You’ve polished your competencies and your examples are excellent (if you do say so yourself)….but what now?
Now you need to link those examples to the fabulous research you have done.
But what if you’re answering a competency question- surely you don’t need firm research here? WRONG. You need to put outstanding research in every application form you ever do, at a ratio of approximately 40:60 research: other stuff.
This is not at all obvious, so let me explain why. And let’s use this question as an example: “What are your strengths, and what are your key accomplishments?”
So first think about the motivation behind this question – they want a synopsis of your most impressive achievements. They want to be impressed, and sharpish! If it was a 600 word question I’d go for three examples, if it were 250 words I’d write one. (I’m sure if you asked other future-trainees they’d all give you different answers- but you asked me and I think that’s the best technique).
And secondly, think about who is asking. It’s not just a person, no, it is a person looking for people to hire into their law firm. So they may well be interested in your crocheting skills, but unless you can justify why your example is relevant (and not just generally impressive) they are not going to give you a job.
And how do you show a grad. recruiter that your crochet championship quarter finalist award is relevant? Well you use the ‘magic’ link.
When done right, the transition from competency to firm-information is silky smooth. And this is largely down to your research being relevant.
Let me give you an example:
In October I attended the Norfolk & Chance presentation at Whatever University. I asked the panel about the work they found the most challenging. Chris P. Bacon (sorry, not sorry) answered that while negotiating the takeover of a client by PB&J, it became necessary to create a unique financial instrument. His team then had to find a market that was willing to sell them. It was made clear that the ability to find creative solutions to complex problems is vital to being successful at Norfolk & Chance. (HERE IS THE MAGIC LINK- you are going to be deeply underwhelmed). I have recently had the opportunity to develop my problem-solving skills, as last month I completed an intensive rock climbing course. Due to my upper-limb deficiency, the climbs were especially difficult as the walls were designed for two-handed people. I had to devise new routes up the walls, which took hours of trial and error. I worked with my partner on the ground, and we discussed different techniques for negotiating particularly challenging sections. Although progress often felt painfully slow, by exercising determination and resilience I managed to reach the top of all the walls.
So what have I done here?
I’ve told them something I’m good at (problem-solving, not rock climbing). I’ve demonstrated (rather than spelled-out) why this is relevant; why they should care. I’ve also proven that I understand at least a little bit of what the firm does. Moreover, I’ve not-so-casually told them I went to an event they ran. And, with any luck, the person reading this will suddenly remember who I am, and what a startlingly good first impression I made.
So it’s not as simple as describing your crocheting triumph, and listing 50 things you have done won’t tick these hidden boxes.
Step 1: Take a competency example (set out in the STAR format, of course) and think about how you could create a magic link.
What transferable skills have you demonstrated?
What possible information about the firm could you link this to?
Step 2: Do you remember in language classes in school when you were given those paragraphs with key words missing? You need to create some of these, but with key facts missing. Briefly sketch out a couple of sentences that you can stick to the top of your competency which will link it to the firm and show the recruiter the relevance of your example. It’s ok if you don’t know key statistics about the firm just yet, but it makes it so much easier if you have a vague idea of what facts you’re looking for.
Step 3: Once you have this structure in place, go and research the firm and find the relevant information- fill in the blanks.
Top Tip: try looking for the firm’s annual reports, 5/10 year plan and interviews with the CEO. All of this is excellent for discerning the direction the firm is going in. And a good rule of thumb is, if you found the information on the firm’s grad. recruitment website or on a brochure, do not include it. You want to blow the recruiters away with your fabulous research, not bore them by parroting back a fact that they just told you.