10 top tips for supercharging your legal job application

lynn-sedgwick
Lynn SedgwickManaging director, Clayton Legal

For legal professionals considering a career move, navigating the job market can be daunting. In advance of their live Q&A with the Law Society on 6 May, legal recruitment specialists Clayton Legal share their top 10 tips for creating a standout legal job application.

Man using laptop to search and apply for jobs

1. Do your homework

You’ve seen a new opportunity that has piqued your interest, and you know you’re a great fit – but taking a step back and researching the role beyond the advert is important.

Research the firm thoroughly, even if you’re already aware of its brand and reputation. Look at its digital footprint, social media channels, brand, and voice.

What are its values, mission and vision? What are its growth plans and future aspirations?

Once you’ve done that, and you’re sure you’re on the right path, this undertaking will pay dividends at interview stage in demonstrating your knowledge about the firm.

2. Don’t neglect your CV

This humble document is still a pivotal tool to sell your skills, competences and experience, and is often your first opportunity to impress.

Pay close attention to spelling and grammar. Don’t forget the basics:

  • clear formatting
  • chronological work history
  • personal contact details, and
  • make it relevant to the job you’re applying for

If you’ve previous experience outside of the legal sector, perhaps just include the basics here:

  • company
  • job title
  • employment dates

You can then use the remaining space you have to focus on the experience and skills from your most recent roles – applicable, of course, to the job vacancy.

The same applies if you have many years of experience – you won’t have the space to describe in detail each role and your responsibilities and achievements.

We recommend a CV should be two to three pages long – and four at most, depending on your level of experience.

It’s worth reiterating that you must leverage those skills and experience to make it clear you’re a match for the job – make it compelling, engaging and, above all, specific.

3. Learn to love a cover letter

Whilst some argue the cover letter has had its day, many in the legal sector believe they do still have a part to play.

They allow lawyers to further demonstrate their suitability for roles and illustrate relevant skills and experience.

Once again, make the letter specific to the role and firm in question.

Demonstrate how you’ve done your research about the firm and highlight why you’re the person it needs to hire.

Be clear, concise and don’t ramble – keep to one page if you can.

4. Hone that elevator pitch

Refining and perfecting your elevator pitch is time well spent as a jobseeker – and will add value if you get an interview.

Being able to articulate your intent, unique attributes, experience, and skillset in 30-60 seconds is an art, but once you have this crafted, it can be used to help define your personal statement and across online application forms.

5. Give yourself time

Job searching takes time, as does completing formal job applications – especially if you take time to personalise your application and supporting documents.

Setting time aside to dedicate to job applications is crucial, which should include proofreading, spellchecking and customising.

6. Embrace the tech

The pandemic has brought about a lot of change in the hiring of legal professionals – virtual interviews and onboarding were made possible through the rapid acceleration and adoption of tech solutions.

As a jobseeker, look for other ways to raise your personal profile.

For example, video platforms are a great way to add personality and weight to your application in a way the traditional CV and cover letter cannot.

Requests for video-supported applications are increasing, and often facilitated by recruitment agencies.

Embrace these tools if they’re offered, as another vehicle to demonstrate your suitability.

7. Get personal

Without a doubt, your (relevant) experience, skills, qualifications and education are the ‘hero’ elements of your CV/application. But highlighting your interests out of work is still a great technique to demonstrate your personal qualities, and how you might fit with the firm’s culture.

Although they are often an optional section of an application form or CV, this doesn’t mean hobbies and interests are a waste of time. Rather, used smartly, they can really strengthen your application and make you more ‘human’.

Try to stay away from stipulating interests that don’t really demonstrate a skill or quality the hiring manager is looking for.

‘Going out with friends’ or ‘spending time with family’, for example, do little to further exhibit your strengths, skill set, personality or transferrable qualities relating to the job at hand.

8. Audit your digital footprint

Like it or not, hirers may conduct their own research into you as a potential employee beyond the information you provide in your application.

So, it’s always wise to set your social media channels to private, or at the least ensure your profile(s) is one you wouldn’t mind your potential new employer seeing.

9. Boost your network

Connecting with a hiring manager on LinkedIn may seem bullish, but it can be a savvy move and increase your chances of getting an interview. The connection request should be seen as another opportunity to introduce yourself and interest in the role and the firm.

You could also start conversations on the role beyond the detail in the advertised job spec, and a reciprocal ‘follow’ or connection will offer the hiring manager another window into your experience and ‘voice’ in the market.

It goes without saying that you must keep it professional – you don’t want to pile any pressure on regarding your application, especially not at this stage.

10. Enlist the help of an expert

Formally registering with a specialist recruitment agency will undoubtedly give you a head start with your job search – furnishing you with market insight as well as the inside track on the law firms that are hiring.

And, when that dream role is in sight, you’ll be offered practical advice on the basics, refined by experts who live the hiring process and all its anomalies, day in, day out.

Resources

If you need any more support or career advice, check out our resources:

Register for our live career Q&A event

Clayton Legal Live Career Q&A: How to create a compelling legal job application in 2021

If you want to understand how applying for legal jobs has changed in recent years, and how you can make your application really stand out, join our free career event with legal recruitment experts Clayton Legal on 6 May.

From tips to enhance your CV, to the principles of writing a great cover letter, this event will help you land your next legal job, in an informal live Q&A format.

Date: 6 May 2021
Time: 10am to 11am
Cost: free
Location: online

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