- On October 5, 2020
As a legal recruiter, I spend much of my time assessing potential in-house counsel for my clients, who range from unicorns to Fortune 500 companies. What am I looking for when I review your resume? The top five below:
- Your credentials. My clients first want to know where you went to school, when you graduated, and where you trained. If you didn’t go to somewhere great, know that I also take into account if you graduated at the top of your class, worked at a well-regarded company with a known training program like HP and IBM, and/or were mentored by a well-known practitioner with high standards.
- Your accomplishments. Clients give me a wish list of what they are looking for, and it is helpful for me to know not only what your practice area is, but what you have accomplished in your space. Concretely list what you have done for your clients, e.g., saved them $X, launched what products where, helped scale companies from this to that, created programs and systems that resulted in X, etc. I need these details to understand more than the breadth of your experience, but to assess the depth. (See my prior post on how to quantify legal accomplishments.)
- Your communication skills. Does your resume list what you do in the order you do it? Because that’s not what I want. Instead, consider what the prospective employers are looking for. Make clear the top three things they want are things you have done! These points need to be obvious in a quick skim of your resume, which must be cleanly formatted. When I find resumes I like, I will call the candidates and evaluate how they present themselves. Don’t blather (which will make me concerned how you counsel clients). Definitely show me your engaging personality (in-house counsel need to befriend, not intimidate, their clients to be effective). Employers ask me to describe candidates to them, so think ahead of time what impression you want to leave on me.
- Your trajectory. Your resume should make clear what your career path is and why this job makes sense. For example, in an ideal resume, I can see you started at firm X doing practice area A, then went in-house to a client of firm X doing A, and then picked up B and C over time. You are interested in my client because it’s in the same or adjacent industry, and the job is to do A, B, C and D.
- No messy details. The hiring manager will need to justify hiring you and should be able to explain in a sentence why it makes sense for you to join. Employers fear job seekers who change jobs every few years, so if you have made multiple moves or have worked for unexpected companies, explain these moves, e.g., a manager invited you to move along with him/her, your company was acquired or HQ moved out of state, etc. (See my prior post on how to address these problems). Also, try to sidestep issues that would sideline your candidacy. Do your titles make sense, i.e., if you are a GC now, are you really ok with a Counsel job? (If you are a one person legal department, say you are sole inhouse counsel instead of emphasizing your GC title.) And if your job has been both operational and strategy, but the job focuses on one more than the other, your resume should similarly match the job description.