One of the biggest issues that NQ solicitors report facing as they come up to qualification is the issue of what to include on their CV. By the end of your training contract, your knowledge and experience will be a world away from where it was when you started – this, paired with conflicting advice on how to present your experience and exactly what information to include, can make the prospect of updating your application materials feel like a large and daunting task.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be – and Brooke Thornham is here to help. In today’s NQ blog post we debunk five myths about CV preparation for NQ solicitors, as well as providing some cast-iron legal CV advice from our years of experience in the legal recruitment sector.
Myth 1: “I can just update my CV from when I was applying for training contracts.”
When applying for your first NQ job, we advise writing a new CV from scratch rather than updating an existing CV which may now be several years old. An NQ solicitor’s CV is significantly different from the same document at trainee level, considering you will have gained a considerable amount of knowledge and experience since it was last modified.
We almost always find that updating a CV to reflect trainee experience requires a significant amount of editing to take it to the next level, and often transforms it into a completely different document. Don’t be afraid to start from scratch if you feel yourself becoming bogged down with endless edits; the text may change, but if the experience is still there then there’s no need to worry.
Myth 2: “It isn’t worth putting my non-legal work experience on my NQ solicitor CV.”
There will come a time in your professional future when this will probably be true. At this stage in your legal career, however, it’s worth including positions and additional details which span the full gamut of your relevant experience.
In addition to your academic qualifications and work history, we recommend that your NQ CV includes details of specific educational and professional achievements such as prizes or scholarships; positions of responsibility such as committee membership or society presidency; and any additional languages you speak. Remember to keep your featured experience relevant, and carefully consider what each detail says about you.
Myth 3: “Presentation is everything.”
It’s true that, in most circumstances, taking pains over the formatting and layout of your CV is worth the time it takes, but if you are working with a recruitment consultant it isn’t necessary to go overboard on perfect presentation. Most recruiters work to a ‘house style’ which they will format candidates’ CVs to fit; this allows clients to make direct comparisons between candidates on the basis of CV content alone.
Keeping your CV neat, consistent and simply formatted, with short paragraphs and bullet points, should be enough at this stage.
Myth 4: “I need to keep my CV below two pages, no matter what.”
This will probably go against everything you were told at school about preparing a job application, but don’t worry too much at this stage if your CV is longer than the mythical two-page maximum: it’s better to start large and whittle down than to not have enough to say in the first place.
This is where working with a trusted recruitment consultant can be an incredible help: if your work experience and your core CV content are strong, your recruiter will help you edit it to make your application as compelling as it can be.
Myth 5: “Emphasising how passionate I am will make it clear I’m the right person for the job.”
It goes without saying that having a passion for the intricacies of the legal world is a necessary requirement for anyone planning a career as a solicitor, but your CV isn’t the place to talk about it. It’s a document which exists as an objective record of the experience you have had to make you an ideal candidate for the job, not as a testament to your love of the field.
Keep the content factual, and avoid making unquantifiable statements or sharing personally-held opinions of yourself – you’ll have plenty of opportunities to show how good you are at the interview stage.