A stunning CV could be your ticket to an interview and your dream solicitor, barrister or paralegal job. All the advice from job-hunting experts says spend plenty of time getting your resume right. Don’t be sloppy, and in the ever-competitive legal profession, try as hard as you can to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Of course, hundreds of other people may be applying for the same position as you, and the recruiters can really only spend a short time going through each CV – sometimes decisions are made in as little as 20 seconds. So work hard to get all your best points across while being as clear and concise as possible.
It’s useful to think of your CV as your own personal marketing tool. This is your chance to really sell yourself and communicate your skills and experience in the best possible light. We think these tips for the ideal law CV will help.
1. Clear and simple layout
Your CV must be easy to read quickly, so make it uncluttered and eye-catching. With your layout, separate out the different sections and use clear section headings. Avoid long paragraphs and rambling sentences. It often helps to use bullet pointing to break up text into easily readable bite-sized chunks – you can provide a lot of information about your past legal experience this way.
2. Tailor your CV to each legal job you apply for
It is essential that your CV is targeted to the specific job role you are applying for, so if you are applying for several different law jobs make sure you have a different CV for each firm on the list. It will be useful to research each firm in question, and use the keywords that match what they are looking for – litigation, family law, commercial law etc. Bear in mind the employer brand of the company you’re targeting, which sums up the kind of organisation they are, and the types of people they want to employ. Make sure you understand what employers are looking out for before you fill out your CV or application form. This may sound like a lot of work but it is well worth doing. Unfortunately having a one-size-fits-all, generic CV for everything won’t get you noticed.
3. State your objective
Stating your objective is a good way to outline what you’re hoping for with the application. It also shows you understand what the company is looking for in a competent, ambitious legal executive. For example:
Objective: Seeking an exciting, challenging commercial lawyer opportunity where I can deliver exceptional service, build strong client relationships, and put my passion for innovation and problem-solving to good use.
4. Provide a brief ‘Professional Profile’
This is a chance to pitch yourself in a paragraph or two. A professional profile will emphasise your key attributes, and so should be written in a way that catches the attention of the reader. Keep it brief as you can expand on examples of your attributes later in the CV. Try using strong words such as ‘motivated’, ‘innovative’, ‘knowledgeable’, ‘dynamic’, ‘enthusiastic’.
5. Make a feature of your achievements at work
When you list your previous work experience, clearly outline what your responsibilities were with an emphasis on achievements. It’s really worth highlighting relevant projects you have managed, and specifying targets achieved. Also include any promotions however minor. Demonstrate any relevant experience you have of the legal specialism in question.
6. Big up your additional skills
Emphasising certain skills will turbo-charge your CV in the law job hunt. If you have them, spell out your computer skills, management skills, problem-solving skills, communication and account management skills – with brief examples if space allows.
7. Work your ‘interests’
Interests can often look like an uninspiring list: skiing, reading, socializing with friends etc. But you can make this section of your CV work harder for you. Keep it short, and use bullets; avoid clichés, don’t look too solitary. What stands out are unusual hobbies, and hobbies that reflect you as a great person. So rather than just put ‘film, cycling and travel’ try:
Cycling: Completed a 20k sponsored cycle ride this spring. Travel: Travelled Europe by train this summer in a group, exploring historic sites in Germany and Austria and practicing my German. Film: Set up a film appreciation club with six friends.
Remember interests can showcase your employable skills in organizing, planning, negotiating, managing. So for instance, anything that shows evidence of leadership and teamwork is good in the eyes of the employer.
8. Delete irrelevant information
It’s important for your CV to be highly informative but it must also be concise so that legal recruiters can digest it efficiently. In general, using two A4 pages is about right for length. Only include information which will actually help to get you an interview for this specific legal role. Recruiters don’t want to waste time reading details irrelevant to your ability to fulfil the job role.
9. Ask someone to proof-read your CV
Of course, check vigilantly for spelling and grammatical errors. It’s dangerous to rely on spell check systems on your computer as they can overlook major errors in what you’ve written. By all means run a spell check but also ask a friend – ideally someone with knowledge of legal roles – to go over your draft CV and spot any errors. You might find that a couple more pairs of eyes on your work can catch mistakes you failed to see. Others might also make useful suggestions about tone, length of sections or layout of your CV.
10. Send it in the right format
Rather than guess which CV format the employer prefers, make sure you know how it will be received and read, and send it in as the right kind of file. With email and digital technology now so important in the job application process – many employers scan CVs electronically first looking for the right keywords – this is a must. Follow the recruiter’s instructions on the job posting carefully, or email or ring through to check with someone. If sending directly to an employer via their e-mail, it’s worth sending your CV as scannable text within the body of the e-mail itself. Then also attach a version with the full layout and attractive fonts that you have ‘designed’.
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