How to Write the Perfect CV

Posted on 19/7/2017 by Katherine Memery

To some extent your CV is a means to an end, a way of persuading an employer, recruiter or hiring manager to offer you an interview and give you the chance to impress them in person. Whether you’re applying for training contracts, looking for your first legal role or considering making a move later in your career, it’s imperative that your CV makes a good first impression.

There are a number of ways you can make a positive impact with your CV and improve your chances of being invited to interview.

1.      Think about presentation

The way in which your CV is presented can significantly affect how it is received. Those that are poorly laid-out, use a garish font or include distracting imagery are likely to be sneered at.

Recruiters and hiring managers often read hundreds of CVs each week. Unless you’ve got bags of experience, aim to limit your CV to a two-sided word document; any longer than this might discourage readers from giving you a shot.

Use a standard font like Arial, Calibri or Helvetica and do away with logos or images. Avoid large chunks of text so that recruiters can quickly and easily find the information they’re looking for. Concise bullet points are a useful way of highlighting key achievements and experience.

2.      Include keywords

You might not realise it, but if you’re uploading your CV to a jobs board like Reed or Indeed, it will probably end up in a database along with the details of thousands of other jobseekers. To give your CV a greater chance of being found by recruiters like Realm, think about the search terms they will be using to find suitable candidates. Usually, these will be related to the skills and competencies required in the kinds of roles you’re interested in.

Incorporating keywords will also help capture the interest of employers when they come to read your CV and demonstrate that you have the capabilities they need.

3.      Polish your personal profile

In many ways, your personal profile is your elevator pitch; your chance to communicate your value by highlighting your key achievements, attributes and experience. It should appear at the beginning of your CV and, over the course of 4-6 sentences, address the essential criteria within the job description and state how you meet these requirements.

To instantly catch a recruiter’s eye and signal that you have the experience they’re looking for, label yourself with a title specific to the role at hand. For instance, if you’re tailoring your CV for a Family Solicitor role, refer to yourself within your personal profile as a ‘Family Solicitor’ or ‘Family Lawyer’.

Make sure you state how many years of post-qualified experience you have or your current stage of legal training. If you’re a recent graduate or an NQ solicitor, state what you hope to achieve in your future career and why.

4.      Stay relevant

Before you apply to any role, read through your CV to check that the information you’ve included is absolutely relevant. Tailor the contents of your CV for every position you apply for and every law firm you approach. Discerning hiring managers will be able to spot a generic CV a mile off.

Getting rid of extraneous details and sharpening your focus will make it easier for recruiters to pull out the most important parts of your experience to present to employers, and make a more compelling pitch on your behalf.

For instance, it’s only useful to provide specific information about the modules in your degree or the title of your dissertation if they are in some way connected to the role you’re going for. There’s also no need to provide detailed reasons for leaving your previous roles, however, you should explain significant gaps in employment (such as study or maternity leave).

5.      Give employers a reason to meet you

Throughout the process of adapting your CV, bear in mind exactly what employers and recruiters are looking for. Read the job description carefully and make your key competencies (such as communication, team work and negotiation skills) clear. Reflect on your experience and extract its value – what skills have you gained and how might these be applied to the role you’re interested in?

If you’ve only just graduated or are at an early stage of your career and lack direct work experience, don’t worry! Draw on the skills you’ve acquired at university, while doing volunteer work or completing personal projects, and think how they have equipped you for your next step.

If you are relatively new to the profession, do try to get some experience. Approach firms directly, either by sending a speculative email or a message on LinkedIn. Taking the initiative in this way will show employers that you’re committed to gaining experience within the law and keen to build on your existing skills. You never know, they might just be willing to give you a chance.

6.      Nail the basics

You may have crafted a compelling personal summary and formatted your CV perfectly, but if you fail to get the basics right, your hard work may have been in vain.

Check your spelling

A CV littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors suggests a lack of attention to detail, an essential skill for lawyers. Never completely rely on spell checker; carefully read through your CV before you send it to anyone. It’s also useful to ask a friend or family member to read through it too – they might spot something you miss or point out where information could be made clearer.

Tell the truth

Be truthful about your education, employment history and personal details and never be tempted to embellish your experience. While you might think telling a white lie or two is harmless, you’ll almost certainly be caught out at interview or at a later stage, resulting in potentially serious consequences for your reputation and career.

Be contactable

Clearly include your contact details at the top of your CV so employers know how to reach you. Make sure you provide a professional email address and phone number and, if appropriate, your LinkedIn handle.

7.      Be mindful of where you’re sending your details

As mentioned in a previous blog, it's crucial that when you submit your CV to a job board or recruitment agency, you know how it will be used. Only send your details to recruiters you’ve spoken to personally and be mindful of the risks involved in using job boards.

Are you looking for help in making your next move?

At Realm, our specialist recruitment consultants are experienced in placing candidates in legal roles at all levels across the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands. We can offer help and advice at all stages of the application process to help make the process of changing jobs that little bit smoother. Check out our jobs page or get in touch on 03300 245 606 today to find your next role.

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