University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Law Works: Volume 4 Issue 14 - January 22, 2009


Statistically, most people have broken their New Year's resolutions.  This is an excellent time to regroup or resolve to work on your job search.

  1. Don't procrastinate. Mark off a few hours each week to devote to your job search. Use this time to explore different areas of the law, review Symplicity postings and other job sites, send out cover letters and resumes to employers of interest, conduct follow-up with employers that you have not heard back from, set up informational interviews, etc.
  2. Schedule an appointment with the Career Services Office. While emails to the CSO are great for quick questions, job searching is an individual process and you need to develop a plan of action. Schedule a meeting with a CSO counselor to discuss your goals and to develop effective strategies for finding summer and post-graduate employment.
  3. Schedule a mock interview. Interviewing is a skill that everyone needs to work on.
  4. Check your emails, and read Pitt Law Works on a regular basis. If you don't, you will miss out.
  5. Get to know the faculty. Faculty can often give you an insider view of specific practice areas, provide advice and serve as a reference in your job searching.
  6. If you are currently working, introduce yourself to attorneys that you don't already know and offer to work on a project with them.
  7. Get involved at the law school and in the community. There is much more to law school than just the classroom.
  8. Attend CSO programs and bar events of interest. Don't be shy and introduce yourself to a speaker that you found interesting.
  9. Set up at least 2 informational interviews with attorneys whose work interests you. Use the CSO Pitt Law Attorney Networking Program, Martindale Hubbell, and undergraduate alumni directories to find practitioners of interest.
  10. Don't give up. Throwing in the towel definitely won't land you a job. Spring recruitment is just starting for most employers and the majority of students will not secure summer jobs until later this term. Many 3L students will not secure positions until after graduation. While you still have plenty of time, job searching is a process that requires you to be persistent and proactive.
  11. Don't blindly follow the crowd. Chart your own career path based upon your interests and skills. Remember, this is your career so only you can decide what is going to be fulfilling.


You've found your dream job.  You spot the job posting, craft a winning resume and mail it to the employer. Then the waiting game begins.  After you've sent a resume, it's tempting to sit back and hope the employer will call. But -- make no mistake -- you SHOULD follow up. You just need to figure out when and how to do it.

Wait About a Week

The ideal amount of time to wait before following up on a resume you've sent: 7-10 days.  Any less and you run the risk that the employer hasn't received your materials yet.  Any more and you run the risk the employer has filed your materials.

Send a Short Message

E-mail can be a good follow-up tool because it not only lets you remind the employer that you've applied for a job, but it also lets you submit a resume again without seeming too pushy.  A week after you've submitted a resume, send the employer an e-mail to follow up.

Use these tips to write your follow-up e-mail:

  • Put your full name and the title of the position you've applied for in the subject line.
  • Write a professional note that reiterates your qualifications and interest in the job.
  • Attached your resume again. (Don't make the employer dig though papers on her desk to look for it.)
  • Include your full name in the file name of your resume.
  • Don't forget to proofread carefully before you hit "Send"!

Or Phone With a Friendly Reminder

If you decide to follow up on a resume over the phone, (which is best for less technologically-savvy employers) be sure to rehearse what you want to say.

Ask to speak to the person to whom you sent your resume.  Keep your conversation brief. Introduce yourself and remind the employer that you submitted a resume recently. Make sure you state exactly what job you're interested in. You can also ask if they received your resume and if they're still considering candidates for the position.

If you get a recorded message, you may want to call again later. Leaving a message does not count as "follow up."  You actually have to engage in two-way communication.  Conversely, know when enough is enough.  Calling employers daily isn't going to make them more likely to call you back. It's probably just going to irritate them.  Instead, ask an administrative assistant when the employer will be available and make every effort to call then.

While You Are At It...

If an employer tells you that he is not hiring, consider asking the employer if he would set aside a few minutes to discuss the work that he does and how it fits into your career.  In other words, parlay a rejection into an informational interview.  In addition to standard informational interview questions, you may want to ask:

  • What do you look for in a candidate?
  • Once you understand the employer's needs and have obtained that particular skill set, you are in a better position to reapply.
  • What are some obstacles to hiring?
  • You may find out that the employer does not know if he will have enough work to keep you busy or can't anticipate what his business picture will be like six months in advance. If this is the case, you can always reapply later in the Spring.
  • Can you think of anyone else who could benefit from a summer law clerk?
  • Referrals are so valuable to the job search.


In the world of job searching, bigger and louder isn't always better. While some people feel the need to use elaborate fonts, graphics and animation, or bright paper in hopes of getting attention, a minimalist approach is always better.

Simple resumes are safer, in part, because of technology used by employers. Your formatting might change as you download and upload your materials.  Also, your paper resume may be scanned and turned into an electronic file that is viewed by many.  Because it may be sent through a scanner, your résumé needs to be clear, concise and free from distracting characteristics. Plus, more and more employers, including federal judges and federal agencies, are using online applications and requesting candidates paste in résumés on Web sites.

Having a simple résumé is not just about scanners and email. It also means carefully selecting information included.  Here are some tips for a clean, concise resume:

1. Forget the fancy fonts.
Yes, it is certainly fun to write your IMs in a quirky font. But when it comes to your résumé, stick to the classics, like Times New Roman or Arial.  These fonts are typically read well by electronic scanners, e-mail systems, and recruiters.

2. Don't overdo the underlining, bolding and italics.
Not everything on your résumé needs to be highlighted; electronic scanners get easily tripped up by underlined words and italics. Additionally, too much of a good thing can be distracting to the employer.

3. Include old information sparingly.
Do you still have an entry about your high school?  Are you still including all of your past jobs, which make your résumé three pages long?  Did you start out in a completely different career that is irrelevant to your current job?  If so, it's time to cut (or retool) those entries. In other words, the more experience you gain, the more selective you must be on what to include.  Additionally, some experiences don't bear explanations:  most people know what the Dean's List is; or they have an idea what duties a ski instructor performs.  In situations like this, note the employer, job title, location and date but leave off bulleted descriptions.

4. Leave out personal information.
Take off your marital status, age, number of children, religious or political affiliation (unless prior work experience involves the latter.)  When you write your résumé, try to think like the employer and include only the information that is going to matter to the company or the position you are seeking.

5. Write in sound bites, not paragraphs.
Your information should be presented in brief, concise statements that each start with strong action words. A résumé should never be written in complete sentences or have statements that being with "I."  A reader needs to be able to glance at your résumé quickly and know what your strengths and experiences are.  Don't make him muddle through a lot of extraneous words to get to the good stuff.  Because you are writing in phrases, you do not need to include articles "the," "a" or "an."  You should also leave off adjectives and adverbs such as "relevant" "expertly" "proficiently" or "accurately" - an employer is going to assume you did your job well; it goes without saying.

6. Keep the look professional.
Choose professional, plain paper and black ink. Leave graphics and shading out, too. You want to make sure the document is easy to read if an employer prints it.

Your résumé has an important job to do. It must convince an employer that you are worth talking to, that you are better than the rest, and that you can do the job -- all in about 15 seconds. Make every second count with a résumé that sends the right message right away!



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