I have met with two experienced candidates recently both looking for a training contract. The question comes up: “how do I compare to the other candidates coming straight from school / university / LPC?”.
Good question this, as I think that experienced candidates need to tackle this very directly in their application form / cover letter. One of the candidates that I met had a technical background with a few years’ experience as an engineer, and had a credible story about that leading to a role specialising in intellectual property. The other had a few different jobs, including paralegal roles and years before mortgage broking. The problem with this second candidate was that he had not put together a credible story about where this was leading.
In itself, having some other previous professional experience can be positive or negative – it all depends on whether the story makes sense. The potential employer needs to see a specific path to a department or expertise that is not expected for an inexperienced candidate – in fact it would be a mistake for an inexperienced candidate to be too focused on a specific department in an interview or from day 1 of a training contract.
I think that an experienced applicant is one of the rare situations where a motivational statement on a cv is justified (for those rare cv + cover letter application requirements).
By the way, after our meeting, the second candidate did improve his cv to show a clearer direction into a training contract or compliance role in financial services.
Sound advice Toby. The other suggestion I’d make is for people to think about what their experience has given them in terms of transferable skills (a point you make in your earlier posts) – although the company or industry may not be directly relevant, if you have gained some knowledge, training or skills that would be useful as a lawyer, don’t be afraid to shout about it!