so no spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or casual language. And get someone who can spell to check the final version (errors through familiarity and repetition creep in otherwise). Alix Balfe-Skinner, HR manager at Taylor Vinters , says: “Attention to detail is everything – small things such as making sure you use capitals in the correct places are crucial. It makes an application seemmore professional and as though more time and care has been taken.” Here are a few more top tips from recruiters: • “Spelling and grammar are absolutely vital. Ask someone else to read through your form for you to check it makes sense. Copy and paste the text into Word and apply spellcheck. If you haven’t got anyone to check it for you, review it. Leave it for a couple of hours then review again with fresh eyes before submitting” – Danielle White , senior HR manager at Mayer Brown International. • “Bear in mind that graduate recruiters will know little or nothing about you before receiving your application form. By the end of each form, candidates should have explained why they want to be a solicitor, why they are applying to that particular firm and why they feel the firm should hire them” – Puneet Tahim, Rare. • “It may take a while, but spend time each week thinking about your purpose and things will grow from there. Some people become lawyers for the status or the money, or maybe to use their brains and solve problems, but these skills will be so much more productive if you grasp your ‘why’!” – Mohammed Saqub, solicitor at Shakespeare Martineau. • “Think carefully about what is distinctive about a particular set of chambers or area of practice and explain why that interests you. You should also identify what is distinctive about you and why you should be picked above the other candidates” – Matthew Parker, barrister, 3 Verulam Buildings .
Make sure that you know the firm’s or chambers’ preferred application format – the vast majority use online application forms, although some may still prefer CV and cover letter. In either format, if the firm or chambers provides the option to include a cover letter, always do so. Where possible, find the name of the person to whom you are addressing the application. The best applications are tailored to each individual firm or chambers. Tell a firm or set why you are choosing to apply to it rather than any of its competitors. Most recruiters complain about applications that are full of puffery about the nature of the organisaion. A head of chambers in the Southeast agreed: “We had an application from someone allegedly impressed by ‘the ethos of our set and the fact that it had kept it touch with its roots’. Our advice? Don’t write guff like that on your applications. Flattery will get you nowhere – it’s just padding and it doesn’t impress.” Puneet Tahim of Rare Recruitment adds: “Candidates should avoid using broad statements such as, ‘I am a good team player, with excellent communication skills who is extremely ambitious and driven’. All these are valued skills and attributes, but you need evidence to back up your claims. You would be better placed to talk about a particular activity you are involved in and explain all of the skills you have developed as a result. Keep it simple and avoid unnecessary jargon. When you consider the volume of applications a firm receives, it’s important to focus on the key information you want to convey. Don’t use 10 words when five will suffice.” Competition is stiff and some firms and chambers receive thousands of applications for just a few places – never more so than in the current climate. Don’t give recruiters the easy option to eliminate you from their lists –
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BECOMING A LAWYER
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