Imagine the scene. Your CV hits the desk of a potential employer or recruiter and you have exactly two minutes (if you’re lucky) to create that all-important, interview-winning impression.
That is what a CV is all about – getting your name on the interview shortlist. This is the only part of the job-seeking process that you can control, so give it your best shot. Make sure your CV is accurate, easy to read and has no spelling mistakes. Present a clear and concise document that encourages the reader to take a closer look at your skills, experience and key achievements, and paints you in the best possible light.
There are no absolutes when it comes to writing a legal CV, only general guidelines. Perhaps the most important rule of all is that you are comfortable with the final document. It is YOUR document. You will be asked questions about it at interview. You must feel confident about it.
Here are a few guidelines to help you gain an interview:
- Use a maximum of two sides.
- Use good quality, plain paper.
- Use a minimum font size of 11 points.
- Keep the layout professional and uncluttered.
- Don’t justify the text. A justified document looks mass-produced. An un-justified document is easier to read and more visually interesting.
- Limit paragraphs to five or six lines.
- Use bullet points to add clarity.
- Avoid awkward changes in tense and use the past tense where possible. It gives the impression you have actually completed something. Goals have been achieved.
- Use short sentences. Short sentences are easy to read. Short sentences are more powerful.
- Use a spell checker. Spelling mistakes signal you are inattentive to detail.
- Be positive. This is a selling document. Use words that have impact: 'managed' is stronger than 'supervised', 'negotiated' is stronger than 'facilitated'.
- Be honest. You might be asked to explain or justify any aspect of your CV. Make sure you can. If you can’t, all credibility will be lost and you can say goodbye to that job offer.
- Employers are interested in your most recent experience, so start with it. Avoid gaps in your employment and education.
- Don’t include your salary. The best time to talk about this is at the end of the selection process when the employer wants you. Negotiate from a position of strength!
Structure is important
How should you set out your legal CV? We’ve provided a couple of sample law CVs: one for a qualified lawyer and one for a legal secretary.
Always get someone else to proofread your CV and ask for his or her comments. But although everyone will volunteer advice, it’s your career. YOU have to be confident that your CV really reflects your accomplishments and will ensure the recruiter wants to meet you.