Make it easy

I did a cv session during the last academic year with a group of mainly Masters law students, and am doing a similar session again on 20th November – so have been thinking about that session last year, and about the other cvs that I have reviewed since.
I encourage students to share their cvs in advance, so that we can review them together in the group – by the way, it’s a good idea to share early drafts widely with friends and family, so these students were already doing the right thing. And just to clarify, when I mention cvs, these days I’m nearly always talking about application forms.
Many of the overseas students had a first degree from a university outside the UK. And of those, there were a lot who were pitching their cv to English law firms. What I say to this category of applicants is: make it really easy for the recruiter reading the cv to understand: 1. your situation, including when you will be ready to start a training contract and 2. the class that you obtained in your first degree + the class of all of your exam results throughout.
For number 2, it is easy to assume that the recruiter understands your first degree class or grade, but I doubt that they’d know what a 3.7 GPA or a 17/20 score equates to. Most recruiters and applicants at UK firms will be graduates or undergraduates of a UK university, so the recruiter quickly understands what a 2(i) means – so my tip for those with an overseas degree: make sure that you list your actual degree grade and its equivalent in the local “currency”.
It can be frustrating to read the academic part of the cv at the beginning and not really understand the quality of the degree grade. And you might be underselling yourself, for example I am told that a “mention très bien” in France really is exceptional, so make sure that the employer knows that. The Department for Education has some materials that can help with this exercise:
In fact, I suppose the same thing applies to UK students applying for jobs in other countries.
So, if you believe the literature (e.g. my favourite careers book, What colour is my parachute? By Richard N. Bolles) the recruiter will only glance through your cv for a few seconds before making a quick decision. If there is any confusion or unfamiliarity about degree grade, that could be annoying enough for your cv to be heading straight to the reject pile.


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