10 things you really need to keep out of your CV

There are two things that all job seekers need to remember when it comes to CVs. Firstly, they have one and only purpose in life – to win you an interview, not get you a job.

And secondly, even if you ‘took silk’ not long after the ink ran dry on your graduation certificate, there is no escaping the fact that employers will want – expect – to see a CV that is well-thought out and demonstrates what makes you the right applicant for the role they need to fill.

However, one of the biggest killers of job success is the unnecessary use of clichés in the CVs that we receive. While we recognise that there are certain stock phrases and terms that are used in the legal profession that cannot be avoided, there are many more which can.

So if you are serious about becoming the candidate-of-choice, take note of the following 10 phrases that we urge you to leave out of your CV.

  1. Results driven: You work in the legal profession, so of course you are driven to achieve the desired outcomes for your clients and your employer – you wouldn’t be much good if you weren’t, would you? We’re looking for evidence of success – what have you done in previous roles and what impact have these actions had on the organisation? Opt for words that suggest some form of metric – ‘achieved’, ‘resulted in’, ‘increased/decreased’ or ‘resolved’.
  2. Strong interpersonal skills: Well, you would never admit to being slightly shy or the life and soul of the party would you? Recruiters will decide for themselves if you have good communication skills – your job is to provide examples of how your ability to build working relationships has had a direct impact on the business.
  3. Team player: The ability to work as part of a team is not something that employers consider a nice-to-have quality, it is essential in the legal profession. There are few careers where workers don’t have at least one other person who they work with, so don’t state the obvious.
  4. Strong decision-making ability: In today’s ultra-competitive working environment the slightest hiccup can prove costly. Give instances of when you have had to consider all the variables, your reasoning for reaching the decisions you did and the outcome of those decisions.
  5. Blue-sky thinker: We hoped this phrase had left the lexicon of modern language after the clock struck 12 to usher in the new millennium and consign (finally) the era of perms and shoulder pads to the past. But alas not, some people continue to use this 80s and 90s cliché. Be contemporary in your use of language – we all know what you mean but give examples of how you have used your creativity in a work setting and difference this has made.
  6. Dynamic: Gosh, are you, really? Who says you are – is it just you or is that how everyone you have ever worked with would describe you? If so, tell us what makes you the dynamic legal professional you claim you are – did you introduce new systems or procedures that positively impacted client or colleague outcomes? Perhaps you helped to mentor new colleagues? Don’t tell – show.
  7. Thought leader: The further up the career ladder you climb, the greater the onus to share your insights with your peers. But never call yourself a ‘thought leader’ – you need to do thought leadership. So blog, attended industry events, actively participate in regional legal society groups, contribute articles to the local media and speak at key events.
  8. Ability to cope under pressure: This has become so over-used that few people really understand what it means anymore. How you have taken the opportunity to approach a challenge differently to how it has previously been done, for example?
  9. Take a helicopter view: So you can take a holistic view of a situation and view it from an outsider’s perspective – great. Then say that. Give an example of how you have been called upon to negate internal conflicts between colleagues or departments or how you oversaw the seamless transition of a case, for instance.
  10. Road mapping: Say what you mean: you had a vision (goal) and implemented your mission (how you will achieve that goal) and plotted your course accordingly, making whatever adjustments were necessary along the way to ensure you remained on course for reaching your objective.

Our job is to match the right people to the right roles, at the right time. So consider the people who will be reading your CV, include the most important information that will position the limelight on you and leave out all the rest.

If you need any advice on updating your CV, feel free to give us a call at any time. Our two directors have each worked as Solicitors for 20 years so they know precisely what employers look for in a CV – they were once the employers themselves.