banner image

Cut The Chaff: Why Knowing What To Leave OFF Your CV Is As Important As What To Include

  • February 20, 2024

As one of the most important documents in the first stage of a legal candidate’s job search (alongside the LinkedIn profile), the CV is arguably an inexhaustible topic of discussion for hirers and legal professionals alike, particularly where relevance, structure and formatting are concerned. And although these are still very much pertinent, an equally crucial – and often overlooked – aspect of CV crafting is the skill of knowing what has no place on it, and what can be detrimental to its effectiveness.  

Spending time reviewing and improving your CV is undoubtedly time well spent, although you should never just cram it with additional points if they aren’t going to add value to any application or to enhance your profile. 

Ensuring there is the right amount of information on the document to demonstrate suitability for the role is important, but it’s a fine balance to ensure that it is to the point and not full of distractions or waffle – especially when you consider that hiring managers and recruiters take only a few seconds to scan the document and make a decision to progress, or not. 

As such, it’s always worth considering what information serves little to no purpose in your CV and worse, is potentially squandering your prospects altogether…  

Less is More 

Starting with the often-overlooked but opening information, things like your age, marital status, and arguably personal hobbies should not be in your CV as they not only hold little relevance to the position (and thus, little value to a hirer ) but they can potentially prove detrimental to your efforts, as in having them present they waste the precious time your CV has been afforded to catch a hiring manager’s eye, and can introduce an unconscious bias towards applicants of certain age groups or demographic.  

If you do want to add in a short section about interests outside of work, it’s usually best to give this no more than a few lines – you can always leave talking about this personal element in your profile to the interview itself. These should also fit in with the professional persona you wish to portray = so talking about how you love going out with your friends on an evening, or a vanilla ‘I like doing exercise’ are taking up precious real estate on the page that can be much better-utilised. 

Cull the Obvious 

Similarly, any notices informing employers that ‘references are available upon request’ are unnecessary and should be taken out. This is already implied through your job application itself and so is an obvious fact that doesn’t need reiterating in your CV. The same thing applies to any ‘salary negotiable’ statements – this is not new or unexpected information to employers and is needlessly taking up space. Ultimately, any generalist information that doesn’t communicate what the hiring firm will be looking for in your CV shouldn’t be included and failure to keep your CV clutter-free can give off the impression that little effort has gone into tailoring it for the role, and that it is being used as a catch-all document for multiple job applications. 

If you’re wondering why that might be that off-putting to recruiting firms, it is because it is one of the tell-tale signs of a spray-and-pray job application approach. And whether intentional or not, it is a surefire way to get yours binned. 

Avoid the Jobseeker Jargon Trap 

Pertinent to this is the common mistake of peppering a CV with all sorts of jargon and cliches, which is just as damaging to a candidate’s prospects if not more. When writing a CV to present as compelling a narrative of your professional journey as possible, the use of certain phrases or buzzwords to ‘doll up’ one’s profile can be a tempting move (and it may be the case that these have slipped into your vernacular simply due to ignorance); however, is an all-too-familiar ploy to employers, and an eyesore they will readily want to avoid, especially if such statements or phrases aren’t backed up by any quantifiable evidence.  

The language you use to highlight your skills and suitability is every bit as important as the information it is trying to convey and requires just as much thought and consideration. As such, a sense check of where your CV leans more on generic statements instead of measurable results, and how it can be better-written is essential if you’re aiming to craft one that catches the eye. 

With the widespread adoption of the likes of ChatGPT and other AI tools, it’s also worth considering how such tools can help (or hinder) in this regard. 

If you do choose to utilise an AI tool to support, it is a well-known no-no to write the whole document from scratch, simply because it increases the likelihood of fabricated details being added to your draft. A better approach would be to do it section by section, beginning with your personal statement, then your experience & responsibilities, then your achievements, and so on. This not only helps to avoid having false information but it also makes it easier to spot it as you work through your draft section by section, should it still be added in, and allows you to better format your CV while doing so. 

Click here for more information on how to avoid the jobseeker jargon trap. 

Filter Out the Chaff 

This applies to any other kind of passive language present in your CV or anything speculative, such as extensive lists of job roles and responsibilities without any relevant accomplishments. A career is not something that just happened to you and should never be treated as such by the language you use to describe why you are a good fit for the role.  

Your CV should be filled with examples where you actively take credit for your work and achievements to quantify your value as a potential hire, and where this is absent it signals a lack of confidence in your suitability as a candidate to hirers, which can seriously hurt your chances of employment. Remember that firms want to ensure their investment in a candidate is going to yield encouraging results, and if your CV doesn’t give them the impression that you are worth that investment, they will waste no time with time consuming interview process. 

Finally, 

When it comes to the communication of information through any media, what is said is so often what comprises the subject of discussion, when it is really how such information is structured and conveyed and – at times, what is omitted – that tends to make the difference in how it is processed and interpreted.  

This is what underpins the skill of CV crafting and where the ones that top the pile shine – no matter the role, specialism or sector in question. When every second counts with your prospects on the line, your CV needs to sell you in as clear and compelling a manner as possible – a feat we as recruiters are very much aware can be tricky at times, even for the most experienced of legal professionals. That’s why at Clayton Legal, our expertise goes beyond  the often perceived ‘transactional’ process of matching CVs to open roles. 

We are every bit as committed to empowering the legal professionals we work with to present themselves as the first choice hire, whether that be at the initial screening or interview stages. If your next career move seems to be very much on the horizon but needs clarity with regard to the way forward, we are here to help. Give us a call on 01772 259 121 or contact us here. 

Share This Post

banner image

LinkedIn 101: Creating a Stand-Out Profile

When it comes to selling your value to recruiters and hirers alike, there is always some due diligence and preparation needed in order to ensure your digital profile is up to date and really sells the value you will offer to a new employer. 

Getting your CV up to date and reviewed is the most obvious first step as this humble document is still the main catalyst to displaying and demonstrating your skills and experience. 

However your LinkedIn profile is often seen as the digital version of your CV and more often than not, will be viewed in parallel with any documents you send directly in the application for a new role. Ignoring this as a marketing channel to ‘sell’ you and your suitability is a mistake some jobseekers make – but the truth is, it should be given the same care and attention as your physical CV, if not more. 

As the world’s biggest professional platform with over a billion users currently registered, LinkedIn is the place to broadcast your value as a legal professional and if utilised properly, can convey this in the most interactive and engaging of ways  ways that a CV alone can never achieve. The benefits it can provide and the edge it gives candidates willing to invest in maximising its potential are numerous and at times, it can be the only thing one actually needs to get a foot through the door of prospective hirers, particularly if you aren’t actively looking for a new opportunity, but would be open to speculative conversations about what’s out there. 

Here we look at why a polished LinkedIn profile is indispensable to your job search in the modern age and the quick, easy wins you can amass using a well-crafted profile to help earn – and cement – a place in a hirer’s shortlist. 

Headlines And Pronouns   

When talking about selling yourself, fewer things make more of a difference in your efforts than a strong first impression. As the first piece of text a recruiter or potential hiring manager will see and the second thing that will tell them about who you are, your headline is what will give the first impression of your skills, credentials and suitability for a role, and you have no more than 220 characters to make it count.  

It might be tempting to go with a simple “ Paralegal at X Company” but to hiring firms this is of little – if any – value. Rather, it is best, according to Mimax Senior Talent Partner Margaret Buj, to go with one of the below formats. You can choose any of the 3, depending on your PQE level, experience and skills but you’ll notice that each one concisely showcases your value in some way to prospective employers. This is because the key to writing a headline that captures attention, whatever the structure used is to succinctly paraphrase what you do and what you bring to the table.   

  1. Role & Specific achievement, e.g. Solicitor at BLM.  X (significant) deals closed/X high-profile cases won.
  2. Role & Years of Experience in practice area(s) and region, e.g. Solicitor at BLM. 5+ years of experience in dealing with insurance litigation, housing disrepairs and property damage in Liverpool.
  3. Role & what your expertise is, e.g. Senior Lawyer at BLM. Business Ethics & Management, London. 

You can also add a few other things that make it easier for hirers to identify you in your headline, such as pronouns. The use of pronouns lets hiring managers, colleagues or online connections know how to address you and avoid any misconceptions.   

Fix Up – Look Sharp 

We live in an era where by and large, seeing is believing, and it is well-documented how influential imagery and media can be in any context, let alone when you want your profile to be viewed by potential hirers. 

 As such, a profile photo is more of a necessity than a luxury to your job searching efforts should you be looking to remain as visible as possible to prospective employers. As it is right at the introduction section of your profile, it is very likely the first thing people will see immediately after they land on your page and whether consciously or subconsciously, the first thing with which you will be assessed both as an individual and a professional. 

