How to Make Your NQ CV Stand Out to Law Firms

Posted on 18/9/2019 by Katherine Memery

In your search for a solicitor position upon qualification, it is absolutely essential that your CV is up to scratch. Your CV gives you the chance to sell yourself on paper and is the first impression recruiters and law firms will have of you. Here we give our top tips to help make sure your CV gives you the best possible chance of landing your first role as a solicitor.

1. Provide your full contact details

There’s no point spending hours crafting the perfect CV if the person who reads it has no way of contacting you! Make sure you clearly give your phone number and email address at the top of your CV so that recruiters can get in touch when there’s a suitable vacancy.

2. Put together an informative introduction

In the opening paragraph, you should clearly communicate what you do, give your job title and outline your role and key achievements. You should then explain what you’re looking to do next and why.

3. Make sure it’s no longer than 2-3 pages

Recruiters and employers simply don’t have time to read CVs that are pages and pages long. The length of your CV will depend on the depth of your professional experience, but generally keeping it to two to three pages is recommended.

4. Give detailed information about your training contract

At this stage of your career, you’ll probably have gained the bulk of your relevant experience during the course of your training contract. It’s therefore appropriate that you describe it in detail in your CV. Outline each seat, starting with most the recent, explaining the kinds of cases you assisted on and whether you handled your own caseload. Be prepared to expand on this information at the interview stage.

5. Avoid using clichés and communicate your personality

We’ve lost count of the number of candidates we’ve come across who ‘work well independently but equally well as part of a team’ or who in their spare time ‘enjoy spending time with their friends and family’. Avoid clichés like these and inject your personality into your CV to make it interesting to read and help you stand out to recruiters and employers.  

When it comes to giving information about what you do outside of work, if you have a quirky or unusual hobby, including it in your CV is a great way of connecting with your potential future employer, especially if they have similar interests. Even if they don’t, it’ll be a good talking point when you come to interview.

6. Stay away from graphs and photos

While in countries, like France and Germany, employers expect candidates to include a photo of themselves in their CV, in the UK (and particularly within professional services), this simply isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s actually discouraged by many employers.

There’s also no need to include graphs or charts. They rarely demonstrate information that is useful for an employer when decided whether or not to meet a candidate for interview.

7. Include keywords

Nowadays, when you upload your CV to a job board or applicant tracking system (i.e. apply directly to a firm via a candidate portal on their website), it will be scanned for keywords to highlight if you are a suitable candidate. Because of this, it’s important to include the keywords recruiters and hiring managers will be looking for so that your CV is picked up for consideration. These might be related to your current or past roles, the role you are looking for or your relevant skills or PQE level. For instance, a recruiter looking for someone to fill an NQ role might look for CVs that include the keyword ‘trainee solicitor’ and mention the appropriate practice area.

8.Tailor your CV for the position you’re applying for

Each time you apply for a new role, it’s essential that you adapt your CV so that it showcases your relevant skills and experience and demonstrates your appetite for the position at hand. For example, if you’re interested in a family NQ solicitor role, highlight the interesting cases you worked on during the family seat of your training contract and the transferable skills you acquired, or the fact that you did work experience at a family firm during the summer holidays whilst at university.  

9. Don’t use the 1st or 3rd person

Throughout your CV, you should avoid using the 1st or 3rd person (using I or she/he) and write objectively, without using pronouns. E.g. rather than saying “I regularly liaised with counsel on behalf of clients”, simply say “regularly liaised with counsel on behalf of clients”. Doing so will help ensure your CV is more concise and professionally outlines your skills, strengths and experience. 

10. Focus on your achievements, not just your duties

When it comes to talking about your current role and past experience, it’s important that you talk about what you achieved in these roles, rather than just outlining what you do on a day-to-day basis. Highlighting your achievements will help you stand out against other candidates and demonstrate ways in which you can add value. For instance, you could explain:

  • How big your typical caseload was during your training contract or paralegal position(s)
  • Whether you were involved in any significant cases or on behalf of any big-name clients
  • Whether you were working to targets and if so, whether you beat these
  • Whether you have been nominated for or won any awards

It’s also important to include your academic achievements such as your GCSEs and AS and A-Levels as well as your degree and LPC grades.

11. Proof-read carefully

A CV littered with spelling mistakes will usually be dismissed even if it belongs to the most qualified candidate. Before you send your CV anywhere, it’s crucial that you check your spelling and grammar to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes. If possible, ask a friend or relative to read through it too; a fresh pair of eyes might spot an error you’ve missed.

12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ask your recruitment consultant for their input if you’re unsure about what you’ve put together. At Realm, we work with our candidates to make sure that their CVs are suitable for presenting to a client. We know the law firms we work with well and so can point out ways in which you can tweak your CV to appeal to the firms you are interested in.

Coming to the end of your training contract? We can help you find your important first role as a qualified solicitor

At Realm, we work primarily within four main legal practice areas: private client (including court of protection), personal injury, family and commercial insurance. If you’re a trainee solicitor looking to qualify into one of these areas, we can help you find your ideal NQ role. Call our specialist consultants today on 03300 245 606 for a confidential conversation about your career and exactly what you’re looking for.

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