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Careers Counsel: How long do you spend reading CVs and cover letters?

Careers Counsel advice colum
Careers Counsel advice colum
We asked Careers Counsel what they do with a stack of CVs and cover letters sitting on their desks.

Time is ticking
"The prospective employer usually allows the resume not more than 30 seconds to captivate him," says Dinesh Sharma of recruitment agency Personnel Junction.

Other responses polled from law firm partners and recruiters ranged from two to five minutes at most per application.  

"In today's competitive job market, where every candidate wants recruiters or employers to give their resume the attention it deserves, the old cliché rings true: first impressions are lasting," notes Sharma.

ALMT Legal partner Sameer Tapia says that the cover letter must be concise and to the point as the CV then says it all. "We as a practice always read the cover letter as it's the body to the CV." If it is not professionally written and lacks details, he adds, then this is a good indication of the CV to come.

"In India most law firms do not have a sophisticated process for handling CVs / covering letters.   Hence applicants end up in writing to individual partners, who after they have considered the application may either respond directly or circulate the same amongst other partners in the firm.  Few law firm do have partner incharge for handling all such applications / CVs," says J Sagar Associates (JSA) partner Nitin Potdar, adding a disclaimer that this in no way reflects the process adopted at JSA.

"Out of a stack of CVs/covering letters, the first one that gets pulled out are those with experience  in terms of years, the quality of work done and the firm wherein the applicant has worked previously," he explains.

"Simple and effective cover letters would help in getting the CV noticed, neverthless a bad cover letter would certainly destroy the applicants chance to get the CV reviewed positively," according to Potdar. "Subject to the first scruitiny the partner concerned would then proceed to spend on an average 10 to 15 mins of his time to understand the experience mentioned in the CV."

In other words, you have very little time in which to make your initial mark, so make it count.

Foot in door

"A few points that I pay attention to are the academics (which law school), current firm that the candidate is working with and in case the CV is a fresher's, then maybe which firms they have interned with," explains Leena Krishnan, who heads legal recruitment at ABC Consulting.

Sharma notes that the chance of securing interviews is likely to increase by up to 50 per cent if the candidate skilfully and genuinely articulates certain points, such as employer’s details, tenure, job responsibilities and qualifications in their CV.

"Keep the CV to the point but that does not mean that a 4-page resume is not acceptable," he recommends. "You have to make it clear through proper headings why you need so much space. If you've got a list of relevant publications, conferences, achievements, put it at the end as a separate section."

"A profile could stand out if one has a crisp CV," according to Krishnan. "Rather than incorporating an index of a book, one needs to be clear and honest in writing what he has worked on."

Potdar concludes: "I guess it is high time that the Indian law firm introduce a more organised system to deal with applications; and equally the applicants be more professional in preparing CVs/ cover letters."

Legally India is trialling a jobs site at jobs.LegallyIndia.com. Have a go and turn over a new leaf in your legal career.

Read previous Careers Counsel columns for more advice on your career in the law.

The above Careers Counsel panellists also reiterated some of the previous advice on how to write a good cover letter. Also read how NOT to write a cover letter.

For information on how to write a good law firm CV with an included template resume, read our previous Careers Counsel column.

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