Writing a CV for an international move.
Bringing your CV up to date should be easy shouldn’t it? Dust off an old copy and paste in a paragraph or two of recent experience, you’ll be ready to go in ten minutes flat. It’s rarely that straightforward though, particularly when it comes to an international move. And if it is, there’s a good chance that you’re missing something.
With every additional year of experience, the emphasis of your CV is likely to change; more specialist experience, client development and supervisory skills; less focus on academics, training contracts, or standard deals/cases. Competition for the best jobs is fierce; it’s worth getting it right. Below are some key pointers to follow and mistakes to avoid:
Use a standard font. The legal world is not noted for being at the cutting edge of graphic design so keep it simple and use a clear, conservative font. Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Verdana…the choice is yours, but avoid the temptation to display your lighter side with Comic Sans!
Keep it consistent. Font, font size, paragraph spacing, use of bolds, underlines and italics, bullet points should all be used consistently throughout your CV. After all, attention to detail might be deemed vital by some firms when considering hiring a lawyer.
Size doesn’t matter. We’re of the opinion that detail is good in a lawyer’s CV and so one page is unlikely to suffice. Equally, if you are stretching beyond four or five pages, we would suggest you think hard about whether there is room for some editing. Anywhere in between is fine if the content is subject to some quality control.
Protect the white space. There can be a temptation to ‘shorten’ a CV by reducing the font size or spaces between paragraphs, points or sections. However, ‘readability’ is vitally important for people involved in hiring who may well be viewing many other applications alongside yours.
Structure. There is no right and wrong structure for a CV if the format is logical, chronologically in order and follows a consistent pattern. Some like to list their employment simply and then list skills and sample work from their entire career in one block, whilst others prefer to list details on a job by job basis. Use what works best for you and whatever gives maximum exposure to your strengths.
Ensure your mobile number and email address are included on your CV as well as on any correspondence. It can be a fine line when sifting multiple applications and the need to go back through a full inbox of messages to find your contact details could just count against you.
Key qualifications. Dates, institutions, course and results should be included but there is no need to go into detail regarding individual modules unless of particular relevance (or you are very junior). Go back at least as far as A-levels (or equivalent) and always ‘translate’ any results from international institutions into a format that will be familiar with your target firms. Don’t forget to include the month, year and jurisdiction(s) where admitted.
Employment. Dates (month/year), firm/company, job title, location should all be included. Internal promotions, secondments etc. likewise. If you are working/have worked with a less well-known firm, take a couple of lines to describe the organisation and your role in it. Always check the dates and account for any significant gaps.
List some sample transactions/cases including a brief summary of your role in the team. It is worth naming clients if you can, but if you can’t, at least give a general description. Remember, this should be a sample and should represent the highlights of your career so no need to list every matter, or every document you handled.
Include other information such as non-legal jobs, positions of responsibility, academic achievements or voluntary work, but keep it relevant and to the point. Part-time jobs whilst studying, unless making a material difference, need not go in. Details of summer internships should be kept short
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
Including skills, achievements and successes will greatly enhance your CV but focus on those which are measurable and demonstrable rather than general statements. For example, instead of ‘hard working’, comment on billings vs target; if claiming to have strong business development skills, reference client successes.
Remain focused on your core areas of expertise as too much variety can create a ‘jack of all trades’ impression (unless the role you are applying for puts a premium on a diverse range of experience - in-house for example).
Include a profile but get it right. This is an opportunity to highlight your core legal and commercial skills, your achievements and your goals. Think of what sets you apart from others. Business development experience, international exposure, language skills, sector expertise, unusual levels of responsibility for your PQE are all factors that could swing it your way in a competitive market.
Tailor your CV to the role. With the decline in detailed job specifications this is arguably harder to do but it is nonetheless worth considering whether a particular opportunity merits a slight change of emphasis in your CV.
This is no time for modesty. Remember that some skills you take as being normal might be rarer talents than you imagine. If you are struggling to see what sets you apart from the field, speak to your consultant. It is their job to bring out your strengths and it is rare that we meet a candidate who has reached any level with any decent firm without having had some impressive achievements.
‘INTERNATIONALISING’ YOUR CV
Use your profile to address your motivations for targeting an international move. It is widely assumed that it takes several months for a newly arrived ex-pat lawyer to be functioning at their best so naturally firms are looking for hires whose motivations suggest that they will stick around for a while.
Note that any experience of living or working overseas in any capacity and location is useful, if only to demonstrate that you are unlikely to suffer from an early onset of home sickness.
Highlight relevant geographical or sector experience. If you have lived in the jurisdiction that you are targeting, this should be clear on your CV but even if you haven’t, you may have relevant expertise. Targeting Cayman, have you had any exposure to the funds sector? Litigation in Dubai - any prior experience of working on construction disputes? Even a couple of relevant sample matters could swing things in your direction.
Consider your skillset. A typical international role will see you joining a smaller team, and in this environment, the nature of the job can be a little different. Most roles will encompass a broader range of work than might be typical in the City – consider highlighting your adaptability and versatility; extensive client contact is routine in many roles so draw out examples of your experience in managing relationships.
Show commitment to the move. Applicants getting cold feet late on in the interview process is a major concern for firms when hiring internationally. The time it takes to secure a hire, process a visa application and serve a notice period leads them to look for people who are genuine in their interest and who show commitment to making the move if/when the right opportunity arises. Try to hedge your bets and they will err side of caution.
Outside interests. If you are applying for the roles in Bermuda, perhaps mention your love of diving or sailing rather than your fondness for mountain climbing or your passion for West-End theatre!
We produce a comprehensive suite of resources to assist you in your international move. Check the resources page of our website for more advice on your CV (including a template), interviews and guides to many of the key markets where opportunities exist.
If you would like to find out more about the market, discuss potential opportunities or just ask a few questions, please get in touch. If you would like to send us a CV you can rest assured that it will be treated confidentially and never released without your advance approval. If you prefer to chat first, you can contact us any time on the details below:
Jason Horobin ddi. +44 (0)1206 233 514 [email protected]
Charlotte Hooper ddi. +44 (0)1206 233 515 [email protected]
Resources you may like
Summarise your experience and show how it fits the role with our CV Template
Summarise your experience and show how it fits the role with our NQ CV Template
When it comes to international recruitment, the option to interview over Skype, BlueJeans, or one of the many other online videoconference platforms.