Applied for hundreds of top law jobs but haven’t received even a single call for interview?
On average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes. Do you think in all cases, employers religiously go through every single resume they receive and identify individuals that are a good fit? Of course not! According to various researches , recruiters skim resumes for an average of 6-7 seconds.
In a majority of cases, employers are assisted by something called an ATS or Application Tracking System.
What is an ATS (Applicant Tracking System)?
An ATS is a system designed to help employers/recruiters with filtering job applicants based on criteria such as skills, years of experience, education, location, etc.
To simplify it further, let’s assume John Smith has advertised for a ‘legal associate’ job in his company and he requires someone with at least 2 years of experience. He receives 500 applications for this job. Now imagine how much time it would take for him to go through each and every CV he receives? At a certain point, he may even lose his patience and stop at the 20th CV though his ‘perfect fit’ may have been the 499th applicant!
An ATS pulls out data relating to details of applicants either from their CVs or from profile information at the time of submitting their applications. It then enables the employer/recruiter to filter CVs based on this data alone. Had John Smith used an ATS, he could have easily filtered out applications that were certainly not a good fit, such as ones with less than 2 years of experience.
LegalBots.in has its own built-in ATS that assist with filtering law resumes based on details such as years of experience, highest level of education, current position of the applicants, etc.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), or 'Resume Robots' as they are disparagingly called, now reject up to 75% of CVs before they even get to a human.
HRs in many reputed organisations may or may not have the domain knowledge with respect to the department for which they are hiring. And where they do not have the domain knowledge, naturally they just scan for "keywords" in the CV that match the job description, in order to shortlist applications.
Recruiters spend an average of 6 to 7 seconds scanning through CVs to shortlist them.
Only if you beat the above two, you stand a chance to prove your technical fit for the job.
Hurdles between you and a job vacancy:
- First Hurdle: Clearing ATS (Application Tracking System) and not having the CV rejected
- Second Hurdle: HR/Recruiter
- Third Hurdle: Phone interview
- Fourth Hurdle: Technical Interview
Hurdle 1: ATS and the CV
In this article, we will concentrate only on clearing the first hurdle: the ATS and your CV.
The 10 Commandments of Law CV Writing
1. Do not user header, footer feature in MS Word.
A common mistake is that candidates embed their contact details within the header, footer section of the document. ATS systems routinely do not pick this up. Headers and footers do more harm than good.
2. Avoid fancy templates.
If you want the ATS systems to read your CV properly, avoid fancy templates, such as those containing infographics. More often than not, these will not be picked up!
3. Stick to standard file formats.
Filetype: Doc, Docx or PDF should be relied on. Avoid all other formats.
4. Avoid using images, graphics in the CV.
A lot of people like placing colourful logos of various companies and certifications. This just occupies space, increases the size of your CV file size. Most of all, this is unreadable. Avoid! Also avoid putting your passport size photo.
Thumb rule: Keep the CV in plain text as much as possible.
5. Keep your headings simple and to “known” words
Do not be tempted to showcase your vocabulary in the headings/subheadings in the CV. Do not rename "Work Experience" with "Career Progression", for example, just to sound fancy. This could be the reason your CV doesn't get picked up at all.
Tip: Essential Headers to include in reverse chronological order:
- Work Experience,
- Qualifications or Certifications
- Key Skills
6. Avoid using features like tables, symbols and graphics.
Many people are tempted to put their education details in the form of tables. Though it may be more presentable and easier to read, it may or may not be picked up by the ATS.
7. Avoid abbreviations and short forms.
Example: Do not use "POSH" for "Prevention of Sexual Harassment" or "PA" for "Personal Assistant". While some standard abbreviations such as CRPC, IPC may get picked up, most do not make it.
Tip: If you use abbreviations, make sure you expand it in brackets. Example: POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment)
8. Avoid spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes.
Such mistakes, particularly in law resumes, are CV KILLERS! How do you expect to draft and proofread complicated and lengthy contracts, if you cannot ensure your CV or cover letter is free of such issues?
- Be genuine: A little hyperbole may be acceptable, but claiming to be a CEO of two budding start-ups even before graduating from college? Make sure you can really back such claims!
- Meaningless entries: Meaningless internships, irrelevant experiences, hobbies etc, could damage the perception. An example of a meaningless internship: internships or experience from blogs run by students themselves.
- Your CV/Resume should match your online digital profile. For example, if your CV doesn't match Linkedin, there may be questions.
- As tempting as it may be, particularly when you are desperate to get your first break-through in a world that is obsessed with ‘experience’, do not put false data in your CV. A lot of employers are well connected and resort to "phone a friend" to check you out. So be genuine about the role you played, the projects you handled etc. A little hyperbole is forgiven. However, if you exceed it, there is no going back.
- Avoid cheap attempts to gain attention. For example, law students should be wary of lodging frivolous PILs. Experienced lawyers loathe this and some of them have openly criticised this behaviour. An actual quote on twitter: "I hope these students add this achievement to their CVs so that we can recognise them". Good PILs could add value. Politically motivated and frivolous ones could destroy your bridges.
10. Customize your law resume for the role you are applying to!
a. It is all about the keywords in the first couple of stages! This 10th commandment is extremely important.A lot of us make this grave mistake of "broadcasting" the same CV to multiple jobs. With the advent of APPS, it does make it a lot easier to just save your CV and shoot, shoot and shoot! The problem with this approach is, you might make an impact now and then, but will fail to get selected most of the time.
b. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords: Your CV should hit the right keywords to get through the first two hurdles. If you take the scattergun approach, you are likely to miss out those crucial keywords in the CV which the ATS or the recruiter is looking for. Hence, always customize your CV to the job description and then apply.
Watch this space for more on clearing the rest of the hurdles!