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Applying for Training Contracts
28th March, 2018
Applying for a training contract can be seen as a time consuming and somewhat daunting task. I personally spent many hours applying for training contracts before I was fortunate enough to obtain one with Howes Percival. Although different firms may run their application processes differently, many firms will cover the process of an initial application form, followed by your attendance at an assessment centre which will involve a variety of tasks. Below I have tried to set out some tips as to how an individual may obtain a training contract in today's competitive environment.
1. Application Forms
In nearly all mid-size to large firms, you could be looking at tens to hundreds of individuals battling it out for each training contract. Almost everyone applying for that training contract will have obtained (or be predicted) a 2.1 or higher in their respective degrees. So how do stand out from the crowd? Firstly, try and strengthen your CV by having undertaken some legal work experience, which shows that you are genuinely interested in pursuing a legal career. Extracurricular activities such as mooting, client interviewing and pro-bono work have the same effect. Demonstrating your interest and commitment to a legal career is an important starting point.
Applications will include competency questions, where you will have to try and demonstrate an all-round skill set. Use these questions to draw upon past experiences, hobbies and any other interests you may have. Being a well-rounded individual is important, and I certainly believe that Howes Percival in particular are looking for people who hold interests outside of work too. Make sure you have a sound knowledge of the law firm that you are applying to, as this will come across in your application.
On a personal note, I tried to prepare and present my CV slightly differently to the norm. No recruiter wants to be trawling through pages of information about you, however interesting your back story may be! I edited my CV onto a single sheet of A4; including the facts and information I wanted the recruiter to know about myself. The point to draw out of this is to try and show initiative where you can and think outside of the box.
2. Assessment Centres
Your first assessment centre can be a very nerve racking experience, mine certainly was! Of course there is an element of luck with assessment centres, you may strike gold and be offered a training contract on your first one! The more likely situation is that you will attend a number of these before being offered a training contract. Try and learn from each experience, as each assessment centre puts you in a stronger position for the next opportunity.
The typical tests that you may be asked to complete are as follows: group exercises, commercial awareness tests, numeracy tests, presentations and an interview. Some of these tests I appreciate are hard to prepare for. However I would advise any candidate to take time to read the news to build a commercial awareness, remind yourself of basic mathematics, practice your presentation skills and run through potential interview questions/answers with another individual.
Try and relax as much as possible, as being tense comes across in any test where you are required to speak. Being confident in your own abilities is also important. You are much more likely to succeed going into an assessment centre with a positive mind-set, than thinking you only have an outside chance of succeeding. Different firms are looking for different types of people, with different experiences. So my main piece of advice would be this: be yourself. There is a firm that is right for you.