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Applying for your first serious legal job: CV and interview tips

Applying for your first serious legal job can be daunting …  Read on for some tips from Vanessa Syme (People & Performance Manager at MinterEllisonRuddWatts) on how to impress your prospective employer and secure that job!


Tips for drafting your CV

It can be difficult knowing how to put your CV together and what you should include.  Remember that during the main legal recruitment round (which is March – May each year) employers are receiving hundreds of CVs.  To make yours stand out, Vanessa suggests the following:

  • keep your CV succinct – 2 to 3 pages is ideal;
  • have a simple, but well ordered, layout – fancy fonts and borders are unnecessary. It is your content and achievements that are important;
  • include sections for each of Education, Achievements (both academic and non-academic), Work Experience, Extra-Curricular Activities, Personal Interests and Referees;
  • double check your spelling and grammar – careless errors do not make a good first impression;
  • ensure your contact details are included in your CV;
  • draft a one page cover letter to accompany your CV – this should highlight the skills you can offer the organisation and the achievements you are most proud of;
  • if you have been asked to submit a photo, make sure this is a professional looking headshot rather than a ‘party’ photo;
  • ensure your CV and cover letter are tailored to the role you are applying for – do some background reading about the advertised role and the skills required. The organisation’s website is a good place to start.  If you are applying to multiple organisations, check that you have not inadvertently left a different company’s name in your cover letter or CV; and
  • finally, carefully check the application instructions given by the employer. Again, it does not create a good first impression if you have not followed the exact instructions.


Tips for your interview

To stand out (for the right reasons!) at your interview, Vanessa recommends the following:

  • aim to arrive 10-15 minutes before your scheduled interview time so you don’t have to rush and are feeling as relaxed as possible;
  • wear clean and tidy business attire and look as professional as possible;
  • find out who is likely to be interviewing you and read their profile in advance;
  • ensure you have done some background reading on the organisation (read their website, Facebook page, recent publications etc) and are up to date with any recent events or work they have been involved in;
  • have 2 or 3 relevant questions ready to ask your interviewers about the organisation or the role you are applying for. You will usually be given time to ask questions at the end of your interview;
  • smile and shake hands with your interviewers on arrival. Your interviewers will usually indicate where you should sit for your interview.  Remember to maintain eye contact at all times during the interview;
  • listen carefully to the question asked and answer that question. If you’re not sure how to respond, ask for a minute or two to consider the question (or ask for clarification if you don’t fully understand the question);
  • try to be as relaxed and confident as possible. You will perform much better in the interview if you can relax and be yourself;
  • have some answers to key questions ready (such as what skills you can bring to the role, why you are interested in the role / organisation etc). The key is to be prepared but not come across as scripted.  The interviewers will be wanting to get to know the real you – your personality, skills, experience and values – and so are looking for honest and frank answers.

I hope the above tips are useful.  Good luck for securing that job!





Vanessa Syme
People and Performance Manager

P +64 9 353 9954