August 27, 2020 9:58 am
Your résumé or CV is one of the first things a potential employer will read about you and your skills and experience, so you want to ensure that you have the best chance of being noticed. Yet it can be difficult to stand out when you have limited legal experience. This blog will explore the ways in which you can improve your CV and kick-start your career.
The main heading should be your full name in a larger font than the rest of the text, followed by your address and contact details (email, phone number, website), so that employers know exactly to whom the CV belongs. The font should also be something simple like Helvetica, Arial or Calibri, and you should use the same font throughout the document.
If you are a recent graduate, or your experience in the legal field is still limited, it’s a good idea to list your educational background first, as well as your overall grade for your degree(s) if you would like to highlight them. If you have received any scholarships or academic awards, these should also be listed as employers will be very interested to see them.
If you have any kind of work experience which is relevant to the legal profession, it is a good idea to list these first in a separate ‘Legal Experience’ heading. This includes all experience relevant to the law, including voluntary or pro-bono work you may have completed. If you have any non-legal work experience, you should include this in a separate heading such as ‘Other Work Experience’ and highlight transferable skills. For example, if you have experience in retail customer service, you can highlight this as a transferable skill for areas such as client engagement in law firms.
Employers are also keen to know about other relevant experience you have had, even if it is outside the workplace. For example, if you edited a student newspaper, published an article, contributed to a committee,or helped a not-for-profit organisation – these should all be included. Even your participation in sporting teams, cultural groups or fundraisers are valuable additions to a CV and demonstrate your well-roundedness as a candidate
Highlight your skills
The main purpose of the CV is to market yourself, so you want to draw attention to any skills and experience which could be relevant for the job to which you’re applying. Be sure to include these skills under the jobs or extra-curricular activities in which you developed them, and always provide evidence to support the asserted skill. For example, if you have strong communication skills, you might back that up by demonstrating that you communicated with dozens of customers per week. If you need to elaborate further, or if a skill addresses the particular selection criteria of a job, then you may want to provide additional information or evidence in the cover letter. Information technology or foreign language skills can also be listed in separate headings.
It is not usually necessary to list all of your referees on your CV, as an employer will only contact them if you progress past the initial recruitment stage. However, it’s a good idea to approach your potential referees well before you need them and ask if they would be happy to perform this duty for you, as you want to ensure that your referees are willing to show you in a positive light, and prepared for a phone call from the recruiter.
Keep it simple
This rule applies to all CVs: keep it simple. Don’t use fancy fonts, avoid using a photograph of yourself, and be sparing with information that isn’t directly relevant to your working life, such as hobbies and interests. Having said that, some minimal information about your hobbies and interests can help make you a more well-rounded applicant. You should also avoid including personal information such as marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliations or physical capabilities, as these are usually irrelevant to the role, and mostly illegal for an employer to ask. A CV should ideally be around two or three pages, although if you have lots of relevant experience, a previous career, awards or education to include, it can sometimes be acceptable for the CV to be a little longer.