Making Your CV Work For You

For many of us, putting together a CV is the first step in the recruitment process. It can be a little off-putting, especially if it is a number of years since you last did one. Whether you are a trainee solicitor, mid-level associate, in-house counsel or a law firm partner, our simple guide will save you time, help you to maximise the impact of your CV, and avoid some common mistakes.

As a legal professional, you may have some form of a CV which you constructed at an earlier stage in your career and it can be tempting to simply add to this document as you progress. However, starting your CV from scratch with each new job search will make for a more concise and compelling document. In addition, the process of crafting a CV forces us to consider our career in terms of facts, figures, specific wins etc – which is very useful preparation for an interview.

A well-crafted CV will guide the reader through your career efficiently and objectively. Your CV is probably the first example of your written language and presentation skills which a prospective employer will see, so it is important to avoid spelling errors and/or excessive formatting. A résumé can be thematic, chronological or a combination of both. The best format for you is the one which leads to the least repetition and offers the most effective vehicle through which to position your skills and experience. Subheadings which break your CV into manageable blocks of information will facilitate the reader focusing on those elements of your experience which are germane and passing over those elements which are of lesser relevance for the role in hand.

Bullet points can be a very effective way of conveying the specifics of your professional experience in indicative terms. Each bullet point should be a standalone statement which lists a particular matter on which you worked. Do include the include the scale/scope/value of the matter, industry sector or internal customer type if appropriate, along with your specific role, achievement or contribution. Use verbs which clearly indicate your responsibility such as led, managed, drafted, launched, reviewed, assisted, researched. Avoid if possible generic terms such as advising, involved in, etc. Your CV is designed to highlight your skills, your responsibilities and your achievements. While it is appropriate to contextualise your level of responsibility, your CV should be about what you have accomplished rather than the corporate we.

The amount of page space you dedicate to discussing a particular component of your role should be visually indicative of your experience in this regard. For example, if 20 per cent of a particular role involved people management, dedicating 50 per cent of the CV discussion on that position to people management would be misleading for the reader. When it comes to reference details, best practice is to withhold including names and contact details on a CV. The appropriate form of words to use it that references are available on request.

Your CV is a fact based document so anything that supports your application for a position should be included, anything that is irrelevant should be excluded. The endgame in writing the CV is to ensure that it is read – in full, by your audience. Your CV is not designed to get you a job, merely to get you the interview. Make it concise, make it objective, write it in the first person and always write it with the reader in mind.

A version of this article first appeared in the Legal Vacancies Newsletter of the Law Society of Ireland.