In the UK, hiring managers and recruiters typically spend between 6-8 seconds looking at a CV, so, when entering a sector as competitive as Law, mastering your CV is crucial to help you impress in the recruitment process.
The University of Law have teamed up with Hannah Wright, HR Early Ambitions Advisor at leading law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, to share expert advice on making your CV stand out amongst employers.
- Tailor your CV and cover letter
Most companies and firms will be looking for a specific set of skills when hiring new candidates, so steer clear of sending the same standard CV to each recruiter. Tailoring your CV to fit the requirements of the job specification will help you stand out from other candidates.
Hannah explains: “We quite often see CV’s that read as a list of tasks the individual has completed within a role such as ‘communicating with customers’. This is too vague and for all we know, this may have formed a tiny part of your role.”
- Avoid clutter
Your date of birth, headshot photos and details of references are just some of the information you don’t need to include in your CV. Make space for shouting about the qualities that make you perfect for the role, not unnecessary details. An entry-level CV should be no longer than single page.
Hannah adds: “If this is your first legal role and your CV is over two pages, it is far too long and most likely containing information that doesn’t need to be there. If you don’t want to spend the time taking the trivial parts out, how can you expect a recruiter to spend the time going through it to try and uncover the skills they are looking for?”
- Check Spelling and Grammar
A structured and concise CV will be the first impression of your written skills that an employer sees. Make sure the important information stands out and is clearly presented. Poor spelling and grammar can be a determining factor in whether you get offered an interview.
Hannah says: “This should be spotless. Particularly in Training Contract applications where you have months to write your application and review. I fully recommend having a second pair of eyes on your CV and application to sense check and review your grammar and spelling.”
- Utilise your hobbies
While hobbies are a great way to demonstrate your personality and passion through paper, you should avoid just listing them all without explanation. Demonstrate the journey that your interest or hobby has taken you on, to show employers your drive and determination.
Hannah explains: “When candidates are able to show their achievements through their hobbies, it has more purpose. For example, rather than ‘exercise’, being able to say ‘Running: Started running in 2020 lockdown and completed my first marathon in 2021 in X hours and X minutes’.”
- Be yourself
Figuring out your unique selling point and making sure the recruiter knows it, puts you in a good position when moving forward with an application process. Employers will be able to spot if you are putting on an act, so don’t risk it.
Hannah adds: “If I were to name one thing to make one person stand out, everyone would use it, and no one would stand out. My advice on how to stand out, is to be you. Most of the time it isn’t about the legal experience, but more about the transferrable skills gained throughout your life until now.”
John Watkins, Director of Careers and Employability at The University of Law commented: “Law is a competitive industry in which many candidates come with a breadth of experience and transferable skills, so it’s essential that you make your initial application impressive and unique to you. You only have one or two pages to sell yourself, so make it count.
“Explain why the experience that you have makes you perfect for the role you are applying to, while hitting all the required and desired skills on the job description. Don’t forget to let the employer know what personable qualities you bring to a team.”