Recruiters on average spend only 6 seconds on each CV. It is crucial to have a clear structure to make your CV reader-friendly. A traditional CV structure should include the following information:
Personal information (name and contact details [email, contact number, address, Linkedin account]), only include your home address if you'll be travelling from another state.
Academic background (with a breakdown of [selected] grades)
Relevant/legal work experience
Extra-curricular activities/Roles and Responsibilities
Awards & achievements
Hobby and Interests
Additional skills (e.g. proficiency & no. of languages you speak, IT skills)
Each point should include your:
Position (e.g. Skills Enhancement Director)
Organisation/Location (e.g. KPUM)
Start date - end date (e.g. August 2019 - September 2020; July 2020 - Present)
Look professional, use the correct layout & be consistent with the formatting.
Plain white paper (A4 size)
Refrain from using bright colours and informal backgrounds (best kept at grayscale to look professional)
Stick with one to two colour(s)
Size 11 standard font (e.g. Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia or any professional-looking font)
Photos are optional (for MY application): If you choose to include one, use a recent professional photo (no selfies or photos in informal settings); for UK applicants, you are strongly advised against including any photos in your CV
Ensure consistent punctuation throughout, e.g. the use of colons/commas/hyphens
Avoid using tables – they consume too much space.
Use short sentences
Use bold subheadings & bullet points.
Keep your CV to 1 to 2 pages.
Note: If you are just starting law school, the firms are not expecting much work experience.
Arrange your experiences in reverse chronological order - you should always start with your most recent experience for each section.
Take note of standardising spacing and alignment throughout your CV.
Research about the firm(s) you’re applying to, find out what kind of candidates they’re looking for, and tailor your CV to each of them
Avoid writing generic information, e.g. ‘active member of Manchester University Law Society’ but instead, jazz it up by writing something interesting that showcases your personality! Recruiters tend to be impressed if you’ve done something outside the legal sector that shows your enthusiasm and motivation.
Avoid grammar and spelling mistakes to demonstrate your attention to detail.
Ensure that you have spelt the firm’s name correctly and let your friends proofread before you send out your CV.
Use a professional tone.
CV is usually used in a professional setting; it is crucial to use a professional tone that best represents your compatibility with your target role. ○ Use action words that excite the reader or power words that evoke an emotional response, e.g. ‘accelerated’, ‘driven’, or ‘generated’. ○ The GuardianJobs recommends using four Ps to manage your tone: Positivity, Professionalism, Personal, and Pace. More information can be found here.
Use a professional CV filename.
Your CV filename is also a personal branding opportunity. A good one may not secure you a place, but a bad one will definitely not do your CV justice.
Use a professional CV filename, refrain from using names like “Converted_pdf_XXX”, “XXX (2)”, “alissa97”.
An excellent example of a CV filename will go along the line of “(First Name)(Second Name)_CV”.
You may even add your target company name to show your commitment to the role
Note: You may have to change your name order depending on where you are applying to (UK or Malaysia)
Do not use version numbers.
Always save your CV as a PDF file
Never save it as a word document.
Simply list your experiences without further elaboration
You should always back up each experience with specific examples i.e. write about the impact you made.
Structure your evidence using the CAR model:
Context: What was the situation? Keep this brief, but be specific.
Action: What did YOU do? Use strong active language.
Result: How did you contribute to the outcome? Qualify and quantify!
Add in too much detail (keyword stuffing)
The key to a good CV is to make use of the limited space (1 to 2 pages) to demonstrate your ability clearly and concisely.
Write 'CV' or 'curriculum vitae' at the top
You should save the top part of your CV for your name and contact details.
Include irrelevant personal information.
Examples include age, gender, marital status etc.
Use overly sophisticated design, but also avoid drafting a CV with virtually no design.
Again, use simple layouts and fonts, refrain from using bright colours and informal backgrounds.
The idea is to keep your CV easily-readable and professional!
Rate your skills or language proficiency on an arbitrary scale.
