A well-written CV can be the difference between getting an interview and not being successful. The legal sector is a competitive industry, so even making it to interview stage is a huge achievement.
What is needed for writing a winning Legal CV? In a recent study it was found that most employers spend an average of only 8 seconds looking at your details before they decide whether it’s what they are looking for. After years of being in a comfortable job, returning to your CV can be tough. CV patterns and requirements change all the time so whether you’re a new legal professional or you’re experienced in the industry, there are certain elements that go into constructing a CV. Here are a few key points to ensure your CV stands out from the crowd and looks as appealing as possible.
What to include on your CV?
The point of a CV is to get your details across to the employer. A legal CV, depending on your experience, will be around 2 pages long. They should be tailored to you and include the following:
- Personal details
- Personal statement
- Work and Employment Experience
- Achievements/ Key Skills
- Hobbies/ Interests
10 Top Tips
1. Honesty is the best policy
Throughout the application and interview process, if you have been found to lie or over inflate any of your legal qualifications, it will not be looked on favourably by employers. Over two thirds of candidates who lied on their CV’s ended up being removed from the interview process, so it won’t pay off and may damage your reputation further. Over selling yourself is also another unattractive CV feature. A way in which you can counter this is with a strong personal statement, highlighting your skills outside of work.
2. A powerful personal statement
The first thing an employer will look at will be your personal statement. You need to create a catchy pitch explaining why you are the right person for the job and what you’re offering. The challenge is to condense your top skills, achievements and qualifications. For example, in a solicitor’s CV, it would be useful to include things like your degree, LPC passes and your training contract, or any large work achievements, without it being too convoluted.
3. Make it look good
A good-looking CV will stand out from the crowd in a world where image is everything. In such a literature-based industry, you can get creative with your application and play around with software settings to help you nail your CV format. Using percentages for your qualification passes also makes it easier for people to take in a lot of information. Make sure the layout is crisp and clean as well as to the point. Use no more than two typefaces maximum. And use only one colour, other than black. Too many fonts and colours will make it look unprofessional.
4. Tailor your CV
Applying for jobs can be a full-time job itself but is important to tailor your CV for every legal role you apply for. Complete the application as if it’s the only job you’re applying for. Pay attention to what characteristics and skills the role requires and match them to your skills.
One in three CV’s are sent with a grammar or spelling mistake. It is very important to avoid as many errors as possible. Solicitors need a high level of written skills and attention to detail. Employers look for mistakes in CV’s so proofread your work to avoid them and get a friend or family member to do a final proof before sending across.
6. Key Soft Skills/ Achievements
Legal recruiters will look for a certain range of soft skills in a CV. Be sure to highlight the key top skills at every opportunity you have, for example, confidence, communication, and persistent etc. You should also include any legal achievements you have. This will help your CV stand out from the crowd and help the recruiter visualise you as a person. For example, being part of the law society at university will help demonstrate your passion.
7. Choose Headings and Formats Carefully
Put your work experience into categories like legal, commercial and voluntary. It has been said to only put your ‘relevant’ work experience into the CV so that it makes a recruiter want to learn more about you. A way of doing this would be by using bullet points and subheadings. Anything that makes the read quick and easy will be appreciated.
8. Key Words
When posting your CV online, keywords or past participle action words are important. This means your cv will be more visible to recruiters online and will also mean your skills will stand out on paper. Incorporating certain technical, active verbs into your legal CV will also strengthen the readers engagement. Using buzzwords like ‘litigation’, ‘defence’ or ‘negotiation’ will make you stand out.
9. Use the STAR format to show your key achievements
The STAR format is a great way of structuring your key work achievements, which then can be used at interview during competency-based questions. The examples to use do not have to be overly elaborate, just think of an example of where you were proud of an achievement at work, or where you actively improved.
Some of your achievements may have been early on in your career, so consider structuring your CV with achievements and accomplishments at the beginning of the CV without anchoring to a specific role, and then the career history below with key dates. If you have had a lot of short-term contracts, then link them together. If you did have any ‘gaps’, link them to something positive rather than not mention it, so you can say ‘career break to spend more time with family’ for example. Leaving unexplained gaps may lead employers down the wrong conclusion and they may think you are hiding something, which could mean they disregard your application.
One last tip from us is to remember that the purpose of a CV is to represent your experience and how you can add value to a prospective employer’s firm, so take you time in crafting your CV. The effort will pay off!
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