Now, to some this is seen as a potential hurdle to their job-searching efforts, as a photo can be a source of discrimination, considering it can also display ethnicity, age, gender, religion and more. While it is an unfortunate reality that certain individuals, hirers included, can write off a potential candidate with unconscious bias, it still serves you well to include a well-taken photo in your profile. There are a few reasons for this:  

Firstly, from a purely technical standpoint, profiles without a photo on LinkedIn are categorised by the algorithm as incomplete and are therefore less likely to show up in the search results to hirers and/or recruiters looking for profiles similar to yours.  

They also appear inauthentic, as profiles usually tagged as fake are those assumed to be the ones without a photo to showcase proof of identity.   

A photoless profile can also lead to a perceived lack of professionalism or ability to utilise LinkedIn, as to many hiring managers, it can be inexcusable to not have one considering the level of technology candidates have at their disposal to get one of good quality.  

On that note, it is only photos of such standard that will be deemed acceptable and not just any photo will do, so deliberate effort must be taken to ensure a photo that showcases a good blend of professionalism and personality is used. Remember that your photo is what will most strongly be associated with your professional image and reputation, and what you carry everywhere with you, whether on LinkedIn, another platform or in real life. If your photo is taken on an evening out with friends from several years ago, then it is absolutely right to review and replace with something that illustrates who you are on a professional platform.  

Are You Easy to Contact? 

If your profile has garnered the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager, and boxes are being ticked on potential suitability for a role, the next step is to make direct contact.  

The quickest way to kill your chances of being selected however is a failure to include basic contact details like a phone number and an (appropriate) email address – something a surprising number of candidates still fail to check.  

Make sure these are all present and clearly visible in your profile, and that the email address provided is as professional and easy to read as can be. Avoid the likes of informal addresses like tenerifedan69@gmail.com or something indicating personal information as this can trigger subconscious biases. Ensure that this sense of professionalism is reflected in other details present in your profile such as your LinkedIn URL and any possible links to portfolios or achievements and keep them short, clean and easy to access.   

If you wish to add anything you have written such as white papers written papers or links to any recorded work done at conferences or events, then you can include them in your featured section. Regardless of where you add them though, make sure these are present in your profile if possible, as they give recruiters a chance to see more of what you can dover and above generic job descriptions and your ‘About’ section.  

Your About Section  

Contrary to what some may think, this is not a simple regurgitation of what skills and credentials you’ve got on your CV. It is your opportunity to buttress your case for your suitability and is what people will be next interested in if your headline catches their eye.  

 Think of it as an extension of this part of your profile – if your headline sparks the interest then your About section will do the heavy lifting when it comes to converting that interest to action. Therefore, make the best use of the 2000 characters you are given in this section to write relevant, useful information that sells your skillset and any successes you have seen (that is attractive to potential employers). 

 Some examples of ‘what good looks like’ from LinkedIn themselves can be found HERE which may give you an idea of how to give yours an upgrade.  

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Underneath your photo and headline you will see buttons that allow you ‘add profile section’ or add a frame to your profile picture. Both can be useful in providing more information on your job-seeking status, as well as adding more depth and insight to your personal profile and achievements. 

 The ‘open to’ button will give you three options, but as a jobseeker the one to select is ‘open to work’. If you are currently not employed this is one of the easiest ways to let recruiters and hiring managers know you are a potential candidate without even clicking on your profile. Failure to have to take this step can actually keep you out of an employer’s shortlist, as it may lead them to assume you are not open to any potential opportunities. However it goes without saying that caution should be taken if you are currently employed and your current employer is not aware of you looking for a new role.  

In the ‘add profile section’ you can add core information (education, skills), recommended (certifications, courses, links to white papers or presentations you’ve delivered), and additional (pro bono work, languages spoken, test results and more). 

Whichever section you choose to enhance, we recommend that you write this first person to avoid sounding pretentious, and to give readers a little flavour of your personality. Do you volunteer? Can you speak Russian? No one wants to hire a robot, and these added extras can help to make you more of an attractive prospect to would-be recruiters and employers.  

That said, ensure that, whatever you choose to add either in this section or throughout your profile, they tick the below boxes:  

  • Does it showcase your competence as a legal professional? 
  • Does it communicate your value, with supporting evidence? 
  • Does it help you stand out?  

Walk the Walk and Talk the (Right) Talk  

Equally important to your job-searching efforts is what you actually say and do on the platform, as this can often tell hirers and recruiters a lot about who you are and whether or not you are worth their attention, without even clicking on your profile.  

The content you post, repost, share and take the time to comment on communicates how you want others to interact with you on the platform, whether you are aware of this or not. 

Therefore, ensure that you have no track record of any ill or inappropriate communication on your profile and the content you interact with. Get rid of any comments that are distasteful, controversial, or aggressive in nature and keep your feed as clear of such content as possible. This is not to say that personality is unwelcome on LinkedIn but it should not be at the expense of your professional reputation and especially, your job-hunting prospects.  

Instead, focus on sharing content that showcases and demonstrates your commitment to professionalism, growth and value in your area of expertise. This will tell anyone that sees you on the platform through your interactions that you are a communicator who likes to stay on top of their game and has a finger on the pulse of the industry and specialism.  

Do you share (and comment on) 3rd party news relevant to your practice area? Do you champion awards or events linked to your current firm, or the wider legal industry? If so – it’s always worth glancing at your own feed from time to time to sense-check how those looking at your profile see your activity and how you interact with your own professional network. 

Similarly, if you list networking or relationship-building as a skill, but your feed is like a ghost town – there is also a disconnect, so will need amending where necessary.  

It’s not (Just) What You Know… 

 Following on from this point, capitalise on endorsements from colleagues and clients as these can be significant green ticks to employers and recruiters. Social proof remains a great influencer in people’s decision to ‘buy’ or in this case, get in touch to find out more information and whether online or otherwise, should not be dismissed as a waste of space to include in your profile.  

Any recommendations or endorsements you have acquired, you should be adding regularly and if you don’t have any, don’t be afraid to ask. You will be surprised how willing people can be to give you a recommendation (especially ifyou offer to give one back in return). 

Finally, 

The key to building a standout LinkedIn profile starts with all of the above but it certainly doesn’t stop there. Your reputation is only as good as the amount of investment you put into maintaining it, and this applies on LinkedIn just as much as it does in real life, so establish a routine that helps you stay on top of your online presence and keeps your status up to date. 

In today’s dynamic professional landscape, maintaining an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is not just a formality; it’s a strategic necessity. Your LinkedIn presence serves as a digital representation of your career journey, skills, and aspirations. It’s often the first impression you make on potential employers, recruiters, clients, and collaborators. By keeping your profile current, you signal to others that you’re actively engaged in your field, open to new opportunities, and committed to professional growth.   

Furthermore, a well-maintained LinkedIn profile can enhance your visibility, credibility, and networking capabilities, ultimately opening doors to unexpected opportunities and fostering meaningful connections.  

 So, whether you’re actively job hunting or content in your current role, investing time in curating your LinkedIn profile is a proactive step towards shaping your professional narrative and advancing your career journey. 

  

About Clayton Legal 

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.  

 If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121.  

Share This Post

Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

banner image

The Boomerang Dilemma: Is the Reward Worth the Risk?

If you have started the new year with a feeling of discontent with your current legal role, you may have already started to consider what those crucial next steps look like.

At this crossroads, there are a number of options available, but crucially they boil down to two choices.

 

1. Speak up and express your unhappiness with your current employer. Depending on the root cause, it may be something that can be addressed and overcome or worked through. There may be a lateral move internally for example that would be worth considering, or a review of your working arrangements.

2. Consider other opportunities in the market. Whilst general hiring trends indicated a dip in the sector in 2023, vacancies were by and large still above pre-pandemic levels, and there is most certainly a wide range of roles available to those looking at pastures anew.

If you have found yourself in the second category, either by proxy, if all elements have been explored in option 1, or you feel it is simply the right ‘time’ there is also another route available that has seemed to gain momentum in the last 12 months – returning to an ex-employer.

The Boomerang Phenomenon

If you have ever considered the possibility of returning to a former employer, you’re not alone. Welcome to the intriguing concept of “boomerang hires” – a phenomenon that is reshaping the way we view career trajectories – and one that has gained popularity in recent months.

As the term coined implies, put simply it means returning or circling back to a previous workplace – whether that’s because you are seeking a fresh start somewhere else, or are aiming to rediscover a company culture that you once thrived in.

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, research has shown that boomeranging was previously quite rare. However, more recent studies have found that across a wide range of industries, nearly 20% of workers who quit their jobs during the pandemic have since returned to their old employers.

These boomerang individuals present a big opportunity for law firms who are starting to look at this option as a strategic recruitment tool, and also present a solution to the industry-wide skills shortage that continues to be a challenge for firms in the hiring market today.

(It also consequently presents a major risk with respect to retention, as new hires may be increasingly liable to boomerang back to their previous organisations.)

