Creating A Standout CV

Professional Services companies can be quite particular about what they want to see on your CV. Ensuring that your CV is up to scratch means that not only will you get the maximum amount of interviews that you can – hence giving you options. It also means that, in monetary terms, you could be worth more. So it’s well worth spending a couple of minutes thinking about it and making changes.  One of the biggest criticisms we hear from hiring managers about CVs is that they “just didn’t wow me”, below are some hints and tips for a great CV.

Overall Format

Your CV should be pleasing to the eye.  Don’t use a font that’s too large or too small and use single spacing.  Depending on the number of years’ experience you have, your CV should be 2-3 pages long and no more.

We recommend you not to use tables as this can confuse the format of the CV when printed or transferred to other versions of Word.  It also makes the CV longer than necessary.  We also recommend that you make it a Word Document and not a PDF – there may be very small changes that we need to make – such as taking off your personal details, it is very important that we’re able to do this.

We also recommend that you do not make your CV too text heavy – use bullets and bold or italics where appropriate to punctuate the text and ensure your CV is readable and easy to digest in small chunks.

Please spell check, grammar check, get a friend to check it – you’d be surprised at how many mistakes we see. Pay careful attention to words that can be spelt a number of ways – especially concentrate on American spellings and beware of apostrophes in the wrong places!

Personal Profile

Generally we advise against personal profiles as they’re often generic and don’t really add value to the content of the CV.  Most people use them to state that they are “a good team player but can also work autonomously” are “enthusiastic and hard working” and “pick new things up quickly”.  These are all too descriptive and intangible to be using as the opening lines of your CV.  If you feel strongly that you have qualities that make you stand out from the crowd and want to have a personal profile, it should contain statements unique to you – languages, if you’ve worked internationally, have a particularly high level of education or professional qualification that’s relevant to your job or have worked across a number of roles that may give you a commercial edge over and above another candidate.

Personal Details

Please do not put on any CV your Date of Birth, your driving license or relationship status – they are irrelevant and some firms are forced to automatically discount CV’s with your DOB on – so that there can be no question of age discrimination.

Employment Details

It is important that you put both the month and year employment started and ended with each organisation.  You should also state the company name and your job title.  If you are looking to change sector or a company is not well known, it is worth writing a couple of lines to describe it eg:

January 2009 – July 2011:  Clifford Chance – Business Development Executive, Corporate

Magic Circle law firm where I was aligned to the corporate team working with clients such as xxx.

Never refer to yourself in the third person and avoid overusing I – i.e. you don’t need to start every bullet point with “I contribute to pitches”, “I assist with targeting”, “I coach partners”

Achievements

The achievement section of your CV is the single most important part of your CV. It is the section that sets you apart from other candidates and companies increasingly want to see more than a list of responsibilities that make your CV look like a job spec.

For each role there should be 2-4 achievements that you can list. An achievement should showcase a particular project (internal or external) where you can set out the objective, summary of what you did and the result (ROI) – this should, where possible include some statistics – and if possible, value in revenue to the business.

One thing to consider is some of the intangible skills that might be heavily credited as you apply for more senior posts.  There’s a much overused word in the legal marketing and BD arena, and that’s “gravitas”.  What does it mean and how do you get it?!  It’s basically the ability to command respect.  In real terms this means can you talk to partners, get them to listen (and hear you!) and gain a positive outcome.  This could be anything from getting them to change their tack on a pitch, to where to hold an event to getting them to change the referees on an award submission.  Sounds simple right?  But are you actively seeking out these opportunities to prove yourself.  We’re going into a new year, so write yourself an action plan, or just dust off your appraisal that’s been gathering dust since June, and give yourself 5 goals that will give you great examples to demonstrate you have gravitas!  Present this on the CV by using words like leading, influencing, coaching, guiding.

Responsibilities

You should always list in bullet points the responsibilities in your present and any other past and relevant roles. It often helps to break this down into sections, Marketing, Events, Business Development. And then break these down into subsections like marketing comms, internal comms, web, targeting, research, submissions etc

Past Experience

Your past experience is, of course, necessary but once you have in excess of 5-6 years’ experience you can cut the detail down.  It’s still important to put the dates, company name and your job title on but a couple of bullet points describing the role will suffice.

Gaps

There should be no time gaps in your CV. If there is a period of time that you weren’t working you should explain this – for example, looking for a job, travelling renovating a house, caring for a relative etc. Include this in the body of the CV not at the end or beginning.

Education

Your education should not take up more than a quarter of the page – unless you are just beginning your career or have done very relevant modules in your degree, you should not include modules on your CV.

You should put any industry qualifications under Education – such as the CIM – and what level of this you have achieved.

Skills

You should only put skills on the CV that are relevant to the jobs you are applying for. Please put any systems you have used on there – if you are applying for temp or junior level positions it is also useful to cover off the standard of your Microsoft Office skills.

Interests

These are only interesting if they are specific. We suggest including a couple but only if they tell something about you as a person or are highly relevant.

Multiple CVs

If your experience lends itself to you applying for more than one type of role make sure you have tailored versions of your CV with relevant achievements and responsibilities to reflect this and label them clearly.  For example, a business development manager that has had a large involvement in a client relationship program may have a generalist business development manager CV and a client relationship manager CV.  Make sure you review the whole of your CV.  It’s easy to just add on each new role without reviewing the entire document.  This is important to ensure the right message of progression and relevant skills is coming through on the CV.

If you’d like some advice and guidance on how to put together a great CV, or are thinking about looking for a new role in 2019, please get in touch.