Writing a personal statement on your Legal CV
Recruiters tend to scan and dismiss CVs very quickly so you need to convince them within the first half page of your CV that you have the relevant skills and experience, otherwise they’re unlikely to read on and your CV could very well end up in the reject pile. One of the best ways to make that initial positive impact to get them hooked is to write a compelling personal statement/profile. This is a short, sharp and succinct 3-5 sentence paragraph positioned just below your contact details on the first page of your CV which acts like a mini-advertisement to grab their attention and highlight your relevant capabilities.
So, what should you put in your personal statement?
It’s important to label yourself with a title that is specific to the job you are applying for. For instance, instead of calling yourself a ‘Solicitor’, label yourself as ‘Commercial Property Solicitor’, or ‘Insolvency Solicitor’ to reflect exactly what they are looking for. Of course you can only call yourself this if you have practical experience in the relevant area but it enables them to see right away that you have the background that is needed.
Mention how many years of PQE experience you have or your current stage of training, as this will tell them at a glance whether your experience level is likely to be sufficient for their needs. If the role or organisation asks for particular expertise or knowledge eg understanding of the retail sector, dealing with global businesses or working with corporate HR teams, then make sure that this experience is mentioned in your personal profile eg “Extensive experience of advising corporate HR teams on wide ranging legal matters from policy development, settlement agreements to handling Trade Union disputes”. If you’re applying for a management role ensure that you include previous people management experience, budget management responsibilities and any executive level accountabilities to reinforce the seniority of your role.
Demonstrate the value you can bring to the organisation you’re applying to by including something in your personal profile which illustrates that your career to date has been successful. This might be a mention about the fees you’ve brought in, new clients you've introduced, your ability to resolve difficult conflicts or identify commercial opportunities. In addition, if you have been nominated for any awards, met or exceeded particular performance targets, generated useful ideas which improved the business then mention these too eg “Developed innovative ways to introduce new business such as using social media”. If you mention them briefly in the profile you can always expand on them later on in your CV .
Employers do like to have a sense of what you are like as a person but always back up any claims about your personal qualities by supplying evidence to prove it e.g “strong communication skills include giving regular presentations to audiences ranging from 10 – 100 people both in-house and at industry events.” Make reference to personal qualities that they say they are looking for rather than those which you think are important. There is no point emphasising your strategic visioning abilities if they say they want someone who is intensely detail orientated.
In summary, your personal statement should address all the areas that the recruiter will be considering in relation to their selection criteria for the job. Be prepared to craft a few different versions of your personal profile before you find the one that most adequately reflects you and the type of job you are pursuing. It’s worth the effort because if you get this right, then you increase the likelihood of your application being read thoroughly and subsequently shortlisted rather than discarded at first glance.
There is more help available via the best-selling CV book “You’re Hired! How to write a brilliant CV” written by Corinne Mills or by working with Personal Career Management, the career coaching specialists who are Totallylegal’s career partner