"I graduated in the summer of 2016 and have applied for 50+ vacation schemes and training contracts since. I have a 2.1 in History from a good uni, and some work experience. I can’t understand why I’m not even getting interviews."
We frequently hear from candidates in this situation - students or graduates with good degrees who just can't seem to land a TC. If this sounds like you, here's what you need to be thinking about.
1. Which firms are you targeting?
"I like your firm's client-centred approach and strong commitment to exceptional service." Sound familiar? Statements like this can apply to every firm from Linklaters to the local two-man high street shop. If you're going to the effort of making strong, well-written applications, you need to spend time researching firms meaningfully:
Who are their biggest clients?
What are they rated for on Chambers (if anything)?
What are their main practice areas?
How many people work there? How many partners? How many offices?
You also need to use your aptitudes and experience to drive your search:
Have you (for example) studied a science / biomedical degree that lends itself to IP, personal injury or technology law?
What work experience do you have? Is there a particular trend of one type or size of firm?
Do you have language skills that might be put to good use at a large international practice?
A scattergun approach won't work. Take a step back and think about what practice areas, firms, locations and firm sizes really appeal to you, and best use your skillset. If you apply to every firm out there, it'll likely show in generic, ill-fitting applications.
2. Are your applications as good as they can be?
We see so many applications from well-qualified candidates that contain application-killing typos. Getting the firm's name wrong (yes, really). Incorrect use of apostrophes. Odd or incorrect tenses. Incorrect capitalisation. You need to check, double-check and re-check your CV, cover letter and applications for spelling and grammar - it is fundamentally important. (To give you some idea of what you should be looking out for, take a look at one of our typical edits.)
3. Are you selling your work experience?
A typical graduate will have completed one or two vacation schemes / open days, done a stint of pro bono and possibly held a part-time job during weekends or holidays. Each of these should be included in your CV/application in a way that emphasises transferable skills:
Customer-facing role in a shop? Client communication skills.
Waitressing? Attention to detail.
Pro bono in a CAB-type organisation? Client interviewing skills.
Secretarial or office experience? IT skills, working to deadline.
And so on. Any work experience can be made relevant to law. Don't be shy - draw direct links between your experience and the work you'll be doing as a trainee.
Sharon Shamir, My Training Contract