Recruiters don’t know how to interpret your rating system as they may wonder how modest or immodest you are
An ambiguous scoring system does not reveal much about your ability: if two applicants both rate their IT skills as 5/5, does that mean they are equally skilled in this area?
Use one generic CV for every firm you’re applying to.
Many recruiters advise against using a scatter-gun approach for multiple applications as it will usually be doomed to disappointment.
Every job is unique; even jobs with the same job title can differ from each other. You should always tailor your CV to the requirements of each role.
Tip: Use your first CV as the foundation block, and make amendments from there!
Lie on your CV.
You should always think ahead by preparing yourself for any questions that may come up in an interview.
Falsifying information on your CV could cost you the job opportunity and your reputation if the interviewer catches you red-handed!
IF YOU ONLY LEARN 6 THINGS…
We get it, it is a lot to take in. Remember, practice makes perfect. Here are 6 tips to fall back on even if all of this becomes just another fever dream.
For UK applications: NO PHOTOS. We’re sure you’re stunning but save it for Instagram!
No fancy fonts, borders, graphics or designs. It needs to reflect how serious you are about your own application.
Personal details such as gender and age are kept to a minimum. Only provide your address, email and phone number.
You must include grades for relevant modules, and relevant qualifications. Don’t overload it.
Present your achievements in reverse chronological order, e.g. job → university → college → secondary school → miscellaneous.
Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. You do not want that feeling of your stomach dropping when you spot a typing mistake after you have submitted your application.
If you are interested in knowing more about CV writing, we recommend that you read some of the resources we have used in producing this article:
Andrei K, ‘Should You Include a Picture on Your Resume or CV in 2021?’ (careerblog, 29 December 2020) <https://novoresume.com/career-blog/including-photo-on-resume>
Bridgestock L, ‘Lying On Your CV: The Facts’ (Top Universities, 3 March 2021)<https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/lying-your-cv-facts#:~:text=The%20consequences%20of%20lying%20on,truth%20about%20your%20supposed%20qualifications>
LADDERS, ‘Eye-Tracking Study’ (LADDERS, 2018 <https://www.theladders.com/static/images/basicSite/pdfs/TheLadders-EyeTracking-StudyC2.pdf>
Matthew T, ‘5 things to leave off your resume’ (CAREERBUILDER, 9 February 2018) <https://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/5-things-to-leave-off-your-resume>
Nevins M, ‘Rating Skills on a Resume: The Template Trend You Should Avoid’ (Jobscan, 3 August 2020) <https://www.jobscan.co/blog/the-resume-template-trend-you-should-avoid/>
Rose N, ‘Pitching the right tone in CV’ (The Guardian Jobs, 22 January 2018) <https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/pitching-the-right-tone-in-your-cv/>
Rose N, ‘Should you use one generic CV?’ (The Guardian Jobs, 23 August 2017) <https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/should-you-use-one-generic-cv-/>
Smith J, ‘Writing a legal CV and cover letter’ (PROSPECTS, June 2020) <https://www.prospects.ac.uk/jobs-and-work-experience/job-sectors/law-sector/writing-alegal-cv-and-cover-letter>
Sundberg J, ‘How Long Do Recruiters Spend Reading Your CV?’ (Undercover Recruiter) <https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/infographic-recruiters-spend-5-7-seconds-reading-your-cv/#:~:text=Recruiters%20spend%20on%20average%205,what%20they%20are%20looking%20for>
TARGETjobs, ‘Ten Ways To Get Your Legal CV Noticed By Top Law Recruiters’ (TARGETjobs)<https://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/law-solicitors/295262-ten-ways-to-get-your-legalcv-noticed-by-top-law-recruiters>
The University of Law, ‘Writing legal CVs and covering letters’ (The University of Law, 2017) <https://www.law.ac.uk/globalassets/13.-media--doc-repo/03.employability/step/pdf_employability_step-6-resource-book.pdf>