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Your Cv can be what gets your foot in the door, or what slams it shut


Preparing your CV for a Move to Australia…10 things to think about.

It is the first impression employers will have of you. If you are looking to secure a legal role in Australia, it is important that your CV not only represents you in the best possible light but also is in an appropriate format.

Below are some tips to make your CV stand out for all the right reasons

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 (i.e HR and recruiters who don’t have a legal background) as well as Partners and legal experts.

2. Your CV usually provides the framework for your interview. This means that you should highlight / list the deals / matters and transactions you have worked on and the ones you feel comfortable speaking to with authority.

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 organized 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. Detail, Detail, Detail! In the world of law a typo, can cause a prospective employer to be concerned about your attention to detail. It may seem obvious but having someone proof read your CV is always a good idea before sending.

5. Think about the role / team you are applying for and Tailor your CV to that role and team. For example, If you are applying for a Corporate Capital Markets role, I wouldn’t recommend focusing on your Private Equity experience. Make sure your CV fits the role as much as reasonably possible

6. 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.

7. 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”.

8. 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.

While it is a marketing document it doesn’t mean you should exercise your creativity. Stay away from non-traditional fonts, avoid unnecessary colours and images and don’t let it become a creative writing exercise.

9. 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.

10. 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.

Final Checklist

DO's

  • Include your contact details - mobile number and email address (you won't believe how many I receive without the basic information included).

  • 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 both 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 and make sure they are correct.

DON'Ts

  • 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 unusual fonts and clip art is a big “no no.” Whilst you want to stand out from the crowd you should think of your CV as a professional document and the style you chose reflects who you are in a professional context.

  • 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 traveling 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, 2nd Place year 10 maths.

  • Use graphs, tables or pictures of any kind (with the exception being tables to list deals)

  • Include written references – recruiters and hiring managers will want to speak to your referees directly.

  • Include photographs of yourself. Some other jurisdictions this is the norm, but in Australia – best to avoid them

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