Different recruiters will have their own ways of assessing these forms. Some look at the holistic nature of the form, more than others. Some require cover letters, but others do not, and such firms put a lot on emphasis on their cover letters. This document is not supposed to provide the substrate of a ‘perfect answer’ for the “marking matrix” used by these firms, but is supposed to provide clues as to the rationale for asking the question in the first place.
Competencies are knowledge and skills statements and not task statements. For example: conducting the meetings is a task. In order to do so, one needs required competency. Therefore, in this case the required competency is the combination of skills to make an agenda, to promote a healthy group process, to resolve conflicts, to manage time etc.
- Be clear in your own mind why you want to join the firm and why you wish to become a commercial lawyer. What is it that really interests you about the work we do? Match what you’ve got to what they’re looking for. Most employers nowadays select against criteria. The more precisely you match them, the harder it is for them to avoid interviewing you! A detailed list of what they’re looking for often comes with the application form but, if not, go systematically through their website or recruitment literature; you may find it especially useful to look at their graduate recruitment pages, especially “what we’re looking for” and any statements of competences or shared values of the firm. Knowing precisely what they want will help you match up your own qualities when you complete the form.
- You’re applying to a commercial law firm so you will be expected to know about the world of business and the issues that affect the firm and its clients. It’s probably worth your while if you identify one or two key business or legal news stories that interest you and follow them for at least a few weeks before the interviews, so you can talk quite broadly about the main issues.
- Take your time. Look at various websites, brochures, careers fairs, presentations, and other online resources like http://www.allaboutcareers.com/ . Time spent preparing is time well spent. It’ll make those “why do you want to work for us?” questions so much easier. With longer forms you may need to break it into chunks, filling the form in over two or three sessions.
- Make it easy for the graduate recruitment officer. Give your answers a clear structure. Directly match the skills they want to your own, using headings if necessary. Think about what sets you apart from other applicants. This is your chance to sell yourself, so use a range of examples from both inside and out of university to highlight your skills and achievements.
- Where’s the evidence? Many applications lack the individuality injected by small bits of specific detail which make them come alive. Give relevant interesting examples - go into detail. Make every effort to include practical examples of when and where you’ve demonstrated the skills they want.
- Don’t be modest. Application forms (and interviews) are all about letting people know what we’re good at.
- Treat it like an exam i.e. answer the question! Recognise a multi-part question and tackle all its parts separately, using sub-‐‑headings or breaking it up into paragraphs. Treat each bit separately – don’t smudge it into a single answer.
- Don’t be afraid of your failures. Application forms can read like an unstinting list of successes. It’s sometimes worth going on to analyse the lessons learned – why did things go wrong, how might you do them differently next time?
- Vary it! Get together a list of examples you might use. You can call on all sorts of things - holidays, summer jobs, flatshares, voluntary work, committees. Then go through the form, considering which example is strongest for each of the answers. Think about the job you’re applying for, and try to use the most relevant examples.
- Don’t overdo the academic. Employers seek rounded individuals, adept in a number of situations, not people whose main experience of teamwork, achievement, challenge and communication comes through their course.
- Attention to detail is a key skill for a lawyer and this starts with your application, so check thoroughly for grammar and spelling errors. his is the number one training contract application mistake to avoid on every recruiter’s list. There are good reasons for this. It is something that can be easily avoided. Quickly pasting your work into a word processor for a grammar and spelling check should get most of the job done. Printing a hard copy and proof reading it, with a pen in hand, will do the rest. Do this when you are completely cold to what you have written, the next morning for example. Making these types of mistakes shows a lack of attention to detail, which is not taken lightly by prospective employers. Given the type of service that Law firms provide to their clients, attention to detail is especially important. Errors in drafted legal documents expose cracks in a firm’s amour of professionalism. You can imagine that a client will then start to question the firm’s competence in other less visible but more important areas. Drafting errors also provide ammunition for the opposite side and their lawyers. In the manoeuvreing that happen during negotiations it is much harder to hold your ground and assert your side of the argument if your work is being questioned for lack of quality.
