Please be aware that the following information includes recommendations from our experience that we believe will yield a greater response in the legal market. Even in the best of times, the legal job market in the Washington metropolitan area is extremely competitive. Every year the market is literally flooded with new graduates who went to one of many law schools within D.C. or within relatively close proximity to D.C. Add to that figure the hundreds of attorneys who come here from across the country and around the world seeking to fulfill their dream of working in the nation's capitol. Therefore, with so many people competing for jobs, it is especially important to do all that you can to present yourself and your skills in the best possible light both on paper and in person. RESUME PREPARATION The main objective of any job search is to get an interview. However, many people ruin their chances of getting an interview because their introduction, their resume, is not up to par. Put yourself in the employer's shoes and be aware of the following tips when preparing your resume:
- Your resume should be uncluttered and easy to read. It need not contain your whole life story, only the highlights of your skills and experience that a prospective employer would find important to the job for which you are applying. Use a clean looking font such as Arial, Times New Roman or Courier. Not only do these fonts make your resume appear less busy, but they also fax well. Do not confine yourself to putting everything on one page. A two page resume is permissible.
- Items within the various categories on your resume should be in reverse chronological order. (Most recent first.)
- Include your GPA if it is 3.0 or better
- Include honors and activities; database and computer skills; and languages if fluent or highly proficient.
- Include information about bar affiliations only if you have actually passed the exam or if you are waiting for exam results.
- Be honest. Legal placement firms and employers conduct background checks.
- Make sure all dates are accurate.
- Review your cover letter AND resume repeatedly for typos and grammatical errors. An error on either the cover letter or resume is the quickest way to disqualify you from getting an interview.
THE INTERVIEW Ok, your resume has survived scrutiny and you have been asked to come in for an interview. Below are tips to ensure a successful interview whether your interview is with an employer or a placement agency. The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself. Your goal is to have the interviewer feel good about you and your ability to do the job.
- Be prepared for the interview by visiting the firm's website or doing whatever research you can to familiarize yourself with the firm's practice. Have some questions ready to ask the interviewer to show your interest in the firm and that you have done your homework.
- BE ON TIME! Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Being tardy is the best way to create a negative impression even before you walk through the door. - If you know you will be late, call the interviewer.
- Treat the receptionist and all support personnel like gold! You never know if the person at the front desk is a son or daughter of a client or partner in the business.
- Dress appropriately. Dress in a business suit or in other appropriate business attire regardless of whether the company is business casual every day. Dressing up for an interview shows that you are serious about the interview and want to make a good impression. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
- Bring a portfolio with extra copies of your resume, a list of references and your law school transcript together with a pen and paper to take notes.
- Listen attentively to your interviewer. It will minimize your follow-up questions at the end of the interview and give the interviewer a good idea of how well you listen.
- Be clear and concise with you responses. Do not monopolize the interview. Leave arrogant, cocky, and know-it-all attitudes at home.
- If you are working with a placement agency, call your recruiter with your impressions of the firm.
- Send a HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU NOTE to all of he people who interviewed you. Interviewing takes a lot of time from the schedules of the participants and a short, well-written note is a good way to remind them of your interest in their firm and of your candidacy. If you are unsure of the spelling or titles of any of the interviewers, either check the website or call the receptionist at the firm.
REMEMBER: The resume gets the interview; the interview gets the job.