1. Leaving out important information
Many candidates assume that employers will read their CV in conjunction with their cover letter, and leave out important information like education background in their cover letter. This is a fatal mistake because employers may actually choose to stop reading at first glance of your cover letter.
Secondly, it is always beneficial to repeat your key achievements. The reader is first introduced to your key achievements and skill-sets in your cover letter, and this is fleshed out in your resume later. This creates a multiplicity effect to boost your chances of your key strengths being remembered by your potential employer.
2. Wasting prime real estate with headers
It is increasingly popular for applicants to have fanciful cover letters with stylized headers and footers. While it is always a bonus for your application to stand-out, content should not be sacrificed in favour of presentation. When in doubt, reduce unnecessary information in your headers (e.g. addresses of law firms) in favour of more substantive points in the main body of your cover letter.
Information that matter include:
(1) Law firm name;
(2) Your contact details (1 email, 1 phone number); and
(3) What position you are applying for and entry date.
3. Too lengthy
An extremely common pitfall that befalls applicants is an overly-lengthy resume. We recommend a CV that is at most 2 pages. Being able to present your arguments in a concise and effective fashion is a key skill-set for any aspiring lawyer. Demonstrate this in your resume.
Generally, pre-university experience holds lesser weight in law firms’ decision-making process. Candidates may include stellar A level grades and notable awards/achievements in JC/Poly, but we would recommend keeping this section as abbreviated as possible.
4. Not being specific
Maximize each and every point in your resume. As stated above, eliminate all unnecessary and/or filler points. Instead, provide specific examples to showcase what exactly you did during your internships, what you did to win this mooting competition, the skill-sets that are demonstrable from each experience etc.
Some thinking points to help you craft your resume for maximum impact are as follows:
· What are my key strengths that I want to convey?
· Do I convey genuine interest or does it sound generic?
· Can this point be made more specific with context or figures to back it up?
· Can I rephrase this point to better showcase my role in this matter?
5. Not preparing ahead of time
A key mistake that many applicants make is not preparing for the interview early on. HR schedules interviews very close to the date that they contact you, and this phone call / email can sometimes come out of the blue. To avoid scrambling at the last minute, you should be prepared ahead of time. Practice commonly asked questions during law interviews (linked here), and keep yourself continually updated on current legal events.
Prepare an interview cheat sheet that includes the following:
Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries on the training contract application process. Check out Part I (How to get a TC) and Part III (Pros and Cons on Types of Law Firms).