As far as jobseekers go, however, as with any move, there are obvious benefits as well as challenges to consider >>>

Familiar Territory

Perhaps boomeranging’s biggest selling point is the familiarity it offers. Starting a new job is so often filled with uncertainty around things like fitting in, making a good first impression, and adapting to a new firm culture, all of which can slow down that bedding-in process and affect performance in those first crucial weeks on the job, especially if it’s one very different to what the norm used to be.

Making a return to familiar territory expedites this acclimatisation period, as not only is there far less of a learning curve skill-wise during the onboarding process compared to your first time as a new starter, but the knowledge and understanding you have of the business’s ways of working and dynamics helps to bypass many of the above challenges and quickly hit the ground running.

Refreshed Perspective

Career growth often entails exploring different opportunities and gaining diverse experiences and at times a step back may be needed in order to take a leap forward. Some employees leave their previous employers in search of better prospects in their line of work, only to realise that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and consequently, return with not only a refreshed perspective but also a great deal of experience and know-how their previous employer can greatly benefit from, particularly if they joined a competitor.

This puts returning employees in a great position when it comes to career prospects, particularly if the relationship between both parties pre-departure was built on mutual respect and as a result, they are better placed to get a job offer that reflects their value to the hiring firm in the form of a higher position or opportunities for progression.

When to Think Twice…

It is crucial to remember, however, that these benefits are very much dependent on the kind of firm and working environment you are returning to. If the reasons for your initial departure centre around an unhealthy company culture, a lack of growth opportunities, flexibility or limited upward mobility, returning by no means guarantees or even promises any significant changes. Some firms are resistant to change, and if the reasons that prompted you to leave remain unaddressed, chances are you will be facing the same challenges upon your return. Before deciding to boomerang, it’s imperative you assess whether your ex-employer has taken steps to improve the aspects that initially led to your departure – or whether you have overcome those reasons yourself.

Salary Growth Limitations

One of the most likely reasons a move back to a previous employer is ever on the cards is the prospect of salary growth and improved compensation. As discussed earlier, it is one legal professionals can often feel more entitled to considering the skills, knowledge and experience they are bringing with them upon their return and certainly now more than ever in the current market, with the average salary increase for job hoppers higher (14.8%) found to be higher than those of professionals that stayed put (2-4%). However, a word of warning here – as a decision to boomerang based on salary incentives alone is an ill-advised one. Boomerang employees who expect their salary to match the increase they may have achieved after leaving may face disappointment, as employers will be hiring a lot more for fit rather than solely skill and will see this strategy coming from a mile away. There’s also the fact that even if you do get the salary increase you’re looking for, it may turn out to be the only silver lining in your move back if you happen to be returning to colleagues unhappy with the circumstances around which you and your employer parted ways.

Water Under the Bridge

Another note to consider is how and under what circumstances you left your previous employer. Was this on good terms?  This is a key thing to take into consideration when exploring the idea of returning to a previous employer, as that may dictate the terms of your relationship with present employees should you decide to boomerang. Remember that it is not only old relationships you will be returning to when you do, but also the impression you left on colleagues with your exit. With any luck you will have resigned gracefully, so a return back to the fold will be seamless – and welcome.

This also swings both ways. If feelings of bitterness or uncertainty are present due to redundancy or parting on bad terms, then it can be difficult to turn over a new leaf without harbouring a grudge or even a sense of guilt, especially if your departure was recent. According to certified life and career coach Emily Liou, a good way to determine if boomeranging is the best decision is to consider the following:

  • If your return is driven by ego, i.e. a desire to prove a point that they should’ve never let you go.
  • If there is a strong sense of scepticism regarding the integrity of the management.
  • If there is a loss of respect for the employer due to how previous layoffs were handled.

If the answer is ‘yes’ to one or all of these, it is probably not the best move to return.

Context, however, is always key no matter what way you look at a dilemma of this nature as another angle worth considering is the reason for your exit if you were laid off. If such reasons are economic and the departure was handled with respect and sensitivity, then yes, a move back can possibly be on the cards – if it is in line with present career aspirations.

Keeping Career Goals on Track

Perhaps the most important thing to consider of all is where a possible return is going to take you career-wise. Judging by where you are at present in your legal career, will it bring an upward trajectory to your career growth in the next few years is this more of a lateral move?

Whatever your reasons for or against a move back, remember that your future career goals and objectives should take absolute precedence in your decision-making and should be the biggest driver of any desire to move roles, or indeed, boomerang. T

To this end, a regular check-in and period of self-reflection regarding your progress is paramount. Your vision for your development as a professional, and the path to get you there should always be clear and if it isn’t then a snapshot of what it currently looks like it is in order. Our simple checklist can help to identify where that gap between aspirations and reality is and help you get a sense-check of your present objectives, so that you make the best decision for your career, whether that be a boomerang move or otherwise.

Unsure of Which Direction to Take?

If you’re stood at those crossroads and find that you need more guidance than a simple checklist can provide, and bit of expert advice to make those next few steps in the right direction can be hugely valuable.

At Clayton Legal, we work closely with hundreds of legal professionals who are either actively searching for a new opportunity in the market, as well as those who aren’t quite at that juncture yet.

We don’t believe in recommending roles that aren’t a good fit for your skills or aspirations, and will always provide an honest (and impartial) service which means putting ALL options on the table so that you have all bases covered.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post

Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

banner image

Your Legal Career Checklist

When was the last time you sat down and reviewed to what extent you are meeting your career objectives?

And I don’t mean your annual review with your line manager; I’m talking about your deeply personal career goals and intentions.

Wherever you are in your career journey, it is a good idea to periodically analyse your current position in light of where you aim to be. When you dig a little deeper, is everything working out as you expected? Or do you need to make some changes in order to stay on track to meeting your goals?

To help you measure if your legal career is progressing as you envisaged when you started out, we have created the following checklist to provide you with a snapshot of where you stand at present career-wise and whether you’re on the right track.

When you work through this checklist, it is essential to bear in mind the reasons you are where you are in the first place.

What did you set out to achieve in your career – and what does doing so look like up to this point? Did you plan on meeting certain financial goals by this stage of your career or have your ambitions been driven by more personal goals?

An equally important point to consider is what you value most about the firm you work for. Do your values fit in with what the firm’s culture prioritises? Is there a synergy present in your working relationships with your colleagues and managers?

If you find that your current role or firm is not providing the satisfaction you had hoped it would, or that the pace of your progress has gradually petered out, then it could be a sign that some important decisions need to be made regarding your career sooner rather than later.

Read each statement below and decide on how much you agree, using the following scale –

1 – Strongly disagree

2 – Disagree

3 – Neutral

4 – Agree

5 – Strongly agree

So, let’s get started!

Career Checklist

1. I am progressing the way I want in my career.

2. I have achieved some of my career goals, and others are within reach.

3. I enjoy my work and look forward to going in each day.

4. The people I work with are very supportive and friendly.

5. I feel like a valued member of the team I work within.

6. My manager gives me the right balance between support/guidance and working under my initiative.

7. I feel I make a difference within the company I work for, rather than just being a number.

8. The company I work for really invests in supporting me to achieve my goals.

9. I can see a clear progression path within my current company.

10. I am happy with the level of training and personal development offered by my current employer.

11. The company I work for believes in me and trusts me to do my job well.

12. I feel that my company enables and supports my focus.

13. I am recognised and rewarded for my work.

14. The sector I work in really interests me.

15. I am happy with the location of and commute to my place of work.

16. I feel my company offer a fair and competitive commission structure (if applicable).

17. The monetary remuneration I receive has enabled me to achieve goals in my personal life (i.e. buy a house, go on my dream holiday, etc.)

18. I feel I have the right work/life balance working for my current company.

19. I am happy with the way my working day is structured.

20. I can see myself staying with this company for a long time.

What Did You Score?

Tally up what you scored and take a look below at some of the points you may want to consider when thinking about how you want your career to progress in the future:

 

20-40

Alarm Bells!

Things aren’t going to plan, and you are probably not enjoying life in your current role. We suggest taking some time to reflect on the possible reasons behind your dissatisfaction and what needs to change to have them resolved. This can be anything from your current workload and position within your team to your working environment and even your practice area.

 

41-60

Room for More

A better score, which suggests there are aspects of your job you enjoy but also a lot of room for improvement. For example, you might like the people you work with, but feel that there is a lack of support present within management to help you meet medium or long-term career goals. You will need to find out if there is any commitment on the part of the management team to implement changes, and assess how concrete said plans for change are. Speak with your manager and outline your concerns as well as what plans they have in this regard. Whatever the outcome of the conversation, you will have either gotten a clearer picture of what your future at the firm looks like or a clear indication that your tenure there has run its course.

