It is important to learn how to edit and identify weaknesses in your CV after you write it. This will let you zero in on the parts you need to change and keep the parts that you wrote well. Certain aspects of your CV may throw up red flags for reviewers. You should know what your employers are looking for and what you should keep in mind to address in your cover letter, change or remove outright.
While some of these red flags are unavoidable, you should at least know that they will give employers at law firms and agencies some pause when they show up in your CV. Your goal should be to mitigate these weaknesses and address any red flags in additional documents — ideally a cover letter or email.
Most weaknesses in the CVs of law students can be boiled down to two issues:
Lack of experience means that you simply don’t have enough relevant line items to impress an employer. The way to solve this is not to pad your resume with irrelevant items. However, consider nontraditional work experience such as volunteer work, internships or leadership roles in campus organizations.
While you don’t want your resume to extend beyond a page, you also don’t want it to end three quarters up the page. This can be remedied to some extent by using formatting tricks. Bullet points, tabs, margins, spacing and font choice can help your relevant CV items stand out.
Above all, you don’t want to appear to be an unfocused “job hopper.” Even if your career path does not make sense to you, it should make sense to your prospective employer. You want to appear to be a focused, determined individual with an eye toward keeping the position for a long time. A summary section or a short paragraph in a cover letter may help.
Another solution to a lack of focus in your resume is to ensure that all of the line items for each position are related, ideally with an eye toward your desired position. (Have you tailored your resume yet for your area of practice or for your prospective employer?) For instance, if the firm is currently recruiting divorce lawyers, list work that you’ve done in the fields of divorce law, mediation and even finances, and avoid mentioning unrelated subjects as much as possible.
If your CV is not up to par, consider completely rewriting it with focus and experience in mind. Developing a strong CV is not easy, but if you put in the work and write several drafts, it will show.
Want to try out another technique? Ask yourself questions you think prospective employers will have when they review your CV.