What should go into your NQ CV?
We know what you’re thinking: “I already have a CV! I’ve had one since I was 18!”. That may be true, but if there is ever a time to give your CV a major overhaul, it’s when you’re applying for your first NQ job.
NQ CV – the basics
First things first, your CV should open with your full name and date of birth. It’s likely that the CV you used to secure a training contract and any prior opportunities already has a basics section, covering your name and contact details. While it’s tempting to copy and paste the whole thing across to the new CV, you should check and double check the information you have listed here, to see if anything has changed since you last applied for a position. Have you moved to a new house, or changed your phone number? Are you still contactable using that email address? If anything is different, now is the time to update it. Nothing says, “don’t hire me” like that automated “this number is no longer recognised” message…
After you’ve got your basic contact information down, you can add any other basic details that are relevant. Do you have a visa, or the right to work in the UK? List that information here, including visa dates if relevant. Do you have a UK drivers licence?
You can also put professional social media in this section, such as your LinkedIn profile, or a law-related Twitter account. However, this is not the place to list your personal or non-work-related accounts – keep it professional!
Listing your education – the correct way Your education should always be in reverse chronological order, starting with your LPC, followed by your university degree, then your A-level courses and finally your GCSEs. If you studied outside the UK, you should list your equivalent qualifications, but include which UK qualifications they are equivalent to.
Always put what grade you got, even if you’re not proud of it – the likelihood is that recruiters will find out anyway, and leaving anything out will only raise alarm bells. The exception is when you list your GCSE grades – at this stage in your professional life, it’s fine to put the number of GCSEs and the grade range: e.g. 8 GCSEs at grades A-C.
When writing about your degree, put the full course title - “LLB Law” rather than just “Law” – followed by the degree class you obtained, and the University where you studied. Remember to write the years you attended, too.
If you’re newly qualified, a great way to showcase your talents and keep your CV from looking too bare is to provide relevant details about your time at university. You can write the title of each module you studied, as well as a brief description of what that module involved, what you learned, and what skills you gained. This should be no more than a couple of sentences per module. In particular, you should include anything unusual or specialist that you studied during your time at university. If your dissertation is law-related, now is the time to put it down – especially if you can still talk about it eloquently!
Non-legal skills to include
Employers will also be interested to know of any non-academic skills you have. If you speak multiple languages, let them know about it. Equally, it’s a good idea to include which computer software you are proficient at using.
Like your education section, your work experience should be listed in reverse chronological order. If at this stage you’ve just finished your training contract, list your seats in reverse order with the date ranges you were in that seat for.
The key tip here is to ensure you can speak about everything you’ve written at interview, honestly and eloquently. It can be tempting to big up that case you worked on in your seat in litigation, but if you’re caught embellishing at interview, it won’t go down well.
With this in mind, put a lot of detail into each bullet point on the list. What skills did you learn in each particular seat? What did you work on that you are most proud of? Did you ever take a leading role among other trainees? It can be tempting to include everything, but try to narrow it down to a few key achievements, or moments where you can demonstrate that you brought about a positive outcome.
Think about how what you’ve done previously can translate into your future role. If you’re applying for a job in a commercial department, and you did a seat in commercial law for example, make sure everything you list in that section of your CV is easy for you to discuss and back up at an interview. Equally, if there are skills you learnt and tasks you completed in completely different seats that can be applied to the new role, make the connection.
It’s incredibly important that you don’t include anything in your experience section that breaches confidentiality – anything not in the public domain should be filtered out of this section. Keep things brief – you can communicate your role without including client names or specific case details.
Once you’ve written about your time as a trainee, you can move onto your vacation scheme, or any insight days or legal work experience you attended prior to training. You should be selective at this point – there’s no reason to go back to the Saturday job you had when you were 15, for example.
Although it is possible to write “references available upon request”, including details of your referees in advance will only show that you’re organised and forward-thinking. Some firms will specify in the job advertisement that they require references – usually at least two.
In terms of who you should ask, a partner, recruiter or HR professional at your current firm is usually a good idea. The better they know you, the better reference they’re likely to give you – so definitely make sure that you’ve had a good professional relationship with anyone you ask. Also, it’s standard etiquette to ask a person before listing them as a referee.
There you have it – everything that needs to go into your NQ CV, section by section.