After a few contact details, what should you start with on your cv?
I agree with everyone else that should you start with the most important part – i.e. what you are doing now. So if you are a student looking for a job, you start with your academic background including your current studies; and if you are an experienced candidate, you start with your work experience, listing jobs from most recent to older.
Nearly all of the cvs that I have seen get this right, but only partially. I see cvs of final year law undergraduates that list full details of grades in GCSEs, A-S levels and A-Levels, but fail to list anything about the 2 full years that they have spent on their degree, except its name. Not because they are hiding bad results, but more because they don’t consider it interesting enough.
If you are studying and applying for a legal job, my view is that it is NOT a waste of paper, ink or time to list all exam results right from the start of your degree. The law is an academic job, so many commercial firms are going to want to see that you have the intellectual brainpower to get started quickly. They will want to see a candidate on course for:
1. the top degree – in the UK a first,
2. an excellent degree – in the UK a high 2(i) or
3. a very good degree – in the UK a 2(i)
in that detailed order of preference. So if you have a top mark – i.e. a first or equivalent in any exams, make that very clear. And if you have some bad results, for a good reason and you think that you’ll end up with a good degree, it might be worth explaining.
The other aspect that I’m interested in is any electives that a candidate chooses – these need to be consistent with the work of the firms to which you are applying. Someone who chooses 3rd year electives such as family or criminal lacks credibility applying to a large commercial firm.
Another interesting choice is a candidate’s dissertation – great if that is relevant to a firm’s work somehow; and the other advantage of listing a bit of tempting detail on your cv is that you are likely to be asked about it in an interview. One crucial skill of a lawyer is to be able to explain something in a clear way to a client, who knows less on that subject than their lawyer – and your dissertation is one of the only things that fits into that category in an interview situation. In addition, if you enjoyed your dissertation, it is easier to be enthusiastic and confident when you describe it.
So if you are applying for your first job in law, expand the detail of your university academic record.