- Copy and pasting. There are no shortcuts to a well-written and constructed application. Next to spelling and grammar errors, cutting and pasting from other sources is not only a waste of time with applications, but also easy enough to detect. Copying and pasting is often betrayed by inappropriate or incorrect information. Addressing the application to the wrong person or company happens all too often.
■ “Give an example of ..”
Competency-based questions often involve you demonstrating these key attributes so really think about the answers you give and explain your examples in full. Examples should have a clear structure to highlight your skills and achievements but remember to answer the question succinctly. If you need help with structure, you may want to think about the STAR technique:
A good way of dealing with this type of question is by using the CAR approach. CAR stands for Context, Action, Result. It helps you to structure your answer as a convincing way. The CONTEXT forms an introduction, describing the scenario you faced, date and place. The ACTION forms the main body and should be the longest part. The RESULT is the conclusion, and, like the introduction, should be quite short.
Other aspects might include:
- Try to give quantifiable results if possible.
- If the result was negative, then say what you learned from the experience, and what you would do differently next time. Sometimes interviewers will ask you about a situation where you were unsuccessful. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how well you learn lessons from failure, but also to demonstrate qualities such as resilience (to bounce back and try again); determination; strength of character (when the going gets tough, the tough get going!); flexibility; initiative; and lateral thinking. There is a saying that “The most successful people have failed the most” as the best way to learn is via your mistakes.
- Don’t go into too much background detail – keep to the point! Often there isn’t enough room to use the CAR approach, but it’s still worth keeping in mind when you prepare your draft answer. Think of the most relevant examples, rather than the most “impressive”.
- Use action verbs to improve your content.
“[X] has minimum academic requirements, so before completing our application form please give careful consideration to the following questions:
Do you have 3 A levels at grades A, B, B or equivalent? (N.B. Taken in one sitting and NOT including General Studies.
Have you gained or are you realistically expecting to gain a minimum 2.1 honours degree or equivalent?
Have you previously made an unsuccessful application to ?”
Multiple languages can be added by selecting the language, and fluency levels.
Percentage grades are now required for undergraduate and postgraduate subject results. You are required to ensure that your institution details and results are correct. You must include at least one secondary and one undergraduate record (including all results). You are also obliged to provide a complete breakdown of all your grades by subject, obtained during secondary school and university. Please list your all of your GCSEs and A’ʹ Levels or international equivalent.
■ “How did you hear about us?”
Various options are given. See also the section on “Firm choice” below.
You are normally required to enter details of two employers at least, sometimes one academic and one vocational.
■ Other details
Excluding motor offences not resulting in a custodial sentence or disqualification from driving, have you ever had a criminal conviction (including any spent conviction which, by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order 1975, should be disclosed)?
You will need to disclose any criminal convictions anyway if you wish to gain student enrolment with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to do the Legal Practice Course.
Do you have any disability for which you require any assistance for during the selection process?
As well as being a practical point such that “reasonable adjustments” can be made for any assessments you do, including for online assessments, the law firm will be interested in issues of accessibility for the place in which you have your interview/other assessments, or any necessary adjustments (e.g. special lighting, ergonomic chair) consistent with the Equality Act .
■ Work experience
Please set out details of your work experience. (Normally 4 + “others”)
Many large solicitors’ firms run formal work experience schemes, generally known as vacation placements. As well as shadowing solicitors and completing small, discrete tasks there may well be presentations about the firm and its work and a number of social events. Unsurprisingly, vacation placements are extremely popular – it can be harder to get onto one than to get a training contract. Most vacation placements will have fixed closing dates. As well as spending time with a solicitors’ firm, other good forms of legal experience include volunteering at a Citizens Advice Bureau or law centre.
