Training contract application tips
Your personal guide to filling out a training contract application
Law students are no strangers to the demand and pressure that come with applying for training contracts. They are then faced with the reality that recruiters spend no more than a minute assessing an application, and then select five or six suitable candidates that they often find within the first 50 to 60 applications they receive. What should law students do to secure being in that shortlist? Here are a few guidelines that may assist you with doing just that.
Less is more - The more applications you submit before the deadline the higher the chances are for securing a contract, right? Wrong. To yield better results, your strategy must be aimed at only targeting firms that you feel are best suited to what you are looking to gain from the experience. You also want to guarantee that the odds are in your favour when applying to your narrowed list of firms. So, make sure that you fit the firms’ prerequisites before applying – both in terms of grades and qualifications as well as the skills required in the job description. No number of applications is the right number, but usually seven to ten forms are advised.
Know the firm - Having a smaller list of firms on your list gives you more time to extensively research each firm and explain why you want to become a member of their team. Researching the firm can range from finding their social media account and learning about their values to reading their website to check for their latest updates and news. Employers look for candidates who show keen interest in the firm. Reflect that interest by integrating into your application what you have learned about their achievements, the services they provide, and any additional information that you see fit. By doing so, you would have made evident your interest and commitment.
Be memorable - The best way to showcase your distinctiveness is in the questions section. In asking questions about what you do in your free time or about your strengths and weaknesses, recruiters want to see more than just an interesting narrative. Aim to give honest answers that highlight your skills while reflecting the firm’s ethos. Show rather than tell them about the qualities you possess by providing them with meaningful examples of your personal interests. There is an abundance of university societies, local charities and sport teams that you can join, so you have no reason to be unable to showcase personal interests in your application. Finally, in addressing your failures, it can be difficult writing about your negative experiences while trying to depict the best version of yourself and your suitability to the firm. Avoid clichés that conceal your flaws; this can be perceived as a lack of self-awareness. Instead, take responsibility for your failures and reveal what you have learned from your mistakes, emphasizing your desire to progress.
Understand the question and answer the question asked – There is not much use in having a memorable response when your answer fails to address what the recruiter is looking for. Read the question multiple times and ask yourself what skills, assets, or roles the recruiters are trying to get you to mention. It may be helpful to reread your response a few hours later to confirm that it comprehensively covers all the relevant points in the question.
Become commercially aware - Law firms look for lawyers who can relate to their clients’ needs in today’s business world. If you have started looking at applications, you will notice that there is almost always a question aimed at getting a grasp of your commercial awareness. Commercial awareness is about understanding the industry and the factors related to it. It is therefore a process that you will need to continually work on. Make a start by listening to the radio, reading the news, and even using your university library’s business research tools.
On time is late – Applications are filled with questions that are meant to assess the type of individual you are and whether you are suited for the firm or not. So, take your time in understanding the questions and formulating your responses. That being said, aim to submit your applications early on. Remember that the closer you are to the deadline, the more forms are being submitted to the firms and therefore, the less likely it is that you will stand out. With such a time-consuming activity, you will have to allocate your precious time wisely. Narrow down the list of firms that you wish to apply to and do your due diligence by carrying out thorough research on the firm you choose to apply to. That may take a few days, but it’s nothing you cannot achieve with some time management.
Check, double check, and then check again – You want your application to be perfect and purposeful. By having a flawless application, you are showing the firm that you are capable of producing flawless work if selected. Possessing great writing skills will take you far as long as the writing is not erroneous. It therefore, goes without saying that you must proofread. Do not be shy to ask for help from your friends, family, and your peers from your law faculty. Any criticism offered will take you a long way. That being said, do not exceed the word limit provided and remember that the limits offer guidance on how much the recruiter expects you to write.
You can use our Interview Tips article for more information once you get past the application step. Remember to strategise and good luck!