jobs as Summer 20__, Fall 20__, Spring 20__.The citation should generally follow blue book format.
Do not worry about the exact dates of your employment. If you worked at an organization from March 2006 to November 2007, simply put 2006-2007.If your article, comment or note is published in a law journal that may not be recognizable to a prospective employer, write out the full title of the law journal rather than use the blue book reference
Computer SkillsLanguages
Unless yours are extraordinary, omit these—you do not want a legal employer hiring you based on computer skills or based on any Lexis/ Nexis/Westlaw training you may have.If you are fluent or conversant in several languages, you may create a separate category entitled "Languages" that lists the languages you speak: "Fluent in French. Can read Italian. Conversant in Japanese."
Since most law students have this training, its inclusion does little to distinguish you.Do not overrate your skills, as you may be asked to demonstrate them during an interview.
Interests/Personal
Adding one or two lines about your outside hobbies, interests or travels can be invaluable for interviews. Not only does it help to counterbalance your academic pursuits, but it gives an interviewer additional topics of conversation. It also stops an employer from asking open-ended (and sometimes inappropriate) questions, such as "Tell me about yourself," in an effort to get to know a little more about you personally. You should be prepared to talk a little about your passion for the things included in your interest/personal section. However, be careful not to include personal information that the employer does not need to know, such as age, marital status or whether you have children.

PERSONAL              Interests include travel, movies, vegetarian cooking, reading fiction, following
                                   political news, and practicing yoga.

 

References 
It is unnecessary to add "References (or writing samples/ transcripts) will be furnished upon request" at the end of your resume, as employers will ask you to provide them with your references and it occupies valuable space on your resume.Bring a separate piece of paper listing three or four references to an interview (along with an extra copy of your resume) and be prepared to offer it if the interviewer mentions references.
This sheet should be formatted in the same manner as your resume. Your name, address and phone number should be at the top, with "References" typed in the same format as "Education" is on your resume. This title should then be followed by the names, titles, email, address, organization names, addresses and telephone numbers of references. It also is important to include a line or two about how you know the person. See sample reference sheet.Give careful consideration to which references you will use for different employers, as some contacts may be more helpful for one position than another. Before you list someone as a reference, be sure to call them to ask permission, let them know the type of work you are pursuing and, if necessary, refresh their memory about your work.

 

Last modified: December 14, 2011

© 2014 The President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.