7 Brilliant Tips to Help You Write a Killer Paralegal CV
Your step-by-step guide to writing a jaw-dropping Paralegal CV is here.
Paralegal CV: The big idea
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew that each employer to lay eyes on your Paralegal CV would be blown away by it? Do I even need to ask the answer to that question?
But you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is far too hard a feat. Paralegal jobs are uber-competitive, especially at top law firms. So how on earth can your paralegal resume set you apart from the rest and land you the job?
The key to success: sell yourself! It’s all too easy to think that your CV should simply be a dispassionate list detailing your working life – it really shouldn’t be. Instead, you need to tailor your CV to the needs and values of each company, presenting yourself as a valuable asset, one who will be able to make a real difference.
While this advice seems pretty general, it couldn’t be more true when it comes to paralegals – law firms are looking for very specific qualities, your challenge is to prove to them that you’ve got what it takes.
I spoke to the Nisha and Prakhar, Account Managers here at Jump who work with prestigious law firms such as Kennedys and Slaughter and May; between them, they have quite easily read over 20,000 paralegal CVs. Together, they’ve come up with 7 top tips to boost your paralegal prospects!
1: You need an eye for detail with your Paralegal CV
The law firm wants you to write a paralegal CV that really sells you. They want you to prove that you’ve got what it takes to be a paralegal with them and that you can hit the ground running.
Simply put: they want to know if you’re the person who can make a real impact at their firm.
The hiring manager reading your cover letter will also want you to show them that you know your stuff. That’s to say, you’ve researched this particular law firm and that you’re able to tell them how your individual qualities align with their values.
But keep in mind that your cover letter should make enjoyable reading too. A few punchy sentences here and there could distinguish you from the other 40 people applying to be the next paralegal at the firm.
If you’re still not sure what qualities employers are looking for in their paralegals, why don’t you check out this handy article that tells you exactly what it takes to be a paralegal?
2: Get your formatting spot-on
Can you guess the pet-hate of any HR professional? Yep, that’s right: poorly formatted CVs. Finding the relevant information, like where you’ve worked and for how long, shouldn’t feel like decoding a cipher! And it especially shouldn’t feel like trying to read hieroglyphics (if you’re partial to including graphics on your CV, I’m looking at you).
According to Nisha: “it doesn’t matter how accomplished you are. If you fail to present yourself well, you won’t get the job”. So, to really make sure your CV stands out, you need to make the life of the person reading it that little bit easier:
- Use bullet points instead of long, rambling paragraphs.
- Make use of subheadings to clearly signpost your reader, highlighting different sections of the CV.
- Aim for 1 side of A4 paper.
- Use a consistent format for dates: e.g. dd/mm/yy.
- Clearly segment your CV. It’s up to you how you choose to do this, but make sure to draw the reader’s attention to your most relevant experiences.
(Here’s a bonus tip for you – there’s something called the ‘CV hotspot’. It’s the upper-middle area of the page, where the reader’s eyes naturally fall. This is exactly the spot to place your best experiences).
3: Ensure that your experiences are task-focused
Most of the candidates applying to paralegal jobs will be just like you; they’ll have good experiences and a real desire to kickstart a legal career.
But here’s where you can be different. Describe your previous experience in a way that focuses on what you’ve achieved and how you’ve done it! The employer is not looking for descriptions of your duties, they are looking for what you’ve achieved and the impact you’ve made!
At all costs, avoid the vague and obscure. Instead, concentrate on the precise and specific. What did you actually do? What were the actual results?
For instance, don’t write: ‘I learned how to work independently’. Rather, try detailing exactly how you personally took ownership of a particular task.
Another great way to impress is to include facts and figures: at the end of the day, it’s a numbers game! Employers will look for ways of quantifying your achievements, so help them out. If you increased sales, what percentage increase did you achieve? If you’ve been supporting a solicitor, describe your caseload. If you’ve given a presentation, how many people did you speak in front of?
And remember that you’re applying to a law firm! Whether you’ve worked as a paralegal for years or you’re a recent graduate, you need to demonstrate that you possess a good level of legal knowledge. So think about the ways in which your experiences lend themselves to law and particular practice areas.
4: Your academic achievements can set your paralegal CV apart from the crowd
It often boils down to the grade game. Your paralegal CV will have to demonstrate that you have the mental prowess needed in order to thrive at a law firm. So even if you don’t have much legal experience, your grades can mark you out as a brilliant candidate.
As with any other CV, you’re expected to include your grades from GCSEs onwards. But unlike other employers, law firms really want to dig down into the nitty-gritty of your academic performance.
Provide a full break-down of your degree, including the modules you took and the exact percentages you scored. If you don’t, you can bet your bottom dollar that your competition will!
5: Make the most of your law-specific interests
The number one thing that graduates worry about is, when applying to paralegal jobs, that they have no experience.
Putting together a good CV straight out of university can feel like a daunting task, but I guarantee that you’ve got lots to say, you just don’t know it yet.
If at uni you took part in moots or debates, any law firm worth its salt is going to want to know! Similarly, you might’ve got some pro bono work under your belt, or maybe you were a member of a law or finance society? These are all great CV experiences, so talk about them!
6: Mind the gap!
You may hear this blasted over the intercom at rush-hour, but when it comes to a paralegal CV, people often forget that missing work history can do some serious damage to your chances of securing the job.
It’s pretty common practice to account for the last 10 years (any earlier isn’t all that important). But you wouldn’t believe the sheer number of CVs with serious gaps that Nisha and Prakhar see each day! And it’s not just them who are unimpressed: it’s one of the main reasons why law firms reject candidates.
This is such an easy thing to address, just be plain honest. If you took a gap year, explain that you took a gap year and detail what you did, what you learned and how it’s shaped you going forward.
So, whether you were studying, trekking through the Andes, or just needed some time off, make sure you don’t leave any gaps.
7: Do they need to know?
This is a good question to ask yourself when writing your CV. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need to tell a potential employer your life story (hurrah). Whether attaching a photo of yourself, detailing your fav show on Netflix or your football loyalties: a law firm really (and I mean really) doesn’t need to know.
The only essential details you need to include are:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your contact number
- Your email
You can include a brief section about your interests and hobbies, as this may illustrate whether you’re likely to gel with the team and shows off your personality. But no one is going to offer you a paralegal role just because you’re a whizz in the kitchen: keep this section short and sweet!
And finally, let’s talk about references. You only need to include a reference if the job description asks you for one. If you are required to list a reference, your best bet is to give the name of your last boss or university tutor – just provide their name and email.
And there you have it! Follow these tips to have your very own killer Paralegal CV
The CV is crucial: it’s your opportunity to make a brilliant first impression. But here at Jump, we believe that you’re more than just a CV! That’s why the Jump platform finds your ideal matches with exclusive paralegal roles based on your preferences, such as your desired salary and commute time. Why not check it out?
But before you go, don’t miss out on The Ultimate Guide to All Things Paralegal – I’ll wager it’s the best thing you can do for your career in the next 10 minutes.
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