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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.

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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Jobseeker Jargon: Are You Guilty?

  • July 25, 2023

When the time comes in your legal career to think about a move to pastures new, the steps involved to kickstart the process are generally conventional and familiar to most.

The first step, of course, is to decide whether to go it alone and spend time researching opportunities in the market, your region, and your practice area and apply to vacancies advertised.

The alternative is to enlist the help of a reputable legal recruitment specialist who will search the market on your behalf, and present you with (often exclusive) roles that are designed to be the absolute best ‘fit’ for you and your requirements from your next employer.

Either way, there are usually a number of steps you yourself will need to take to ensure you are prepped and ready to apply for roles that pique your interest.

 

Designing a CV with Clout

It goes without saying that the most important document in your job-seeking armoury will be your CV – although a cover letter and possibly a video pitch may also be required depending on the role in question and the expectations of the hiring firm.

CVs are not a new concept. Far from it.

This document has been connecting qualified candidates with their ideal roles for centuries. In fact, according to The National Careers Service, the first curriculum vitae emerged in 1482 – written by a certain Leonardo Da Vinci when he applied for a local painting job.

The nature, style, and general role of the CV has changed since then, however. Whilst connections and status were crucial components of the CVs of yesteryear, these days there is more focus on skills, relevant experience, and demonstrable results that highlight capability.

Whilst much continues to be written about the usefulness of this document, for now at least, they remain a vital platform to market yourself as the right candidate for the role.

 

Mastering the Basics

A hiring manager, Partner, or HR professional will often skim-read a CV before making a snap ‘go/no-go’ decision about whether to progress to the next stage. This means the basic information needs to pop and jump out of the page.

The overriding objective should be to demonstrate suitability for the role in question, and ideally, the document should flex if you’re applying to more than one at a time – ensuing each is tailored to the specifics.

There are many guides as to what to include on your CV, but in our experience (of nearly 25 years and counting), the basic elements include:

  1. Up-to-date contact information
  2. Clear, concise formatting and layout
  3. Accurate grammar and spelling – a non-negotiable
  4. Selling points – achievements, relevance, USPs, experience (if it is relevant!)
  5. Facts and evidence
  6. Personality – what are your interests, passions, values?

 

Putting Pen To Paper

There are no two ways about it. Crafting a well-honed CV is a skill, and whilst you may be the most qualified and relevant individual in the pile of applications, failure to ‘sell’ yourself adequately may mean you are overlooked.

The Internet is saturated with ‘how-to’ guides, layout templates, and more recently, tools that utilise AI to write your CV for you (although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of this).

But mastering the basics is only the first part of the task in hand. You need to pay careful attention to the language you use as you highlight your skills and relevance – being mindful of cliches, hyperbole, and baseless language that actually could hinder your progress in the long run.

 

Cut The Cliches

The copy on your CV has to work hard to sell ‘you’, your relevant skills and experience, and give an initial indication of what you are like as a person and potential employee.

It can be tempting to fall into the trap of peppering your document with well-known cliches – in fact, you may not be aware that the phrases that spring to mind are even cliches in the first place. But taking time to weed out these overused (and often baseless) phrases may get your document to the top of the pile.

Here are the top 7 overused phrases that we come across, that you may wish to rethink (and suggestions of when, how, and why they need a little more care and attention)

  1. Hardworking and motivated: Your CV should have detail throughout that highlights specific accomplishments, experiences, and contributions that show your dedication and work ethic. This could be successful cases or settlements you have secured for clients, billable hours and productivity metrics, or even additional certification and training you have undertaken to enhance your skills and knowledge.

 

  1. Excellent communication skills: Again, consider how to showcase your communication abilities through specific achievements or experiences. Have you been a keynote speaker at a firm event for example, or run an internal forum? Are you involved in pitching for new business, or act as spokesperson for your current firm with the media? All are demonstrable examples that showcase the skill in question.

 

  1. Team player: Undeniably, employers will want to hire individuals that collaborate and work well with others – but dropping this statement on with little substantiation is pretty meaningless. Again, look for ways to bring this to life with concrete instances of teamwork. Have you worked as a team on a particularly complex legal case? Do you undertake any pro bono initiatives, or are part of a professional ‘group’ outside of the day job that involves working with others? All are great examples of how teamwork is pervasive in a law firm.

 

  1. Detail-oriented: Whatever your practice area specialism, this skill is crucial in the legal profession as it can significantly impact the outcome of cases, the accuracy of legal documents, and the overall quality of legal services provided to clients, Highlighting instances where your attention to detail made a difference is key – whether that work is in document review, part of an M&A transaction, or in compliance or regulatory matters.

 

  1. Results-driven: This phrase is most certainly over-used (usually with no examples of said ‘results’) yet there are other variances that can also demonstrate the same point. ‘Achievement-oriented’, ‘goals focused’, and ‘outcome-driven’ are more specific and impactful. Are you able to talk about case-management here, or strategic planning utilised to get the best possible result for your client and firm? Examples, again, are key.

 

  1. Works well under pressure: Legal professionals often encounter high-pressure situations, and the ability to work effectively in such conditions is an attractive trait to a future employer. Instead of just dropping this phrase on with no explanation is a big no-no however. Instead, discuss how you handled challenging situations and tight deadlines; your involvement in high-profile cases, or how you adapted to unexpected developments and had to adjust your strategy.

 

  1. Exceptional organisational skills: Most roles in a law firm require some level of organisation, whether that’s managing your own case files, a team of other legal professionals, or preparing for a trial. By using specific examples, especially those that are relevant to the role you are applying for, you provide concrete evidence of your capabilities and enhance the effectiveness of your CV and profile.

 

In Conclusion

Crafting an impressive CV requires going beyond generic statements and cliches and instead presenting a compelling narrative of your professional journey. By showcasing specific, relevant, and quantifiable evidence of your skills and accomplishments, you can create a CV that stands out and captures the attention of potential employers or clients.

If you have enlisted the help of a specialist legal recruiter for your job search, you will often find that your consultant will help to review your CV and role applications to ensure they stay on track, and work hard to move you further along in the process. Of course, the other benefit here is that the recruiter will further help to demonstrate your suitability verbally to those responsible for hiring – enhancing your profile far beyond a 2-3 page printed document.

And finally, even if some of the highlighted statements do creep in (even verbally as you move to interview stage) remember to always use concrete examples and measurable outcomes to demonstrate your abilities, skill, and above all, why YOU are the firm’s next hire.

 

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.

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.

 

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