After landing a training contract I thought Id never need to do a job interview ever again. Unfortunately, that wasnt the case. As I approached qualification I realised that the department I wanted to qualify into was oversubscribed.
That meant yet another interview to convince my firm that I deserved the job more than the other trainees who were competing against me. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones and secured a newly qualified position in my first-choice department. But it soon made me realise that a training contract only lasts for two years and there are no guarantees that youll have a job afterwards.
So when youre researching the firms you plan to apply to its worth finding out what their trainee retention rates are. Firms are generally happy to disclose this information. You should also look out for our retention rate survey, which we publish annually in the October issue of Lawyer 2B. Last Octobers survey revealed that the average retention rate at the UKs top 50 firms for September 2006 qualifiers was 81.2 per cent, compared with 85.2 per cent in the previous year.
Remember to use retention rates cautiously, however, because they can become easily distorted. For instance, if a firm has a small trainee intake and a couple of trainees leave upon qualification it will have a dramatic impact on its retention rates. Its therefore worth probing firms further by asking them the following: how many trainees are due to qualify in September? How many were offered jobs in their first-choice departments? How many decided to leave the firm and why? Were any departments oversubscribed?
For those of you who are due to qualify in September, youll be pleased to know that firms are making positive noises. Most of the firms Ive spoken to are yet to announce their trainee retention rates, but are confident that their statistics will be favourable thanks mainly to market conditions.
If you arent offered a job in your first-choice department, dont feel too disheartened. Seek feedback from your supervisors and training principals on why you werent chosen. They will also be able to offer you tips on how to secure a job at another firm. Some firms will even put you in contact with recruitment consultants and help you to put a CV together.
Sharon Samra, a senior recruitment consultant at Hays Legal, recommends that its also worth thinking about accepting a job in your second-choice department. She says that, in her experience, recruiters look at candidates who leave a firm upon qualification with a degree of suspicion. Indeed, most people will tell you that its easier to find a job when youre already in one.
But whatever you decide to do, dont panic, because its still very much a candidates market.