In today’s market, it is more important than ever to be careful what you put on your resume and how you word what you are putting your resume. One of the biggest errors I see on resumes time and time again is when people list a college degree on their resume or a certificate, but they have not completed the classes necessary to possess that degree or certificate. Additionally, I see people who call themselves ‘certified,’ but do not understand what that term means as it relates to the paralegal profession. Neither of these is acceptable and can be grounds for a rescinded job offer and/or termination. This is not always done intentionally, however, sometimes it is done as a way to defraud a potential employer.
Below are a few rules to follow when it comes to listing/not listing degrees and/or certificates and/or college units on your resume.
1) Unless you have completed all of the courses necessary for a particular degree or certificate, do not list it on your resume. Listing units that you have completed on your resume can just complicate things and can lead to confusion. Example: “Attended XYZ University”This is not clear if you received a degree or not and can complicate things.
2) Do not list a degree or certificate on your resume if it is NOT required for that job. For the most part, when you add a degree or certificate to your resume that is not a requirement for the position, you are making the employer’s life harder by giving them one more thing to verify and/or giving them one more reason not to hire you if everything does not check out perfectly.*
3) It is critical that you NEVER list a degree or certificate on your resume unless you can provide an authentic copy of that degree or certificate.
4) Do not call yourself a “certified” paralegal unless you have passed the CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) exam. The term “certified paralegal” is actually trademarked by NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) and can only be used once you have successfully passed your CLA exam. If you do possess an ABA approved paralegal certificate from an accredited school or University, please DO list that on your resume if you intend to be a paralegal as that does qualify you under the CA Paralegal law BP 6450 to practice as a paralegal in the state of CA, however, make sure you do not call yourself a”certified paralegal.”
5) Do not list dates of your degree or certificate on your resume as this can cause people to guess your age and discriminate against you, and/or if you are off by a month or a year and the degree or certificate gets verified for a different time period then what you have listed, it can also cause an offer to be rescinded.
*The only time you should list a degree, even if it is not required for the job, is if you have a JD. You have to be careful about not listing a JD on your resume as there can be certain legalities a company has to comply with if you have passed the bar or possess a JD and are employed with that company.
Your resume only needs to go back 10 years, and should be kept to no more than 1 page ideally. If you have more than 10 years of experience with one company then it can be appropriate to go onto a second page.