Your CV is a dynamic document that will change as you advance in your career, gain professional experience and acquire new interests. Creating an effective CV is the critical first step in your job search.
9 things to keep in mind when drafting your CV.
1. Your CV is your own personal marketing document. The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview and the audience is both the hiring manager/Partner and the HR professional. Your CV needs to be written so it appeals to both audiences without legal experience (ie HR and recruiters who don’t have a legal background) as well as Partners and legal experts.
2. Your CV will likely provide the framework of your interview with many interviewers using your CV as a guide for their questions. This means that if you know the matters listed on your CV and prepare in advance for questions about these matters you are half way to doing a good interview before you have even stepped foot outside of your home.
3. Keep your audience in mind at all times and know that your audience is busy. The first reader is likely to only spend a couple of minutes reviewing your CV. After an initial glance employers will make a preliminary decision on if your CV will progress to hiring manager review or not. It is vital that you present an organised and informative document that will appeal to both the initial reader (often a HR professional) as well as the hiring manager/Partner. Your CV must be “scan-proof” whilst at the same time well written as when it lands on the hiring manager/ Partner’s desk it is likely to be studied closely and it will then be seen as an example of your drafting skills.
4. Your CV is a dynamic document that can always be added to, edited and improved. With that said, you only have one chance to make a first impression, so it is important that when you send it out you get it right, first time. As you add and subtract information and achievements from your CV as your career evolves the format of your document may need some adjustment or modernisation too. It might seem obvious, but I always suggest having someone proof read your CV for typos as in the world of law a typo may cause a prospective employer to be concerned about your attention to detail.
5. Given you can't include everything that you have done on a CV, it is worth thinking about what specific experience you have had and what you can list that will best encapsulate the skills you possess. Think about matters/ deals that you have worked on and what your primary responsibility was, what were the legal issues involved, the challenges you may have faced. Also think about who the client was, the objective of the matter, the final result and the size of the matter.
6. Make sure the information on your CV is true and correct. As your CV will form the framework for your interview you will need to be able to talk competently and potentially at length about every single matter/deal on there and so whilst it may be tempting to talk your experience up, it is worth remembering you will be tested at interview and if you only did the paginating on a very high profile matter it is important that you don’t overstate it and write “lead the team on X”.
7. How your CV looks is important. Employers may only take a cursory scan of your CV, so it is important that it is in a format that allows the employer to skim through the document with the important information about your admission and education up front (and I would encourage highlighting this in bold). I would avoid using the narrative style and stick to using sub headings and bullet points to break up large chunks of text.
8. There are no golden rules when it comes to length. As your career progresses your CV is likely to get longer but it is important to remember that a CV does not have to mention every single deal or matter you have ever been involved with so sticking to a maximum of 4 pages is advised. Think of your CV as a snap shot of your experience to date and be the starting point of a discussion.
9. More than 99.99% of people send their CV out electronically. I would suggest converting your file to PDF before sending it and also titling the document with your first and last name as well as the type of document it is (ie CV, written sample, academic transcript etc), this courtesy will help the recipient store and locate the file.
Include your contact details - mobile number and email address.
Think of your audience. Use formatting- bullet points, sub headings and avoid “narrative style”
Provide honest and accurate information, this is the golden rule.
Include a section of interests/ hobbies (but I would advise you avoid anything controversial).
List your most recent role first as well as the company names, job titles and dates including the months and years.
Include information on your admission date (month and year) as well as information about your study at university.
Check the spelling and proof read the document.
Finally, double check employment dates.
List referees. I would advise writing 'available at request' but if you really want to include someone, you should only include superiors - not peers, friends or family.
Exaggerate your responsibilities
Never use outrageous fonts or clip art. Whilst you want to stand out you should think of your CV as a professional document and the style you chose reflects who you are.
Make your CV too long - 4 pages is the new maximum. This should be sufficient, any longer and we should discuss it before it is sent out.
Leave unexplained gaps in timelines. If you were travelling for an extended period or took parental leave, make a note of the time period and what you were doing.
Include irrelevant achievements. Eg First Place Trivia Night 2006
Use graphs, tables or pictures of any kind.
Include written references – recruiters and hiring managers will want to speak to your referees