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CV Writing Guidelines

There are no hard and fast rules to writing a CV but it makes sense to ensure your CV makes the right first impression and gives you the best chance of securing that all-important interview. Here are a few pointers:

Layout: substance over style

  • - It might be tempting to think that using a colourful background and an unusual font will help your CV to stand out. This may be the case, but more often than not this is for the wrong reason! Overall, it’s essential that your CV conveys professionalism; remember: first impressions count!
  • - Use a minimum font size of 10.
  • - Keep the layout simple, uncluttered and consistent, e.g. bold text for company and job titles; italics for sub headings.
  • - Keep paragraphs short (maybe 5 or 6 lines) and use bullet points to break up text and add clarity. You want to ensure you keep the attention of your reader.
  • - Use a consistent tense – past if possible – but crucially avoid changes in tense.

Structure and content

  • - Employers essentially want to see details of your education and employment laid out in an easy-to-read, coherent way. They are interested in your most recent experience, so put that at the top and work backwards.
  • - A short profile at the top of your CV is also worth including, as it’s a good way of highlighting your key skills and giving a quick ‘snapshot’ of your experience and achievements. As this is often one of the first things clients will read, it’s worth tailoring this to the role you are specifically applying to.
  • - Extra curricular activities are a must as they can give employers an impression of the person outside of work.
  • - It may sound obvious but add your contact details! It’s surprising how many CVs we receive with no telephone number included.

Length: quality not quantity

  • - Make sure the overall document isn’t too long. 2-3 pages is ideal but given that nowadays very few jobs are for life and people change jobs much more frequently, your CV could run to 4 or 5 pages.
  • - Try and ensure there’s no superfluous information. Ensure that you’ve highlighted your key experience, skills and achievements and that your CV is clear, concise and easy to read
  • - If your career has been extremely long, it’s not necessary to include lengthy details of your job in the 1980’s! Just a company name & job title will suffice.

Sell yourself

  • - The language you use within a CV needs to be an accurate reflection of your personality and your style of working when you can’t be there in person, so it needs to showcase you and the way you work in a positive, proactive way.
  • - Use proactive, punchy phrases rather than passive sentence – for example, ‘Responsible for management of three direct reports’ sounds more impactful if changed to "Managed 3 direct reports."
  • - Be specific (if you can) with regards to numbers – be they budgets managed, money saved, direct reports, contract values.

Check your dates!

  • It’s surprising how often we pick up on incorrect dates on lawyers’ CVs! Check them thoroughly and if there are any unexplained, large gaps between dates of employment it’s better to explain or discuss them openly and honestly at the beginning of the recruitment process, rather than raise questions further down the line.

Another pair of eyes

  • Always spell check your CV and ask someone else to proof read it for you
  • Know your CV as you will be asked questions about it at interview.