By Kathleen Harris
As a recruiter I review and offer advice on candidate’s CVs on a regular basis. I am also the main person in my family and group of friends who is called upon to help with a CV when someone is applying for jobs, training schemes, or even university courses.
I always ask candidates to send me a copy of their most up to date CV, this is often met with slight panic from lawyers who haven’t updated their CV since they applied for their training contract. It can certainly seem like a waste of time to keep editing a CV when you have a great job and can see yourself at your current firm for your whole career. However, your working situation can change quite rapidly, whether because of a change in family or financial circumstances, or because of a wider problem your firm is facing. At this point it becomes essential for you to have a CV you are confident with ready as soon as possible. Now CVs are largely quite quick to write, some of the best CVs I have seen are just two pages long. When considering a move it is not the time it takes to update a CV that is the problem, the issue is forgetting to include something which could be the deciding factor in whether you receive the perfect job offer.
Quite often firms will be looking for quite specific experience depending on the type of clients they serve (and their location) and the firm’s areas of focus. A recent example I have found is of a firm looking for an insurance litigator. The role was posted on the firm’s website without further description; upon talking to our contact at the firm we were told that they were specifically looking for someone with D&O liability experience. It is crucial that your CV is adapted to closely match (as much as possible) the profile of the firm’s ideal candidate. This is where maintaining and updating your CV on a regular basis becomes crucial. You may well have worked on a case which precisely matches the experience a firm is looking for – but now (perhaps two or three years later) will you remember it, or remember enough details about the case to put on your CV?
This is the same for academic history, especially for junior associates or for lawyers looking to change practice areas. You may be a general banking lawyer who wants to shift their practice to focus on project finance work; but may have had very little projects experience in your current role. At this point it becomes essential for you to be able to prove how committed you are to making that transition. One of the easiest ways of doing this to go list any relevant courses you have taken whilst at or since university, any lectures or conferences you may have attended, or even articles you may have written. All of these things help to support your case when making an unusual move. In order to help you remember all of this when the time comes to thinking about a move, it is always useful to note down anything you do on a CV – even if it doesn’t seem relevant to your career at the time.
The easiest ways of keeping you CV up do date with minimal effort include: updating your LinkedIn with publications, awards, courses, and similar (LinkedIn prompts you to update sections of your profile on a regular basis), and having a CV format that is easy to add to. Have a word/pages document version of your CV saved on your laptop with different sections for training undergone, courses taken, events attended, publications, and examples of work you have completed (including when, and which firm you were at). Having these sections makes it easier to update your CV regularly, as well as making it easier to condense and adapt to specific roles you are applying for at a later date.