More often than not my answer is “No” – although there are some exceptions you should be aware of.
What Is A Personal Profile?
A personal profile is an introductory section at the top of a CV, which you might also see called “Profile”, “Overview”, “Career Objective”, “Personal Statement”, or similar.
Ordinarily it might include some or all of the following: an introduction to who you are, what you’re currently doing, what you’re looking for in your career, your motivations, and your most relevant achievements and skills.
Whilst such profiles are recommended by many generic CV writing guides and careers advisors this does not mean it’s right to include them on your law CV.
Why Not To Include One
If you’re applying for entry level roles in the legal profession (such as a training contract, vacation scheme, paralegal role or legal work experience) I would not recommend including a personal profile, as a rule.
The main reason is potential employers usually prefer to see a CV accompanied by a covering letter or email. And that is where you would include the information you would include in a personal profile.
You should never submit both a covering letter and a CV personal profile! It just takes up valuable space on your CV in which you could include something else to sell yourself further.
When Is It Ok To Include One?
Despite the general rule being “Don’t”, a personal profile can add something to a CV in some situations:
- You are a career changer or mature student – a profile can be useful in summarising an extensive work history and explaining your motivation for the career change.
- You are dealing with a recruitment consultant – they will often just ask you to email them a copy of your CV and a good personal profile will grab the reader’s attention as they quickly scan your CV.
- You are providing a paper copy – you may have opportunities to physically hand someone a paper copy of your CV, for example at law fairs or networking events.
- You are using a job search website – some law job search websites allow you to upload a copy of your CV for potential employers to see. Again, you want to grab their attention with a strong profile.
What Should It Say?
It’s easy to get a personal profile wrong and for it to work against you rather than for you.
So, be careful to ensure it has the following characteristics:
- Avoids vague and generic statements – if you could change the name at the top of the CV and the profile still works it needs to be more specific.
- Gives evidence of skills – don’t make claims about skills without backing them up with evidence from your experiences.
- Contains substance not hot air – avoid the use of clever language, long words, superlatives and flattery. Words on their own will not impress, substance will.
- Avoids unreasonable claims – don’t show a lack of awareness and humility by going overboard with claims about your strengths and what you can do for the firm.
- Identifies your RELEVANT highlights – focus on your best experiences, skills and achievements which are most relevant to the potential employer.
- Explains career motivation – be specific about what sort of role you are looking for and where.
- Short and concise – the best profiles are 2–4 lines long, use short sentences and are edited ruthlessly to remove unnecessary padding.
Use The Right Tool For The Job
You should therefore have a think about when you are going to need a CV in the coming months.
Whilst the main CV you will use in any applications will most likely be profile free, I recommend you have another version of it with a profile included for one or more of the purposes above.
And like any part of an application, you must think long and hard about the very best content to include your own unique profile.