 

61-80

Meeting Some Goals

You’re neither happy nor unhappy, though you wouldn’t describe yourself as entirely satisfied. Meaning that if the right opportunity came your way, you would be weighing up your options. Whenever you feel this way it’s important to bear in mind that sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If you’re leaning towards a move away from your firm, have a think of why this is your preferred option. What you want to be sure of is that there is no impulsivity driving your decision-making and that an exit is needed because of a bad career move, not a bad day at the office.

 

81+

Loving Life and Your Job

You are achieving your goals, meeting targets and enjoy life where you work. There may be elements of your work life that you feel could be better, but they aren’t big enough of a negative to make you consider working elsewhere. However, we suggest you don’t let complacency set in, as being in your comfort zone for a certain period of time can sometimes lead to that and prove counterproductive to your progress in the long run. If you find that despite being happy with where you are in your career, you haven’t taken any major steps forward in the last year or two, then a fresh challenge could be the jumpstarter you need.

 

Hopefully this checklist has prompted you to think harder about your career goals – and whether or not you are on track to achieve those with your current employer. If the final score however has intimated a change may be afoot, your next wise move is to call on the expertise of a recruitment specialist who can further challenge those thoughts; find out exactly what you are looking for from an employer and uncover the potential reasons you are ready to look at new opportunities in the market.

At Clayton Legal, we have been committed for the past 20 plus years to helping legal professionals build a career they can be proud of, whatever stage of their journey they might be at. If you are at a point where that next step in your legal career is unclear going into the new year, then we can give you the guidance you need to make your start in 2024 the strongest possible one. Give our team a call today on 01772 259 121 or contact us here.

Share This Post

Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

banner image

The Importance of Networking (and Casting That Net Wide)

  • January 8, 2024

Networking doesn’t necessarily come easy to everyone, and sometimes even the thought of it can be met with apprehension or worse, sheer anxiety when placed in a situation that can be emotionally or mentally draining.

That being said, investing time to hone your skills will pay dividends in the long run, especially in today’s highly competitive legal landscape where networking will not only help you to expand your client base but also provide opportunities for mentorship, career growth, and collaboration.

As an essential skill, networking has huge potential to open up new opportunities for aspiring legal professionals and play a major part in their career success. And, whilst it’s a given that not everyone is comfortable networking, all lawyers should at least be competent if they want their skills to advance. You might be worried about what to say, or how to introduce yourself to new people, especially if you’re surrounded by reputable professionals, but, in reality, it’s relatively easy to become a pro with a little bit of extra practice. Here are some key tips to keep in mind.

Seek Guidance from a Fellow Professional  

Consider who you know to be an impressive networker and could provide you with some helpful advice on how to approach it to form professional bonds. This could be a family member or friend, colleague or even someone from your time at university or law school. At the very least, they are likely to let you bounce some ideas off them which will enable you to sharpen and hone your skills.

Be proactive

Waiting for networking opportunities to come your way won’t yield significant results – you need to be proactive. Take the initiative to attend industry events, seminars, conferences, and bar association meetings. Through your employment at a law firm, you will no doubt have exposure, and be invited to join more formal legal networking events. However, do seek out other associations that can equally provide fantastic opportunities to widen the net in your professional network. As a newly qualified lawyer, there are Junior Lawyers Divisions set up locally and regionally, as well as Trainee Solicitor Groups for those yet to qualify. These will give you a great foundation and springboard to networking in usually informal settings, yet still add a huge amount of value to those starting out in their legal career.

Always Come Prepared

Perhaps an old-school networking method, but still an effective one, having a business card on hand can be extremely useful when actively networking with legal professionals, and even more so in the non-professional conversations you have on a daily basis that could give rise to networking opportunities. When they come your way, you want to have a way of capitalising on them. This leads to an even more important factor in networking – having an ‘Always On’ mindset is crucial if you want to do this as effectively as possible. While you don’t need to shoehorn your career passion into every interaction, looking at networking this way can help you improve your social skills in these lower-risk’ situations and build confidence for the bigger conversations you might have with employers or reputable professionals down the line.

When it comes to preparation in the more conventional sense, a set of simple but clear pointers is your best friend, no matter the size or type of network event you are attending. As these events are ultimately about getting you in front of, and eventually front of mind of other like-minded legal professionals, it is essential that on the day you are confident in your ability to navigate the most common social scenarios you find yourself in.

Set Realistic Targets

This starts with going in with realistic expectations about your interactions at the event. Under no circumstance should you be expecting yourself to speak to the majority of people at any event, whether that be an event of 50 or 500. Consider your reasons for being there in the first place. Are you looking for new commercial opportunities or are you perhaps lining up your potential next employer? This will help you narrow down the scope of your search for individuals to speak with to a select few targets, and make planning for those conversations far easier and consequently more productive.

Your next step should then be to ensure you have a few pointers in mind about said conversations, how to begin them and keep them going. A simple but firm handshake and a brief introduction of yourself, your work and what you wish to speak about, before asking them about theirs, should be enough. Avoid kicking things off by firing questions at them as it disregards the other person’s involvement in the conversation and is a quick way to get them uncomfortable with talking about themselves to you.

Prepare Your Pitch

One of the most important parts of networking is your initial pitch – and first impressions count.  How will you introduce and describe yourself to people in an engaging yet concise way? Again, the best way to do this effectively is to get feedback from fellow professionals in your network; ask them to listen to your pitch and offer constructive criticism if required. However, you should also be careful not to over-rehearse, nothing sounds less authentic than an overly polished introduction.

Find Common Ground

In terms of the content of the conversation itself, this will vary depending on who you meet on the day of course, but there are certain scenarios you can prep for beforehand. For example, if you know a certain guest or speaker will be present at the event, then you should be doing your research on their background – where they graduated from/are studying, what law firm they work at and what their own personal interests are.

The best networkers don’t just stick to the stuffier topics when networking. They recognise it’s about showing empathy and finding out more about the person that they’re talking to. And, after all, most lawyers like talking about themselves so finding common ground is of paramount importance. Whether that’s football, cycling, your children or anything else you can think of, it’s easier to build stronger relationships if you have some sort of shared interest.

Your research should not just be limited to LinkedIn or a simple Google search either, or even the person themselves, but also around what you find out about the above areas like the university or law firm they studied/work at. These can commonly be found in any interviews, podcasts or panels they’ve spoken at. The reason for this is that in reality most legal professionals attending the event will already have done their research on at least a surface level, and will therefore ask largely the same questions like: what motivated you to move into this profession, what are your personal interests outside of work, etc. which the person in question will quickly find boring.

As your goal for attending the event is to build lasting relationships and expand your network, particularly with well-known legal professionals, you need to ensure you leave as strong an impression as possible on with whom you are speaking and to do that you need to make it less like an interview and more like an opportunity to talk about their most enjoyable aspects of their life/career. For example, if you have already done your homework on the above and know they happen to also regularly play badminton in their downtime, you could ask a question like:

“I found out in your interview with X talk show that you’re really into your badminton and I also happen to love playing with my friends on the weekend! I was wondering how you manage to fit it around your schedule considering your line of work demands so much of your time. Is it a serious interest you have outside of work?”

See the difference between this and a casual ‘How do you balance work with personal hobbies’ question? While the latter really only is concerned about what the answer is, the former takes care to make it relevant and personable to both parties with the aim of learning more about the person, thereby making the chances of getting an equally engaging and unscripted answer more likely.

Follow Up

It’s all well and good meeting people at an event, but it means little if you don’t keep the conversations going by following them up. If it helps, make a short note on the business cards that you’re given to remind you about the individual and then follow up on any information you promised to send over the next day. This leads on to another key point; the importance of reciprocity. People are likely to feel much more inclined to help you if you can offer something that helps them. That means if you know a solution to a problem that someone you met was struggling with, pass it across to them. People are more likely to remember you based on how you make them feel, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to make their lives easier by addressing problems they have. This is how you facilitate reciprocity in professional relationships.

Find value in online networking

Whilst face-to-face interaction is perhaps the first thing that springs to mind when you think of ‘networking’ in today’s digital age, some of the most invaluable opportunities to connect with professionals outside of one’s local vicinity comes from online networking. Platforms like LinkedIn offer a wealth of resources for lawyers to showcase their expertise, connect with peers, join industry-specific groups, and share valuable insights through thought leadership content. Actively participating in online discussions and engaging with other professionals worldwide can equally be hugely beneficial in building your personal brand, marketing your services and that of your firm, and gaining insight and updates relating to your specific role and practice area. For legal-specific online networks, groups like the Junior Solicitors Network are also a virtual hive of activity, giving members access to news and resources to support career and personal development, as well as opportunities to connect with other legal professionals.

In conclusion

Networking in the legal sector isn’t straightforward and some professionals will find it much more difficult than others, whilst others may decide to avoid it altogether.

However, learning the skills around professional networking is essential for lawyers looking to thrive in the legal industry – not only forging strong relationships for their own career and professional development, but using it as an opportunity to market yourself (and your firm) to potential stakeholders and clients.  

