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Creating a strong CV

If you are looking to work for a top firm or Fortune 500 company, reality is you will have plenty of competition. Of all the resumes that recruiters and employers receive, more than half get tossed aside.

The key to getting your resume noticed is to keep it outstanding and flawless.

Think like your prospective employer

Before you start writing your resume, ask yourself what role you are applying for, and what the culture of your prospective employer is like. This way, you will not be writing blind and will have a focused idea of your target audience.

Research and customise

Research the firm you are interested in and find out more about the type of work or clients they handle. Highlight achievements that convey strengths required for that specific role. For instance, if you are applying for a litigation role, include information about being the head of your debate team in university or bring attention to a high profile case that you previously won. Do not send out the same resume to every employer; tweak sections to fit the needs of the organisation you are applying to.

Keep it short

Keep your resume short and sweet. Avoid lengthy paragraphs and remove all irrelevant information. If you worked as a babysitter in high school or as a chauffer between jobs, you do not need to include information like this when applying for a legal role.

Eliminate “I” words and use action words

Remove the use of “I” or “my” in the document. For example, instead of “I reorganised the billing practices”; you should simply state, “Reorganised billing practices”. Place emphasis on accomplishments instead of responsibilities by using active verbs. For instance, instead of writing “Was responsible for managing a team of five” write, “Managed a team of five”. Action verbs like “performed”, “investigated”, “developed” create more impact.

Format, spelling and grammar

Use sub-bullet points to convey your past and present positions. Use classic black fonts in sizes between 10.5 to 12 points. If you are mailing your resume, use high-quality, white, ivory or cream-coloured paper. Your resume should be like a good piece of journalism, start with the most powerful and outstanding achievements in the beginning and put the less crucial elements at the end. As a legal professional, it is imperative that your spelling and grammar is immaculate, so spell-check and proofread your resume and ask someone else to look over it before you send it off.

Use a recruitment agency

Recruitment agencies like Robert Walters can help move your resume to the top of the pile as they have the right contacts and good relationships with prospective employers, i.e. Partners of law firms or hiring managers. “Regular resumes are put in a big HR pile, but Robert Walters finds out the specific needs of a prospective employer, meets with the candidate, then sends their profile to the decision maker,” says Ricky Mui, Director of Robert Walters’ Legal & Compliance Division. Mui adds that in Asia right now, the most in demand roles are in corporate finance, in particular capital markets, mergers and acquisitions litigation, employment, real estate and commercial. Candidates with six to seven years of experience in these fields are highly marketable.

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