Whether it’s for a vacation scheme, training contract or a qualified lawyer position, when it comes to job hunting, application forms are the one thing most of us are likely to procrastinate over. If that’s you, check out our editor and careers consultant Husnara Begum’s top tips to help make your job applications stand out from the crowd.
Take your time
Thoroughly research your target firms and attend relevant events so you can refer to these in your answers, particularly in relation to the why law and/or why our firm questions. Separately, keeping abreast of recent political, economic and business news will help you to prepare robust responses to questions that are designed to test your commercial awareness. Remember, application forms are about quality and not quantity. And I promise, once you have a couple in the bag, you’ll soon master the art and complete future applications with more ease. That said, be realistic about how many quality applications you’ll be able to submit given other commitments namely your studies.
Tell interesting stories
Use specific and memorable examples to highlight key skills and achievements gained from work placements, temporary jobs and extra-curricular activities. Imagine you’re telling the story to friends at the pub and break it down to the beginning, middle and end. Where possible us a few different examples for each answer so you don’t sound like a one trick pony.
Sell yourself with confidence
Remember an application form is a sales pitch and not an academic paper so adjust your writing style accordingly. Saying that, stop yourself from making sweeping generalisations about how magnificent you are at doing certain stuff. Also try and avoid cliches and over-used buzz words such as passionate.
Make every single word count
The maximum word count on some application forms can be as little at 150 so keep your answers short and simple. If an answer is too long, trim it by deleting unnecessary filler words such as really, highly, very, so, that, etc. Conversely, if an answer is too short, I suspect you haven’t gone into enough detail.
Address ALL the points
On some application forms questions are broken down into three 2-3 parts. It’s therefore imperative to carefully read each question and cover ALL the points raised in each one. Also, don’t simply copy and paste an answer used on a different form because the questions sound broadly the same. For example, one question might be referring to a practice area whilst in another the employer wants you to discuss sectors.
Use copy & paste with caution
Copy and pasting is absolutely fine for some answers as there is no point in re-inventing the wheel. That said, always use caution especially when replacing firm names.
Thoroughly proof-read your application. Indeed, step away from it for several hours or even overnight before re-reading as you’re more likely to spot typos. Or even better, get a friend or family member to give it the once over.
Although they don’t publicise it, many firms recruit for vacation schemes and training contracts on a semi-rolling basis, with some places filling up before the advertised deadlines. As such, don’t leave submitting applications until the last minute as you may unwittingly put yourself at a disadvantage.
Hang in there
Finally, hang in there. It can be tempting to throw the towel in when getting bogged down on an application so stick with it. You’ve got this!