5 ways to optimise your legal CV for impact

Published on: 23 Sep 2019

Recruiters are busy people, and this means that they only spend a few seconds scanning over each CV they receive. Because of this, your CV needs to make an immediate impact and hook their attention – at least, if you hope to secure an interview!

To help you do this, the following guide will look at five simple ways you can optimise your legal CV to make the maximum impact, even if your CV is being skim-read:

Choose the right layout

Firstly, you need to make sure you choose a clear and concise layout, which helps recruiters to quickly and easily digest your information.

The best way to do this is by choosing a traditional CV structure which breaks up the information into small paragraphs, as well as making good use of formatting. Use headings and bold text to distinguish between sections and utilize columns and bullet-points to facilitate ease of reading.

Increasingly, we are seeing unique and interesting layouts and colour schemes used for CVs. While these have their place in the creative industries, it’s best to stick with a classic, professional layout when applying for a legal industry job.

Get the structure right

As with any CV, you need to make sure you’ve structured the information for maximum impact. In the case of the legal industry, you’ll want to start with your personal profile followed by a key skills section.

Then, you need to include your education and employment history. If you’ve got lots of relevant work experience, you might want to lead with this section. Alternatively, if you're a recent graduate or you don't have any previous experience, focus more on your educational background.

Adding a hobbies and interests section is optional, and if you're limited with space, it’s probably best to leave this out.

Make the most of your top quarter

As previously mentioned, recruiters don’t spend long looking at a CV, so you really need to ensure that the top quarter impresses them. If they don’t like what they see, they might move on without reading your entire application.

This section includes your personal profile which should be short and punchy, outlining your key skills, qualifications and career goals. This top quarter should also contain a core skills section, where you can use bullet points to list your key skills. 

The key for both these sections is relevancy, which we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section.

Use keywords from the job description

The best way to grab the recruiter’s attention and make an impact is by using keywords and skills from the job description. This helps them to quickly recognise that you meet the requirements they have set out for the role.

Look over the job description to see what they have asked for and highlight the skills that are relevant to you. For example, for a legal role these key skills could include research, transcribing, organisation, communication and attention to detail.

Any skills or keywords you’ve highlighted should be mentioned, along with practical examples of how and when you’ve used them, throughout your CV.

Show your value

Finally, you need to prove your impact and show how you can add value to a firm or in-house team, by giving examples of past responsibilities and achievements.

You’ll get even more brownie points if you can quantify these achievements, to really help the reader understand how you’ve made a difference to your previous employers.

For example, you could say that you: ‘Reorganized legal documents to improve firm efficiency by over 10%’ or Achieved an 85%-win rate of client cases’.

Are you ready to make an impact?

Your CV needs to stand out from the competition and grab the recruiter’s attention from the get-go.

With just seconds to do this, using the five simple steps above will help you create a killer legal CV with maximum impact.

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Andrew Fennell is the writer for AssignYourWriter and founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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