How to write a CV
A CV highlighting relevant skills and experience will considerably boost your chances of getting an interview. Tailor your CV to the role you are applying for to emphasise the reasons why you’re right for the job. Focus on the following seven key areas and present all information chronologically, if appropriate, with the most recent at the top of the section.
Use your name as a heading at the top of the first page and provide your contact details, including a contact telephone number and e-mail address.
This section should set out key information about your skills and experience relevant to the position you are applying for.
Education and qualifications
Detail all your professional memberships as well as general academic achievements, and include your anticipated result if you are currently studying. Ensure that you include names of education bodies and the dates you attended.
Start with the most recent job first and compile the following information:
- Dates – give the dates you were employed by each organisation.
- Organisation - give the organisation’s name and a brief description of the business allowing the reader to make comparisons about the size and complexity of the organisation.
- Job title - provide the job title and describe what you were employed to do. Be selective and mention the principal tasks and responsibilities of the role relevant to the position you are applying for.
- Achievements – these should set you apart from the competition. Each achievement should include whether you worked independently or as part of a team, what you did, and the results of your actions.
List any software packages that you are familiar with, that would be relevant to the job and your level of proficiency. Employers want to see that candidates have some experience with tools and resources used for legal research such as WestLaw, Butterworths and Lawtel.
Interests and activities
Employers are looking for evidence of your team working and social skills in an extra-curricula capacity so mention your involvement in sporting teams and other organisations, and highlight positions of responsibility. Only give details that demonstrate relevant skills to the employer.
Contact potential referees to obtain their agreement to provide references before submitting your CV. When a potential employer asks for your referees, take the opportunity to contact the referees to explain the role you are applying for. This will enable them to have a relevant, constructive conversation with the employer.
CV writing – do’s and don’ts
- Ensure your CV is two pages in length at most.
- Make your CV easy to read by choosing a clear typeface and font size - remember that the legal profession demands clarity.
- Use good quality paper and print your CV in black ink on white paper. Covering letters should use identical stationery.
- Use positive language and a confident tone.
- Highlight key skills relevant to the job. Ensure bullet points and headings contain reasonable detail and do not read simply as a checklist.
- Leave out any irrelevant or negative information.
- Place information that is relevant and demonstrates suitability for the post nearer the beginning of the CV.
- Ask someone else to read your CV and provide feedback.
- Bind your CV - it may be copied to a number of departments or scanned to a PC.
- Lie - this can lead to instant dismissal if discovered. Past employers may reveal a different picture if contacted.
- Make jokes - not everyone will share your sense of humour.
- Leave unexplained gaps in your career history – this suggests to the employer you are trying to hide something. State whether you were travelling or taking a career break, for example.
- Write bland profile or objective sections - statements such as 'highly motivated team player' can be better demonstrated through examples in the body of your CV.