By being proactive, building genuine relationships, utilising online platforms, and staying connected, legal professionals can create a robust professional network that opens doors to new opportunities, enhances their careers, and contributes to long-term success.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.  

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis.  

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here

Share This Post

banner image

Take The Stress Out Of Your Legal Job Search: Use A Specialist Recruiter

  • November 1, 2023

The amount of stress that searching for the right role to advance one’s career can cause, is no secret to any legal professional. Time constraints, mounting case workloads and the resulting pressure to juggle work and personal commitments are just some of the struggles candidates often have to deal with. And that’s not even mentioning the rejection emails or calls jobseekers will inevitably have to face as part of the process, before beginning to make headway in their job search.

While a little stress can be useful for certain situations, high stress levels can quickly wear us down and drain our mental resources, robbing us of the energy, motivation and headspace we need to tackle daily challenges head-on. As many as 79% of workers around the UK have cited the source of their stress to be work-related this year, with 74% saying it has reached a level that has made them unable to cope.

Considering how demanding job-searching can be, having to deal with unbearable levels of stress is not exactly helpful when needing to be on your A-game to network effectively and make the best possible impression on prospective employers.

This is where the option of enlisting the help of a specialist recruiter would be a game-changer for legal candidates. Not only does it save you an inordinate amount of time, but it spares you the hassle you would otherwise have to contend with if you were job-hunting alone.

Here are just some of the many benefits you can gain from working with one:

A Time-Efficient Job Search

Many will be well aware of how daunting and time-consuming a job search can be, especially if you’re already employed and are trying to find a better role elsewhere. Being one of your most important resources as a legal professional, you stand to benefit greatly from utilising the services of a specialist recruiter as it significantly cuts down the time spent on scouring job boards and websites. Due to the vast network, connections and knowledge they possess of the industry, they are in the best position to find you a role that ticks all your boxes. As a result, what might have taken you months can easily be achieved in weeks or even days.

In some cases, consultants will already know in advance if a particular firm is actively on the hiring market before a vacancy is even posted. Leading firms often utilise agencies, because it’s a more efficient way for them to hire the right person. Rather than searching for opportunities that may not be visible online, you could save a considerable amount of time by working with an expert.

Valuable Market Insight & Access to Connections

While job boards can be a useful resource for identifying opportunities, firms will often opt to use their network and their recruitment company’s network to seek the right people for most fee-earner/niche roles, rather than advertising them online. The reason for this is that candidates who are right for these particular roles are often in demand and are either not on the market or are not actively seeking new employment opportunities. With a skills-short market currently making the fight for top legal talent more intense than ever, prospective employers are far more likely to rely on the help of a specialist legal recruiter to source the right candidate for their firm.

With a recruiter on-hand, you gain instant access to the information they hold about all relevant roles in the industry and current trends in the market. A good specialist recruiter will utilise the insight their network provides them to find the right fit for you, culture and skills-wise. By acting as a representative for both you and the firm, a specialist recruiter will facilitate the communication process, and ensure that the firm you are interested in is a good cultural fit for you.

Expert Guidance to Boost Interview Performance

Certainly, the most stressful part of searching for any new job is the dreaded interview stage which can be particularly daunting if it has been a while since your last interview. That’s where a specialist recruiter earns their keep, as they exist to make all parts of the transition from your current role to a new one as stress-free as possible. They are therefore always on-hand to help you prepare for the big day and offer career-specific guidance on how to approach your interview preparation accordingly.

As they are well-informed of the current hiring trends and practices adopted by employers, it is undoubtedly in your best interest to take onboard any advice they give regarding common and tricky interview questions, body language and even things like dress code and travel logistics.

They Will Negotiate the Best Deal for You

Getting an offer of employment for a role that you’ve long been in search for is half the battle; the other half is of course getting what you want (what you feel you’re worth) in terms of remuneration. Salary negotiation can often be a tricky and awkward conversation with a future employer, especially at such a sensitive stage of your relationship, and so it is best to let a legal recruiter handle such discourse. In addition to ensuring that you get the best possible deal when it comes to pay and benefits, they will also iron out other important parts of the deal such as notice periods, start dates and career development opportunities available to you in your new role.

Personalised Support – Your Success is Their Success

One of the biggest advantages of job-hunting with a specialist recruiter is the vested interest and understanding they will have of your particular needs on both a personal and professional level. What you’re looking for in an employer in terms of culture, values flexibility, role and ‘fit’ can be difficult to find and even articulate at times, especially as these are not always reflected in the job descriptions. This means candidates are often left to gauge where the best fit is for their career. Whereas by working with a legal recruiter they will not only have a firm grasp of what your priorities are but will also ensure they – and you – are well-sold to the firm in question.

It is therefore in their own best interest to be selective on your behalf with regard to vacancies; by choosing the most suitable roles for their candidates to maximize success, which will not only reduce the competition candidates face for each role, but also improve their chances of getting hired. Their success lies in their ability to see to it that you’re happy in your desired role as it means they are successful with their client – a win-win for everyone.

If you would like to speak to us confidentially about market conditions, opportunities in your practice area or geographical region, or if you are actively looking for a role and would like us to help give you that competitive edge, we would love to speak to you. Contact us here or call the office on 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are looking for a new legal position or just want to speak to a recruitment expert about the current market, call our team on 01772 259121 or click here to submit your CV.

Share This Post

banner image

Why Now is The Time to Start Putting Your 2024 Plans Into Action

  • October 18, 2023

With the darker nights noticeably creeping in, and the shops already stocked with Christmas paraphernalia, the final push towards the end of the year is upon us. This last quarter is often a period where many businesses and individuals will be making firm plans for the following calendar year, setting budgets and agreeing business objectives. And for many, with an average three months’ notice period across the industry – consideration of the ‘c-word’ is also likely. Not ‘Christmas’ per se…but career – what it looks like and where it is heading in the new year.

The so-called mid-career career blues happen to everyone at some point or another  – and it can often be for a number of reasons…

You have outgrown the position

One of the most common reasons legal professionals cite as a reason to leave their current position is around progression – or more specifically, lack of opportunities at their current Firm. Often, a lateral move within the firm is one viable route that, whilst perhaps offering a similar overall remuneration package, does provide the individual with the chance to expand their skills and professional network. Quite often a lateral move can provide a revised career path that still gives that individual chance to develop and learn about other areas of that business, and in turn raises the status of that employee and their broader influence internally.

However, this is not always possible either due to the size or structure of the Firm in question, or because of the current practice area that individual operates in. If the role no longer provides opportunities for the growth you seek in your career and there isn’t an obvious path to promotion, chances are finding a new opportunity elsewhere may be the only option to further advance your career. Before making that leap, it is always time well spent to review the market for opportunities, particularly if this is the first time in a few years you find yourself looking for those greener pastures. Ensuring that the firms and roles you look at do offer clear paths for progression and advancement is key for ambitious individuals.

Recruitment agencies have a vested interest in understanding the sector in which you (and by extension, they) operate, and because of the trusted position that they have with Clients, they will undoubtedly be able to offer you market insight, practice-specific guidance as well as trends and activity they are experiencing in the recruitment cycle. It is always worth enlisting their help at an early stage to get that birds-eye view of market trends and movement, as well as the inside-track of Firms in your area.

You are looking for an increase in remuneration

If the driver for moving is monetary, then it goes without saying that the first step should be to explore the option of a pay review at your current firm first. Whilst few individuals relish the thought of having those perhaps awkward conversations around money, it is important to see where the land lies first, even if that is to sense check the Firm’s position ahead of a diarised salary review later in the year/early next year. It is important to head into such conversations realistically and professionally – can the Firm afford the figure you have in mind for example? Have you got clear reasons why the review is justified, based on performance perhaps or the value you have brought to the business? Building a strong business case here is important – as is knowing your value and worth in the wider market.

This brings us to the second point – researching your market value. Understanding the current average or better still, range of salaries for similar roles in the market is crucial, especially if conversations around a pay rise end without the desired resolution and your hand is forced to look elsewhere. Recruitment agencies undoubtedly add value here with live salary data and wider benefits packages on offer for active jobseekers.

However sometimes the only way to achieve your salary expectations is to talk with your feet and look at other opportunities in the market where they can be realised. It is a perhaps unfortunate reality that pay increases tend to be more significant upon a move (as opposed to an internal promotion) so doing your due diligence early on will pay dividends so you have a realistic view of what those next steps look like.

You are looking for more work/life balance

Long hours and demanding workloads within the legal profession are much documented (and prevalent even amongst those who work from home according to a recent article in The Law Gazette).

Whilst changing job roles may not necessarily negate all of these, the landscape of work has altered significantly following the aftermath of Covid, meaning that the likes of hybrid and home working models increased exponentially which for many has helped to strike a balance between work and home life.  Whilst this won’t be the case for everyone (and ongoing conversations about whether hybrid work arrangements should be abandoned altogether rumble on ) conversations around flexi-, agile-, home- and hybrid- are still taking centre-stage amongst jobseekers are legal job roles offering such work arrangements.

