As you embark on your entry into the legal profession, the following tips might be worth taking into account when preparing your CV writes Tim Fogarty, Group Manager at Taylor Root, Global Legal and Compliance Recruitment
Remember: your CV is your personal advertisement.
The primary objective of your CV is to secure an interview with a potential employer. Your ultimate goal is to secure the position.
Graduate positions have significant response levels (in the hundreds) so the initial review of your CV will probably not last any longer than a few minutes. It is vital that it makes a positive impression. It needs to be professional, businesslike and easy to read, and should focus on your key achievements.
- Restrict the length to a few pages.
- Keep lots of white space around the edges of the text, to make it clear and readable.
- Make sure that the font size is readable (Arial 10 or similar).
- Use bullet points to make sure important information stands out.
- Keep the text blocks to no more than 5 or 6 lines.
- Include a page number on each page.
- The only supporting documentation usually required at this stage is your academic transcript.
It is a good idea to split your CV into five sections: Personal Information, Education/Qualifications, Employment History, Interests, and Referees.
1. Personal Information
- Full name
- Full address
- Telephone number
- E-mail address (consider whether your current personal email address is businesslike, or do you need a new one?)
- Include any language capability and state your proficiency (do not exaggerate your skills as an interviewer may start interviewing in a language listed as fluent!)
Secondary school results and qualifications should state the name of the school and the date the qualification was achieved.
Degrees should have the name of the relevant university and, if you hold an honours degree, state the level/type obtained.
This section should also include any other professional qualifications.
Include the dates of any qualifications awarded.
Include any academic awards/prizes that you have won. Exclude the local community prize you won for colouring in, but include that you were dux of the school or were top of the class in equity!
If you are admitted to practice, note the admission month and year as well as the relevant jurisdiction.
3. Employment History
It is generally accepted practice to put your employment history in reverse chronological order. Include dates, scope of responsibilities and achievements. You can also include any seasonal clerkships, internships, relevant volunteer work etc.
Remember that potential employers are looking for evidence that you can add value to the job and the organisation.
- Give the most space to your most recent job.
- It can be useful to use a separate heading for legal jobs and non-legal jobs. Put the legal jobs first.
- State job titles.
- Put the month and year of joining and leaving any employer. Any current position should be "to date".
- If the organisations you have worked for are not well-known, you could insert a brief description of the business.
- List your specific responsibilities/level of involvement in the roles you have performed.
- Do not overstate your experience or accomplishments.
- Interests and hobbies should constitute no more than a few lines.
- If you are involved with community activities, university activities, professional associations etc you should include it in this section.
- If you are a high achiever in any of the areas of interest listed (eg. won big sporting/music award etc) make sure that this is noted.
- If you are in any doubt about whether or not to disclose an interest, leave it out. Remember, you may be required to elaborate on any of your listed interests in an interview, so do not mention anything that you will be uncomfortable talking about
At this early stage of your career, you may not have many people to rely on and so you might want to consider saying: "referees provided upon request". Alternatively, if you can, include the names and title of your referees. If they have provided a written reference of use, include them with the CV.
Check for Errors
Proofread and spellcheck your CV. It is a good idea to ask a friend or colleague who you can trust to read it through for you. Ask for honest input on whether your CV is concise, accurate and relevant to the job in question. Make sure the CV fairly indicates your level of responsibility and achievements. Do not exaggerate, but also do not undersell yourself.
Finally ... and being as objective as you can, spend some further time reading your CV again. Are you satisfied that a potential employer will be impressed enough to want to meet you?