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This week’s entry in the Real Talk series covers the resume. 

A resume is a funny thing. One is meant to present one’s academic, professional, and personal self in a short document that charts a chronology, sets out a path, and hints at a future. A lot of pressure for a page or two.

We could wax poetic about the ins and outs of an effective resume. But this is the HLS J.D. Admissions Real Talk series. So without further ado – some concrete pieces of advice for you to consider.

Delete your photo. Take it from us: save the headshot for LinkedIn. With so little space to tell us about your accomplishments and goals, use that quarter-page of your resume to tell us more about your experiences.

Streamline your color palette. We strongly suggest that you keep your resume font to the color black. Not red, not blue, not orange. Almost all admissions offices read your files on a computer screen, and when you read dozens of files in a day, your eyes get used to black and white. If you must include an accent color, keep it subtle.

And what about high school? You were valedictorian, class president, team captain – an all-star. Should you include these high school accomplishments on your resume? When in doubt, cut it. Use the space to augment your description of more recent experiences.

Include all work experience. Did you work during the semesters college? Tell us everything. Do you have experience in retail, hospitality, or child care? Studies show that experience in the service industry is one of the strongest predictors of success in law. Tell us about all the experience that brought you to this moment – not just the fancy internships.

Check it again against your list and see consistency. Look it over once. Look it over twice. Look it over a few more times. Is your font consistent? How about the indentation of each bullet point? Come to think of it, do you use a bullet point here and a hyphen there? Do you use a hyphen for some year ranges, and an en dash for others? Whatever your aesthetic choice, keep it consistent throughout.

And scented! Ok, so the scent will not carry through the PDF file. Sorry, Elle. But perhaps you can bring a bit of yourself to the resume. We love having a “Personal” or “Interests” section to get a sense of you as a person, beyond the titles, responsibilities, and accomplishments. Not required, to be sure, but well worth a line or two of space.

Each admissions reader has their own preferences. For some, your resume is the first document they review when they begin your application. Help it punch above its page limit.