Knowing the form
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12 April 2013
There comes a time when those dreaded application forms can no longer be avoided. And with deadlines creeping ever closer, now is as good a time as any to get stuck into them.
The trouble for prospective trainees is that no two firms use the same application form, and all expect the same higher-than-high standards from applicants, meaning that completing application forms (even online) can be a time-consuming and often wearisome business.
Moreover, some firms receive more than 2,000 applications for just 50 places, so the graduate recruitment teams can afford to throw your form straight into the bin if they don not feel it is up to scratch.
But fear not, Lawyer 2B is here to help: follow our words of wisdom and your application form is sure to stand out from the rest.
Avoid the scatter-gun
There are no limits to the number of applications youre allowed to submit. That said, quality is far more important than quantity, so its better to make fewer applications and spend more time on each one.
Research the firms that interest you and make a list of the ones to which you would like to apply. Have a think about which other firms are in the same peer group. For instance, if your heart is set on working for a family law practice, then ask yourself whether there is any point in applying to the magic circle firms and vice versa.
Do you fit the bill?
Once youve decided which firms you want to apply to find out whether you satisfy their minimum entry requirements. Some firms online applications wont allow you to proceed to the second stage if you dont have enough UCAS points. Also, if you have applied to a firm for a training contract before you should seriously think about whether to submit another application form. Some firms recommend that you dont reapply while others will only take you second application seriously if there has been a material improvement in your achievements. That said, if a firm rejects you for a vacation placement, dont be put off applying to it for a training contract.
Dont miss the deadline
We know it sounds obvious, but with so many deadlines competing for your attention its very easy to let one slip through the net. So to avoid the risk of missing a deadline, prepare a timetable to help you prioritise. Also, find out how to apply. Most of the larger firms now use online applications, while some will require a CV and covering letter.
Attention to detail
Read the form thoroughly before attempting to complete it and make sure you answer every single question. For instance, dont forget that most firms will want a breakdown of all your degree marks, even those that dont count towards your final classification, as well as your A-Level grades.
Think beyond merely answering the question to what the recruiters are actually looking for. How does your response relate to the role and work undertaken a by trainee or solicitor? Think about the skills required to do the job: do you have these skills? And if so, have you outlined them appropriately?
Think about why firms ask you certain questions. If they ask you about your overseas travel, that doesnt mean they want details of your clubbing holiday to Ibiza.
When it comes to answering the questions, make sure that you answer every aspect of them. Some sections ask a number of questions and its easy just to focus on the first part. Make sure that you answer all sections, breaking it down as you would an essay question in an exam.
Dont copy and paste
Avoid copy and paste like the plague. But if you cant help yourself, make sure you change all the references to a firms name for your next application.
Cheque your language
Spelling mistakes can be costly so use a dictionary. And if you are filling in a form online, remember not to use casual language that may be acceptable in a friendly email.
If the application form is required to be filled in by hand, employers will take the opportunity to judge your presentation and accuracy skills, so make sure your handwriting is neat and legible.
And if the form says use a black ballpoint pen dont use a blue biro.
Dont repeat chunks of the firms brochure
Avoid regurgitating sections of a firms graduate recruitment brochure. Recruiters know why you think their firm is excellent they want to about you and your achievements.
Dont put someone down as a referee without asking them first. It is also worth identifying potential referees as soon as possible so that you can get to know them and vice versa.
Take your time. A good application form will take you days rather than hours to fill in. And remember to keep a copy of your final application form so you can refresh yourself before interview.