Ask the Headhunter ®

Tips for tailoring your resume to the job you’re seeking.

All well written resume is a start. But the rules have changed. Career-focused Web sites have dramatically increased the influx of resumes to law firms and corporations, which means you need to make sure yours stands out in a crowd. The bottom line: an old-style, cut-and-dry, laundry list-like resume of where you’ve been and what you’ve done may not get your foot in the door.

So what’s the key to resume success in the Internet age? It’s your ability to focus on the future to ensure that your resume clearly communicates not just what you’ve done but why you’d be an asset to a particular firm or company.

Deborah Beloff, an independent consultant and former legal recruiter, says it’s critical to take a look at your resume from the employers’ perspective. “A lot of people put in details on what they’ve been doing. But if, for example, you’re looking to make a change from corporate law to litigation, you need to find something in your background that the prospective employer will want.”

Show you’re up to the challenge

Keep in mind, too, that the first person to read your amazing resume probably won’t be the partner or marketing director with whom you want to interview, it’ll be a human-resource manager, headhunter or legal recruiter. So be sure you’ve used words and references that will get you noticed. “If you’re targeting a specific firm or company, find out what they’re doing and look up their most relevant and recent cases,” says Beloff. Then make sure your resume speaks specifically to qualifications those employers would want.

Nick Corcodilos, the popular persona behind The Motley Fool and America Online’s Ask the Headhunter site takes that a step further, recommending customized resumes created for specific jobs, an almost business-plan like approach to resume writing.

Concentrate on quality, not quantity “You need to understand the work that needs to be done by the person who gets hired for this position and then map your skills to that job. Today’s candidates need to let go of the traditional approach of mailing out generic resumes, that’s a lot of busy work that gives you no control. You need to devote your energy to intelligent work that gives you control,” says Corcodilos.

Experts agree that creating the perfect resume for a specific opportunity also involves legwork. Research the company or firm you want to join, understand what they’re doing there, talk to people who work there or conduct business with the company. It all adds up to a better understanding of the opportunity you seek and how you can best position yourself and your skills on your resume.

Basic tips for the perfect resume


Tailor your resume to the position you’re seeking using buzzwords, relevant experience and specific examples of how you’d contribute to the firm or company you want to join.


Employers don’t care about an award you won 20 years ago. Most of your resume should focus on the present and the future.


Spelling mistakes on resumes are far too common. Proofread, spell-check and always have a friend read your final product before you ship it off.

Your resume. It’s your professional life, reduced to 8-1/2″ x 11″. If you’re like most of us, you’ve made sure to include your work experience, academic credentials and noteworthy extracurricular activities.