Conversations around the pros (and indeed cons) of flexible working arrangements is still ongoing – and there is a fine line to tread when sometimes homeworking leads to an ‘always on’ mentality. A recent article even looked at research highlighting a negative impact on wellbeing….

Nevertheless, there has never been a better time to have an open conversation with your Recruitment Consultant, or prospective employer about the ways in which they can support the balance you’re looking for.

There are many other reasons of course that trigger that early decision to start looking for new opportunities. The reasons may be complex, and numerous, yet it is often not a decision that is taken lightly. According to our own Salary Salary and Market Insights Report, other reasons include envisaged redundancy, conflict in the workplace, and down to a relocation. Most respondents we spoke to however (37%) said the decision came down to a desire to progress, upskill, and take on a new challenge.  Employee expectations around how, when, and where they work have changed – and as clients continue to compete for the best talent, arguably it has never been a better time to make the leap.

Next Steps

If you would like to speak to us confidentially about market conditions, opportunities in your practice area or geographical region, or if you are actively looking for a role and would like us to help give you that competitive edge, we would love to speak to you – especially if you have your heart set on a new challenge for the new year.

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

Share This Post

banner image

The Evolution Of The CV – And Its Place In The Digital Age

In today’s competitive job market, it’s more important than ever for candidate profiles to stand out. With digital channels such as LinkedIn (often seen as an online CV) and video platforms becoming the norm, it’s quite normal to consider where the traditional CV lies in all of this. Is crafting a 2-4 page document still worth your time and effort as a jobseeker?

In short – absolutely.

The CV (Curriculum Vitae) continues to plays a crucial role in the job application process. It serves as a summary of an individual’s skills, qualifications, and experiences, showcasing their suitability for a particular role. But have you ever wondered how this document came to be and how it has evolved over time?

Here we look at the history of the CV, from its humble beginnings to the digital age, and explore its impact on the job search process – and it’s future.

The Birth of the CV

The origins of the CV can be traced back to the Renaissance era, specifically to the genius mind of Leonardo Da Vinci. In 1482, Da Vinci, in search of work, crafted a letter to the Duke of Milan, outlining his skills and experiences in various fields such as engineering, sculpture, and bridge-building. This letter is often considered to be the first official CV on record. Although Da Vinci did not secure the job he sought, his innovative approach to presenting his qualifications set a precedent for future job seekers.

The Middle Ages: Portfolios and Personal Profiles

While the concept of a formal CV did not exist during the Middle Ages, there were instances of artists and inventors creating portfolios to showcase their work. These portfolios, often referred to as sketchbooks, contained designs, sketches, and examples of their craftsmanship. One notable example is Villard de Honnecourt’s portfolio, which dates back to the 13th Century and includes architectural drawings and mechanical designs. These portfolios served as a visual representation of the artist’s capabilities and can be seen as precursors to the modern-day CV.

The 20th Century: Newspapers and the Rise of the Modern CV

In the early 20th century, job applications predominantly relied on newspaper advertisements. Applicants would submit handwritten or typed resumes, which included personal details such as age, height, weight, and marital status. These characteristics, as you would imagine, were often used as discriminatory factors in the hiring process. However, as societal norms progressed, legislation was implemented to address these biases. The inclusion of hobbies and interests in resumes became popular in the 1960s, allowing job seekers to showcase their personality and interests beyond their professional qualifications.

The Internet Age: Online Job Boards and the Power of LinkedIn

With the advent of the Internet, job searching underwent a significant transformation. Online job boards, such as Monster.com, emerged in the 1990s, providing a digital platform for job seekers to submit their resumes and connect with potential employers. The rise of social media further revolutionized the job search process, with LinkedIn leading the way as a professional networking platform. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn allowed individuals to create online profiles, highlighting their skills, experiences, and professional achievements. It became a valuable resource for recruiters and job seekers alike, providing opportunities for networking and job discovery.

The Future of the CV: Multimedia Resumes and Personal Branding

As technology continues to advance, the CV is likely to undergo further changes in the future. Multimedia CVs, incorporating elements such as videos, infographics, and interactive content, have gained traction in recent years. These dynamic platforms offer job seekers a unique opportunity to showcase their skills and creativity in a visually engaging format. Additionally, personal branding has become increasingly important in the job search process. Job seekers are encouraged to cultivate an online presence through social media platforms, personal websites, and blogs, allowing them to showcase their expertise and stand out from the competition.

The Role of the CV in the Modern Job Application Process

Whatever the design and format, the CV has become an essential tool for both job seekers and employers in the modern job application process. It serves as a snapshot of an individual’s qualifications and experiences, providing employers with valuable insights into a candidate’s suitability for a particular role. However, the evolution of the CV has brought about new challenges and considerations. Job seekers must adapt to changing trends, ensuring that their CVs align with current expectations and industry standards. Employers, on the other hand, must navigate through a vast pool of applicants, leveraging technology and innovative recruitment strategies to identify the most qualified candidates.

Changing Candidates’ Approach to Job Searching

The evolution of the CV has also influenced how candidates approach the job search process. Job seekers are now more proactive in building their personal brand and online presence, recognising the importance of networking and showcasing their skills beyond the confines of a traditional CV. They are leveraging social media platforms, professional networking sites, and online portfolios to engage with potential employers and demonstrate their expertise. Additionally, the accessibility of online job boards and digital application processes has made job searching more convenient and efficient, allowing candidates to explore a wider range of opportunities.

The Impact of Technology on the CV

Technology has played a significant role in shaping the evolution of the CV. The shift from paper-based CVs to digital formats has streamlined the application process, making it easier for candidates to submit their credentials and for employers to review applications. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have also become prevalent, enabling employers to efficiently screen and manage large volumes of documents. However, it is important for job seekers to optimize their CVs for ATS compatibility by using relevant keywords and formatting techniques.

Other AI-focused platforms that can help jobseekers appear on the market almost weekly – and whilst it becomes hard to see what is truly useful and what is a distraction, there is certainly more in development that can help to elevate your profile.

The Importance of Continuous Learning and Adaptation

As the job market continues to evolve, it is crucial for both job seekers and employers to stay abreast of industry trends and adapt their strategies accordingly. Job seekers should invest in continuous learning and skills development to remain competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. Employers, on the other hand, must embrace innovative recruitment practices, leveraging technology and data-driven insights to identify the best talent. The CV, as a reflection of an individual’s qualifications and experiences, will continue to be a fundamental tool in the job search process, but its form and presentation may continue to evolve.

Conclusion

The evolution of the CV from its humble beginnings to the digital age exemplifies the dynamic nature of the job search process. Leonardo Da Vinci’s letter to the Duke of Milan marked the birth of the CV, setting the stage for centuries of innovation and adaptation. From portfolios in the Middle Ages to the rise of online job boards and professional networking sites, technology has continually shaped the way job seekers present themselves and connect with potential employers. As we look to the future, multimedia CVs and personal branding will likely play an even greater role in the job search process. However, amidst these changes, the fundamental purpose of the CV remains the same – to showcase one’s qualifications, experiences, and potential to prospective employers.

We have a number of resources and guides about what to include in your CVs (and indeed, what to leave off) – CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THOSE.

Whether printed and taken in to an interview, uploaded to a role profile online, or sent as a PDF speculatively to a potential employer, the 2-3 page document certainly has to work hard to confidently ‘sell’ your suitability for the job in question. That’s why it’s also worth enlisting the help of a specialist legal recruiter to also represent you in the market. A good recruiter will take the time to get to know you – your skills and strengths, and how to leverage these when talking to a hiring manager or Partner. They will also help to bring your 2-D document to life, talking to the hiring firms about your suitability, how they envisage you fit in with the culture, and the driving force behind your move.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or perhaps have had your fingers burnt by a bad hire in the past, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post

Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

banner image

Unleashing The Power of AI in Your Job Search

The sudden emergence of AI onto the hiring scene has brought in a wave of changes that have transformed how job seekers and recruiters alike approach recruitment and job hunting. With the growing importance of the role of AI in recruitment has come an evolution of a similar ilk in the job search process for candidates on the job market, and in recent months much has been written about how they can leverage tools such as ChatGPT and AI Resume Writer to get the most out of their job search efforts.

However, in order to fully reap the benefits of AI technology as an active jobseeker, a thorough understanding of what exactly AI has brought to the hiring landscape on both sides of the playing field is essential, as one must first know the role of AI in the recruitment process of hiring companies to better understand how it will inform and change your approach to job hunting, as well as understand where it offers many benefits and where it shows its limitations.

