It’s all in the Prep!

Curriculum Vitae (noun – Latin, course of life)


How to draw up an impressive CV, and to make sure yours is at the top of the pile!

It is interesting how so many people can get such a simple document so very wrong.  The keyword to remember here is ‘simple’.


We all know that first impressions count….

And we all spend time on our appearance for a face-to-face interview and yet often pay little such attention to the one document which carries the weight of getting you that face-to-face opportunity in the first place.

You only get that one chance to make a good first impression.  It is important that your document is informative and detailed but succinct and easy to read.

We are often amazed at how many people experiment with a variety of fonts, colours and tabloid-style displays to put across their skills and attributes and whilst those in the more flamboyant, art market may have artistic licence to do so, I would advise those keen to impress our legal professionals of the highest order, not to do so!


Simplicity is key.  So, to begin:

  • An opening catchy ‘Personal Statement’ should be one, maybe two, short, factual paragraphs which highlight your main skills and attributes, an overview of your experience to date and your reasons for moving. Don’t forget to add a sprinkling of your personality!
  • Length: three pages is the ideal length for most CVs. Those at the beginning of their career should stick to two pages, but more experienced individuals can stretch this to four maximum.
  • Layout: your experience should be in reverse chronological order, ie. your latest role first, with details of each employer and the month and year you started and finished with each.
  • Employment description (latest first remember). Describe each role starting with the name of the employer and the nature of their work and your position.  This should be followed by a short description of your key responsibilities and accountabilities, providing examples of results where necessary.
  • Skills & attributes: outline your key skills but try and avoid using clichés such as ‘excellent communicator’; give details as to how you have these skills, what have you done to evidence your claim. Think about your transferable skills!
  • Achievements: articulate the successes you have personally achieved which have added value to each of your positions.
  • Education and qualifications: be honest and explicit about examination achievements, listing subjects and awarded grades at all levels. List and date all professional qualifications and/or memberships.
  • Contact points: don’t forget to put down your email address, mobile/home telephone numbers and living postal area.
  • Other useful information can include: IT experience – list computer software you can use and are familiar with, fluency in a foreign language.


Things to avoid: common CV blunders!

  • Grammatical errors and typographical mistakes. Use spell-check or get someone to proof-read it for you.
  • Explain any gaps in your CV! A prospective employer will see them, and you do not want them to make presumptions as to reasons for unemployment especially if you were travelling, taking a career break or caring for someone.
  • Stick to the facts, elaborate but do not fabricate!
  • Don’t exaggerate; in your enthusiasm to sell yourself, try to not to come across as arrogant!
  • Avoid clichés such as ‘excellent interpersonal skills’
  • Don’t mix different text colours and fonts.
  • If you are applying for a number of positions, remember to personalise it to each role, highlighting the skills you have which are relevant.


ABC offers CV workshops on a monthly basis, providing top tips and guidance on CV writing.

To book your personal appointment, contact Penny Reason-Martin or Ellen Doughty.