What is a ‘rolling basis’ and why do I care?

Recruiters probably think this phrase is self-explanatory. But, I can remember a time when I didn’t know what it meant, and I had no idea of its significance. So let’s just run through it because it is really really really important you get it.

assessment centre application training contract vacation scheme law rolling basis

What does it mean?

Imagine two firms, Firm A and Firm B (I’m imaginative). They both run a vacation scheme in summer, which has 50 places on it. Applications are accepted by these firms between the 1st of January and the 31st of January. The only difference is, Firm A recruits on a rolling basis and Firm B does not.

At 9 am on the 1st of January, grad. recruiters at Firm A start reading through applications and selecting candidates to be on the vacation scheme. Hypothetically, they could pick 50 candidates before lunchtime and not bother to read any more applications. Why? Because all the places are full. It doesn’t matter if there’s another amazing candidate, there are no more spaces.

However, Firm B will collect in all the applications, and might not even start looking at them until the 1st of February. They will read them all and allocate the places to the best 50 applicants.

What does this mean for my application?

If you apply for both firms on the last day (January 31st), your odds of getting a place are dramatically different. So long as it is not within the last few hours/ minutes/ seconds, it won’t make a difference to your chances of getting on the vacation scheme with Firm B. (I only advise you against applying at the last minute because it makes you look like the type of person who will leave something important until…the last minute). However,  if you apply to Firm A on the last day, there is only a very slim chance that there will be any places left on the vac scheme.

How do I know if the firm does recruit on a rolling basis?

All you need to do is Google ‘Firm A rolling basis’ and have a search through the results. If you have searched and searched and you cannot find anything, assume they do recruit on a rolling basis (as most firms do). This would also be a good question to ask a grad. recruiter if you get the chance (and you are 100% sure it is not on the website).

What do I do with this information?

When you’re thinking about the firms you’re going to apply to, you need to know their deadlines and whether they’re rolling or not. That way, you can choose which applications to start working on first. There’s absolutely no point in doing a non-rolling application first, as getting it in early does not better your chances.

I’ve left it really late to apply to my dream firm (and it’s rolling), what should I do?

Your heart may have sank while you read this post, as you’ve left it really late (not knowing it made any difference). Look, we’ve all been there. And there’s not really a right or a wrong answer to what you should do. But as a rule of thumb, I get twitchy if my application is being submitted anywhere near the last week before the deadline (and that’s when the window is only one month). If you have a two month application window, you should absolutely get it in within the first month. Within the first week! Look, the earlier you submit it, the better your odds.

If you’re asking me what I would do if I only had a few days left before the deadline and it was rolling…. Hmm… well it’s a tricky question. If I had finished my application completely, I’d submit it. Sort of with the understanding I’m not going to get a place, and I’ll apply again next year as soon as it opens. But if I was still in the drafting process, I’d stop working on it. There’s probably another application I could be doing for a later deadline. Plus, I can always apply next year (within the first week!)


Do you remember in the first article I wrote, where I said that you have 100% control over your success? Well, that means you have to be organised, plan your application strategy and give yourself every advantage possible. Why apply late when you can apply early? Make your application the first application they read. Give yourself the best possible chance.

assessment centre application training contract vacation scheme law rolling basis
“May the odds be ever in your favour”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s