Used long since its recent evolution into a highly influential tool for hiring managers, AI has been playing a simple but necessary role in the early stages of the hiring process for over the past two decades, helping companies sort through long lists of candidate applications by automating profile evaluation, and effectively streamlining hiring practices in a variety of other ways to optimise recruitment efforts. And, with how businesses have been forced to adapt in a cut-throat post-pandemic market and economic climate, its importance has only grown.

Shrinking recruiting budgets and growing talent pools have meant that digital technologies have begun playing an increasingly decisive role in the outcome of job seekers’ fates employment-wise. Although in some cases, pertinent (and valid) questions are being asked about transparency and accountability, particularly with how easily it can reflect the biases of its users, and ultimately exacerbate the issue it was meant to eliminate.

With the role of AI in hiring set to only expand in the near future, the importance of being aware of where exactly the winnable battles lie in the job application process – whether that be with the bots or their employers – has never been more crucial for a job seeker.

 

Beating the Bots

It might come across as stating the obvious considering the nature of the process but automated software used in hiring tends to eliminate far more candidates than those pushed through to the next stages. What is rather surprising from this fact is the implication that it’s rarely the most qualified person who gets the job, as stated by career coach and CV writer Lauren Milligan. This is, unsurprisingly due to the cut-throat efficiency with which AI software operates, and when employed in the initial screening stage in the hiring process, can mean candidates’ dreams of securing a highly desired role are over before it’s even begun, despite pouring hours into crafting the perfect CV or cover letter to avoid such a fate.

This won’t be news to some, however, as many are already aware of how these kinds of AI software, usually known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), operate. Their use of keyword matching, to assess your fit based on the extent of the match between your skills and experience and those listed in the job description, has become common knowledge amongst candidates, but it can mean that applicants who are otherwise very much qualified but without the necessary overlap between the required & acquired skills (usually between 70-80%) get cut out.

Another important, but perhaps less known and yet obvious point about how ATS’ work is the chronological order in which they sort through candidate applications. These systems will usually have a cut-off point on their list of applicants in order to save time and efficiently deal with roles oversaturated with job applications. This can mean that regardless of whether or not you have applied the above tips to your job search efforts, the success of your application can hinge on which end of the applicant list you end up on – in other words, how early or how late you apply for any role. Do it too close to the given deadline and even if you did submit it on time, your application will likely end up being dropped simply because it happened to be below the cut-off point.

To this end, employing AI to cut down on the time spent searching for a role by taking your use of it, is now a necessity rather than an option for active job seekers. Fortunately, with how frankly overwhelmed candidates are today by the number and accessibility of AI tools available to aid them in their job search, getting your application axed early is now a very avoidable fate.

Job seekers have the opportunity to optimise their CV to match the job description as accurately as possible and pass that initial litmus test by employing the use of AI CV writer tools, to help to write, suggest edits to and include the right keywords in their CV. While these tools don’t have a steep learning curve, there are pointers that could prove helpful in utilising them well.

 

Feeding The Hopper – Getting Out What You Put In

One of the biggest tips when using any AI tool to generate content is to give it as much context and detail as you can, as the quality of the desired piece (to a degree) depends on what information you provide it. So when writing CVs, using AI tools such as ChatGPT and Resume Kicker, it’s a good idea to provide context regarding your background, achievements, education and work experience, making sure to add in measurable results to back up career achievements like percentages, ranges, findings, as these are things AI tools like ChatGPT won’t automatically know or might fabricate if you don’t tell it.

Some other tools like KickResume or Rezi require just the job title and generate job titles that match it in a bullet point format. Obviously, you are free to change this to your liking as long as it accurately reflects your experience and roles.

 

A Step-By-Step Approach

If you do choose to utilise an AI tool to support, it is a well-known no-no to write the whole document from scratch, simply because it increases the likelihood of fabricated details being added to your draft. A better approach would be to do it section by section, beginning with your personal statement, then your experience & responsibilities, then your achievements, and so on. This not only helps to avoid having false information but it also makes it easier to spot it as you work through your draft section by section, should it still be added in, and allows you to better format your CV while doing so.

 

Find Tools To Support (Not Replace) Your ’Marketing’

When employing AI to help craft your CV or Cover letter), utilising tools that simulate the keyword-matching process is useful as they can scan your document for keywords/phrases relevant to the job description.

This is where the crux of the issue lies when trying to get past any ATS and as previously mentioned, a failure to do this can make other efforts to get your foot through the door meaningless, even if you do have the right skills and credentials for the role in question.

There is specific software on the market now such as TheProfessional.Me to address just this; with both CV scanning and CV writing tools to analyse your job descriptions and include relevant keywords. There are also browser plugins like Jobanalytics, which work in a similar manner, to ensure that your CV has a high enough keyword match to be considered eligible by the ATS.

 

Forget Your Formatting At Your Peril

When it comes to CV formatting and layout, keeping this clean and simple is just good advice to ensure your salient points are clear and don’t get lost.  Plus, your formatting must be simplistic so it is as easy to scan as possible  – both physically by a hiring manager and by any ATS platforms used. The reason for this is that ATS’ usually reject CVs with more complex formatting elements such as boxes, tables or graphics and favours CVs with a more traditional layout as they are easier to analyse. While this can undermine attempts from candidates to convey a strong personal brand through their CVs and Cover Letters (more on this later), it is necessary to avoid getting booted by the system automatically, especially if your CV ticks all the other boxes. So be sure to space out your sentences and structure them in an easily digestible format, using bullet points and professional fonts like Times New Roman.

 

Tidying Up Your Digital Footprint

If you use AI tools to update and refine your CV, you’ll also want to update your online CV too – namely, your LinkedIn profile. Optimising your work experience here is key to include keywords and phrases relevant to the type of role you want. Go into as much detail as you are able and don’t forget to include any tangible results that back up any statements.

Whilst a CV builder can certainly help to lay the foundations, quite simply, this is the one area it won’t be able to finesse as this knowledge lies with you – so be prepared once again to adapt, edit, and personalise your profile accordingly.

 

Preparation Support For Interviews

As you progress down the recruitment process as a jobseeker, AI tools are flooding the market to help here too. Take ChatGPT for example which can simulate mock interviews or provide a list of questions that it recommends you ask as a candidate looking for a role in a specific practice area.

Google meanwhile has developed its own interview-preparation tool, Interview Warmup where you are asked to ‘speak’ your answers out loud whilst the tool transcribes and then provides insights into what you said.

This is a great tool to not only give you a chance to practice and perfect your responses, but also to learn about your pace, word choices, intonation, and hesitations. Being aware of these (and what you need to improve on) will undoubtedly help you to prepare for the day in question.

However, what such tools won’t give you is insight on the ‘typical’ questions asked by that particular firm; what the hiring manager or Partner is looking for specifically, any intel on how previous interviews with that firm have tended to run, or the inside track on the vacancy, make up of the team, or historic hiring activity.

 

Can AI Really Do It All?

While AI brings numerous benefits it’s important to acknowledge some potential drawbacks as well – at least for the time being.

CVs and cover letters are still as important as ever to do the heavy lifting when it comes to getting your profile noticed – whether that’s for a direct job application, a speculative send to an employer, or when you register with a recruitment agency to represent you in the market. And, whilst AI tools can certainly give you a foundation on which to build your content, it is unlikely to suitably represent your own personality. Rather, without intervention, you run the risk of producing an identikit CV containing the same words, phrases, and points as another legal professional applying for the role who has done the same.

Yes – in some ways, it levels the playing field as you no longer have to be a wordsmith to craft a well-honed CV. However, in other ways, as the use of AI becomes more widely adopted, it becomes increasingly more difficult to genuinely stand out.

 

In Conclusion

AI is revolutionising most industries in some way shape or form, and the world of hiring and recruitment is no exception.

Tools and platforms purporting to make the road to a new role easier appear to launch in the market at a rate of knots, offering all kinds of services from CV writing and screening, to job matching, virtual career advisors, LinkedIn optimisation, and document creation.

Undoubtedly there are numerous benefits to job seekers who often are time-poor, to help at least get a good foundation on their ‘marketing’ collateral. However, it’s important to remember that AI is not a substitute for human involvement or insight.

The human touch and intuition still play a crucial role, especially when assessing soft skills and cultural fit. Registration with a reputable legal recruitment agency will help to fill this gap, and can help to give you the inside track on hiring, the background to that position being open, other opportunities not advertised in the open market, and support as you prepare to interview.

And,  whilst it is our job to shout from the rooftops why legal professionals should use the services of a recruitment consultant to give them a tangible step up and competitive advantage, now more than ever, those who are tapping into the sector expertise of agencies are reaping the benefits and continuing their own journeys of career progression – even if they are dipping their toe into the world of AI.

