Most candidates we see make these common mistakes on their CVs and training contract applications. How many sound familiar to you?
1. Relying on an incorrect CV format. Make sure you include a short profile of yourself, and that the CV is well-presented and in a clear font. Use black ink only. Keep it to two pages unless you're a career-changer. (And ask us if you'd like an extra pair of eyes on this.)
2. Including every job you’ve ever had. A CV / application form isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of every job you’ve ever held. It’s designed to present you in the strongest, most compelling light for the advertised position. You can decide what you do and don’t include (though you can’t make things up). Look carefully at what each entry is adding to the picture of you as a candidate - what skills are you demonstrating?
3. Listing only job duties. Applications that really stand out go beyond what the job description and focus on accomplishments and achievements.
4. Including subjective descriptions. Your CV / application is for experience and accomplishments, not subjective traits, like “great leadership skills” or “creative innovator.” Hiring managers generally ignore anything subjective that an applicant writes about herself, because so many people’s self-assessments are inaccurate.
5. Leaving out volunteer work. Pro bono counts! For young lawyers, pro bono work is a great opportunity to build relevant experience. You should certainly list yours, focusing on what you accomplished and learnt.
6. Including inappropriate information. Information about your marital status and salary history doesn’t belong on your CV. You don't need to include your nationality either, but if you're a non-EU citizen you should add a sentence about your visa status (and whether or not your employer will need to sponsor you) in your profile.
7. Getting creative with the format. Lawyers (and their HR departments) are a conservative bunch. Your CV should be in a standard, consistent format, in black ink, with regular margins. All headings should be in one size text, all content in another. Above all, your CV should be easy to read and not overwhelm the reader.
8. Having inconsistencies. You need to come across as someone who takes care with your work and is attentive to detail. Check for: consistent use of full stops after bullet points, consistent use of hyphens/dashes, line spacing, use of fonts, erratic capitalisation. These things seem like nit-picking, but lawyers are sticklers for attention to detail. (Want to try an attention to detail test? Click here.)
9. Sending your CV/application without a cover letter. Your cover letter draws out the highlights of your CV for the reader, and explains why you're interested in the advertised role. Not including one is a wasted opportunity.
10. Not proofreading. Another point that goes to attention to detail, proofreading is key to a great application. Don't ever send an application off in a rush - set it aside for an hour or two, and come back later to check for accurate spelling and consistency. (And make sure you use UK (not US) spelling for all firms in this country.)
Want to get your CV / application form or cover letter just right? Click here to see how we can help.