How to Draft a Superior CV - Part 1
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
As the CV is the key document to help you find your perfect job, it is worth spending time getting it right. As your consultant, we can guide and direct you but the content creation ultimately comes down to you. Before you get drafting it is worth considering the points set out below.
1. Make sure all the basics are there.
Format. It is helpful if you provide your CV in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx). Invariably we put it into our house style so it makes it easier for us to tailor it. We will submit it as a .pdf once it is finalised. Make sure you spell check the document and read and re-read it.
Name, address and contact details. This is more for our benefit than the clients. It is important that we communicate with you on a regular basis especially if you are meeting with a variety of firms. It is good for us to have all the necessary contact details so that we can get hold of you if the client wishes us to.
Education. This is still very important (regardless of how senior you are) and is an area that partners and HR professionals still look at. We (and the client) expect to see at the very least, A-Levels or Highers, Degree grades and LPC grade. If you don't put your results on the CV it suggests that you have something to hide. If you were educated in a foreign jurisdiction then it is helpful if you can state the UK equivalent grades. It is also helpful if you can bold the schools and universities that you attended as well as the relevant years.
Awards. Remember that the CV is an opportunity to sell yourself and your skills. If you won awards at school or university, then mention them. Don’t be afraid to show off all of your attributes.
Languages. Lawyers sometimes forget that law firms are businesses like any other. In this day and age, international work and cross-border matters are on offer to all levels of Solicitor. If you have language skills, whether fluent or native, then you should definitely highlight them.
Pre-training contract work experience. We find that putting down that you used to work in a pub or as a paralegal doesn't always add value to your CV. If you feel that you have gained certain skills that are relevant to your current work and career then yes, put them down, but this should be a small section of the CV. If you can demonstrate leadership and team building skills, for example, it is definitely worth mentioning.
Social Media. With the advent of social media, we find that more and more law firms are subscribing to Twitter feeds and LinkedIn pages. If you have a presence on Twitter that is legally related or you have drafted relevant blogs, then it is a good idea to mention these on your CV. If you have a LinkedIn profile (and you should) then you should definitely link it on your CV. Remember that as your consultant we can edit your CV into a format that suits the firm, the partner, HR professional and/or specific role.
Profile or covering letter. It is useful to write up a profile (no longer than a paragraph or two) that describes your background and relevant experience. It should also state what you are looking for in terms of your next career move. If possible, try and concentrate on experience rather than soft skills. Again, we can amend appropriately.
Your experience should be in reverse chronological order. No exceptions. Ideally, you will be currently employed and that will be the first job we and the client read about. As we read through the CV it will catalogue your career right back to your training contract. Using bullet points or numbering ensures that it is easy on the reader’s eye. If possible try and avoid lengthy paragraphs with no breaks.
3. Spend time on presentation.
Lawyers by nature should be good with the English language (and most of you are). As such, spend sufficient time making sure that your CV makes sense. Choose a font that is legible and easy on the eye and stick with 11 or 12 for font size. Use bullet points and use a 1.25 spacing between lines. Avoid boxes and shaded areas. These will just be removed when we put it into house style. The text should also be Justified. At CarterJay, we are fans of fonts like Gill Sans and Palatino. Helvetia is also a very good font. We recommend that you read http://practicaltypography.com/ which is a fantastic outline of the art of Typography.
4. First page, upper middle area.
Bearing in mind that most partners and HR professionals are incredibly busy, they won't always have time to read the whole CV. In the first instance, they will take a view as to whether to meet you on the basis of a very quick flick of the document. As such, we find that the upper middle section of the first page is where most people will naturally look. Try and get the key information here. We can send you a template in the first instance to help with your drafting.
In part 2, we will discuss how long your CV should be, business development skills and using assertive and positive language.