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or perhaps have had your fingers burnt by a bad hire in the past, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post

Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

banner image

How to Excel In Your Virtual Interview

  • September 17, 2023

The practice of virtual interviewing has become far more commonplace across the legal industry, especially since the pandemic when it was largely the only option on the table. Forbes highlighted recently that rather than a systematic return to face-to-face, virtual interviews are now providing hirers with a sometimes additional step in their hiring process, helping to screen candidates using tech that is now familiar to all parties.

Despite lacking the obvious physical elements, most legal candidates will agree that any interview, virtual or physical, can be the most daunting aspect of the application process and as such, need thorough preparation. While there are notable upsides to the former that can help ease the nerves, there are also challenges to contend with, such as the added difficulty of figuring out how to make a great first impression without some of the reliable methods a face-to-face interview offers (such as a firm handshake and positive body language), and from an interviewee perspective – assessing whether the firm you’ve applied to is a good cultural fit.  

That said, nailing a virtual interview needn’t be as daunting as it may appear.

1. Do Your Homework

Whether an interview is virtual or physical, its fundamental goal is the same – it is an opportunity for candidates and employers to meet, ask questions of each other and demonstrate why you as a candidate will be an ideal hire for the firm in question, while you test their compatibility with your skillset & ability to help you develop your legal career. 

As such, there will always be constants present in the interview process and consequently, your preparation for them. Virtual or not, you can absolutely expect to be asked a number of questions about your professional profile, such as your background, career ambitions, reasons for moving into a new role and suitability for the role and firm.  

You can and should start by researching the hiring firm, getting to know how it operates and what values and principles guide the business. The best places to get a good idea of these are the firm’s website and social media channels, as well as the kind of content the business posts online. 

Remember that the firm will want to be absolutely sure the candidate they’re interviewing is meeting the bare minimum standards at the very least by doing their homework, and will be paying attention to how you tie your answers to questions about your suitability to their own core values, ambitions and culture, as well as your general knowledge of your practice area.  

As this largely all boils down to having the basics covered, the hiring manager will be even more interested in what you can do to set yourself apart from the competition and so will be looking for how you can use the opportunity to add to what you’ve said in the interview. This means now is the time to ensure you have up-to-date knowledge of your practice area and the industry in general, and go beyond what is commonly found on the internet, bearing in mind other legal candidates will be thinking along the same lines. 

This will often come in the form of the hiring manager asking you if you have any questions for them and this is where preparing questions of your own for the interviewer becomes crucial to making as strong an overall impression as possible. A useful tip for candidates is to spend a bit of into the background of the person you will be interviewed by on LinkedIn.  

Although you can’t predict every single question, you can certainly make your answers to ones that you do prepare for foolproof, especially when it comes to competency-based questions. These are questions asked in order to see if the candidate can demonstrate their knowledge and skill in a specific area. Say that is client management for example. You would be asked to describe a situation or scenario where you demonstrated excellent client management skills, and be expected to back it up with the measurable result you achieved. Other competency-based questions to expect include:  

  • How do you deal with an X, Y or Z situation? 
  • How would you handle a difficult client? Can you share an example? 
  • Give an example of a time you handled conflict in the workplace? 

2. Have Your Notes Handy (But Don’t Rely on Them)

It will be standard for the interviewer to ask for the best examples of your work, and so a digital document with bullet points highlighting what you wish to share, along with supporting notes should suffice and should be brought with you to the interview to refer to.

It is common for candidates to make the mistake of writing several pages of notes and then during the interview become overwhelmed by them when fishing around for the answer to a question. This misses the point of bringing notes to a virtual interview – they aren’t meant to be a crutch or a ‘cheat sheet’ to rely on, but rather a supplementary document to use only minimally.

Use them to refresh your memory of points you’ve already looked over and need a reminder on.

3. Practice Makes Perfect  

General preparation for any interview should involve some element of practising your responses to anticipated questions, verbally and non-verbally.

Although what you say in an interview certainly matters, how you say it is also important– as your tone of voice and inflection should convey an air of confidence & enthusiasm for the role. Despite how much focus is often given to the words spoken in a virtual interview and how little body language is thought to be perceived, the majority of information about a person’s attitude, confidence level and interest in the topic will still come from your nonverbal communication. Just like in a face-to-face interview, this is what hiring managers will be paying close attention to when gauging if you are the right cultural fit for the firm. 

Are you eyes darting about as you look at your notes off screen, or worse – your phone? Do you move about a lot on screen or appear agitated? Body language still matters even if you’re not there in person, so be mindful of how you conduct yourself. 

Try practising with a friend or colleague, and keep an eye on things like your posture (which should be upright and not slumped forward or lax), eye contact (maintained when you or the interviewer is speaking), hands (gesturing when speaking but not overdoing it or fidgeting) and facial expressions (smiling regularly). Practice active listening when listening to your friend/colleague’s responses, nodding your head to give affirmation of your attention and understanding to them, and asking questions for clarification when necessary. 

 The practice you put in will be the foundation of your confidence when you hop on camera or send that recording to the hiring manager, and will be your biggest help in keeping the nerves at bay both during and after the video interview. 

4. Get Comfortable – And Competent – On Camera 

Whilst you may be asked to have a virtual interview on screen as part of the general hiring process, many firms now ask for a piece-to-camera as part of the initial screening process too. This may be to simply introduce yourself and highlight your skills and suitability for the role, or more often than not, to answer pre-set questions by the firm itself.

The obvious advantage here is the opportunity to record and retake as necessary to ensure you present yourself in the best possible light. 

Two common cameras used for this purpose are webcams and smartphones but regardless of whichever you prefer, there are a few things to note about both:  

When it comes to video technology in general, smartphones do a far better job, but will need to be used in conjunction with other accessories (such as a stand to avoid any shaking when recording, and a lav microphone to better capture your voice and avoid choppy audio) – in order to improve the overall quality of the video. With the use of video technology now widespread, they are a relatively inexpensive investment.  

Another thing to note – and this applies whether you’re using a smartphone or webcam – is your background and lighting. Make sure you’re recording in a well-lit room with a plain, clutter-free and fairly quiet background that doesn’t have a window behind you in the frame. If you’re struggling to find a room that ticks the above boxes, you can use virtual or custom backgrounds instead.  

Similar principles to the above apply when opting for a webcam, as these can often be plugged onto a monitor screen or already be part of your computer, should the video quality be good enough. Audio quality should be tested ahead of time, whether you’re using wired earphones, wireless ones or a lav microphone. Try to avoid using headphones or gaming headsets if possible, as they don’t give the most flattering impression and can be restrictive when you’re moving.  

If it hasn’t been emphasised enough, practice is crucial, prerecorded video or not, as your first video recording is unlikely to be your best version and a rushed or poorly prepared video is easily noticeable. Apply the same tips mentioned above when recording, maintaining eye contact, and adjust your gaze when either you or someone else is speaking to get a good view of the body language they’re sharing. If they seem bored or look like they’re waiting for you to finish, chances are they are, so it’s best to avoid waffling when giving lengthy answers. 

5. Don’t Neglect Your Appearance 

Treat your appearance as you would in a physical interview and dress to impress, while keeping it polished, tidy and professional. While you can be a bit more relaxed with bottom wear – considering your top half is very likely what will be seen by the interviewer the whole time – avoid wearing anything informal or inappropriate – in case you’ll need to get up to adjust a cable quickly – as you may not be aware at that moment that it will be visible to the interviewer.  

6. Sort Out the Technical Details – And Master Your Platform 

Lastly, the software you’re using is also something you should be confident in using on the day of the interview, so be sure to verify what that will be with the hiring manager, and familiarize yourself with the platform ahead of time by practising the features you will be using, such as receiving calls, turning on your camera, setting up the virtual background (if you’ll be using one), sharing documents through the chat feature and screen sharing.

Be sure to double-check that your internet connection quality is working perfectly in advance, and notify the interviewer well ahead of time if you anticipate any issues. A thorough quality check can go a long way in calming the nerves before the video interview and minimise tardiness due to any technical difficulties.  

That said, the best way of ensuring you show up on time and avoid letting the nerves take over, is to simply arrive early, like you would at a face-to-face interview, about 10 minutes before the set time. That way, any issues you do run into technical-wise, you will encounter while waiting, with enough time to resolve it, rather than at the very minute you’re expected to already be ready to start the interview. 

In Conclusion

The shift towards virtual interviewing in the industry has brought with it a new and unique set of challenges for candidates to navigate and regardless of the format, interviews remain a crucial and often nerve-wracking part of the job application process. But a confident, well-thought-out and well-practised approach can make them work to your advantage.

If you are using the services of a specialist recruiter as part of your job search, the likelihood is that you will also get the chance to ‘meet’ them on camera too as part of your introduction and registration. Use this as practice for your interview with the firm in question – and don’t be afraid of asking your recruitment consultant for help, advice, and constructive criticism – or even a mock-interview on screen so you can ensure you are fully ready and prepared. 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are looking for your next career move, are unsure of opportunities in the market, or need a hand brushing up on your interview skills – we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

Share This Post