Any Hot Tips for My Law School Résumé?

Look; you're a winner. You've used Kung Fu on the LSAT and beat it into submission. You've written an outstanding, tear-jerking, action-provoking, ass-kicking Personal Statement. You wear sunglasses, even inside. Everything's going your way.

But you're doing your Law School application résumé wrong.

Here are 6 mistakes people commonly make—and how you can avoid them!

1. You forgot it was supposed to be an academic résumé. Law schools don't care that you were salesperson of the month three months running while you worked at Plain Jane's Whips and Chains ("Your Pain is Our Gain!"). That doesn't tell them that you're likely to succeed in an academic setting. You aren't applying for a job, so don't résumé (totally a verb) like you are. Job listings are important on your résumé only inasmuch as they tell schools what you've been spending your time doing. Put your academic credentials up top, and expand them; instead of listing your work achievements, list your academic achievements. This is probably the only place on the résumé that warrants expansion. Your job is to highlight that you're good at school. It's parallel to how you'd try to impress a prospective employer, but the important parts are about college, not work. [NOTE. This advice should be mitigated by theamount of time you've spent outside of college. If you graduated many years ago, it's appropriate to put more weight on your career. Still, even in this case, start from the perspective that academics matter here].

2. You brought up old stuff. Schools don't care what you did in high school. Why would they? In the same way that a career after college erodes the importance of the academic sections, the fact that you've graduated from college erodes your high school achievements. When we talk about your educational history, we mean your college and post-grad work. Here, let's try it like a cheer: When I say Academic Résumé!, you say College!

3. You included a skills section. Why on earth does it matter that you're proficient in MS Paint? Who cares that you can manipulate an Excel spreadsheet like Dexter handles a Thermo Scientific Shandon Rachiotomy Bone Saw? (Yeah, I looked that up). Skills are important to employers; work skills are not very important (if at all) to law schools. Now, if you have learned to do legal research and write strong legal synthesis, that would be worth mentioning.

4. You omitted an awesome "Interests" section. Now, don't fake interests. That's gross, and law schools have excellent BS detectors. But, if you do have a deep abiding love for scuba photography, this is useful to share. Law school admissions officers are like everybody else in the world; they're attracted to passion. Show them what you're passionate about, and then your Personal Statement will help them see that your passion can translate into performance in school (and on the bar!).

5. Your résumé doesn't match your Personal Statement. In that incredible Personal Statement we were talking about earlier, you told the committee that what you really want to do is change the world (but you didn't say it like that, because you took my advice and wrote it mo' better). OK. Cool. THEN WHY HAVEN'T YOU DONE ANYTHING TO CHANGE THE WORLD? Seriously, to be effective, every aspect of your application should tell schools about the best version of who you actually are. In other words, the separate pieces of the app should corroborate each other. Your résumé should remind the reader of the person they met in your Personal Statement. I mean, the two should at least look like they came from the same person.

6. You wrote a damn novel, not a résumé. Almost nobody needs more than a single page for their law school résumé (if you think you do, revisit points 1, 2, and 3 here). Getting it all on one page shows schools that you're good at an essential lawyerly skill; analysis. It shows that you were able to comb through all the information scattered behind you like a tail, and you picked out the important parts. Your résumé should make you seem like a curator at a great museum; it highlights the important facts and leaves out the extraneous crap.

So, avoid those 6 common errors and you'll be on your way to the kind of résumé that opens doors instead of shutting them to you.