■ Detailed questions
✑ Activities, interests, positions of responsibility
Please give brief details of your key non-academic extra-curricular hobbies, activities, leisure interests, highlighting any positions of responsibility whether at school, university or otherwise.
Describe your biggest achievement and/or most demanding position of responsibility you have held to date; why did this achievement stand out for you, and what did you learn from this?
This question is trying to assess how you manage your time. What have you been or are you doing whilst studying at university or Law School? If you are involved with any sporting or charity work tell them all about it - be specific. Talk about what you have done, what contribution that has made and what you gained from your involvement. These activities provide opportunities to develop skills that will be useful at work and your response should show that you understand this. A simple list of things that look good is less important than offering evidence of what you’ve gained from them. If possible, show how your interests have developed your skills, for example in teamwork, business awareness, or communication. Try to show results in terms of objectives set and achieving improvements. These sections are often quite tight, so some say it’s permissible to provide an answer in note form.
Please provide details of any academic prizes, distinctions, skills, scholarships and any other noteworthy achievements. In the case of skills please specify level of proficiency.
Sometimes the question will specify which “level” of your education these refer to, e.g. school, college or university.
✑ Firm specification
Please explain why you think you are well suited to , and have chosen to apply to  for a training contract or vacation scheme placement? why you think you would make a successful trainee?
[X] is a leading UK law firm. How do you think we are distinct from other law firms?
All [X] trainee solicitors are based in our [Y] office. Please give your reasons for choosing to live in or around and train at the [Y] office.
Again this question is trying to determine your commitment to a career and specifically your commitment to their particular law firm. Recruiters look for motivation, commitment and enthusiasm. So, why have you chosen them? Is it because you have spoken to trainees and like the sound of the firm’ʹs working environment? Have you researched their work and found a specific case / area interesting? Do you have relevant industrial experience? Do you have a language or are from a country that they have clients / offices in? Is there something particular about their training that appeals to you? Show that you have done your research about the firm and that you are genuinely interested in them.
Apparently most law students do extensive research in fact into their choice of firm. It’s also worth noting that @AllAboutCareers and @AllAboutLaw are very helpful in this regard, as well as “The Training Contract Handbook”.
✑ Career motivation
What qualities do you think you possess to be a successful lawyer in location [X] with [Y]? Which areas of law interest you and why?
Please explain what attracts you to a career as a solicitor at an international business law firm, with reference to other careers that you might have considered and why you chose not to pursue them.
This question tries to determine your commitment to a career in law: the thinking and research you have done about the profession and what you want from a career as a lawyer. Can you demonstrate enough commitment and interest in law to persuade the firm to invest money and time in you for the Graduate Diploma in Law, Legal Practice Course and/or training contract? This may seem an obvious question but do you really know why you want to be a solicitor or barrister – think hard about it, this may be asked at interview.
If you can produce a convincing answer to this question you’re one step ahead. Think about what first sparked your interest in law, or what you like most about it. Maybe being a solicitor was your childhood dream, or maybe it runs in the family. Whatever the case, you need to show that you are passionate about the law. With all the academic requirements and vocational training, becoming a solicitor is a long-term project. To be offered a law training contract you need to show that you have the passion and the drive to see it through to the end.
Be specific in your reasons for choosing a legal career. Have you had any relevant work experience that has helped you to see first hand what a lawyer actually does? Have you had any personal experience of the work of a lawyer – perhaps through family or friends? Even if you have done pro bono in a law centre or a CAB, has this experience been useful in you understanding generic skills such as teamwork, communication or meeting deadlines? Has your law course or degree furthered your interest and commitment to law? Have you developed a substantial interest in access-to-justice? Have you had any relevant experience that has developed skills that would be easily transferable to a career as a lawyer?
The work of solicitors is more varied than you might think. There are a number of different settings in which solicitors work, for example commercial, private or in-house practice. You should be aware of the differences between the various settings, but if you’re not, do some research. Find out about the kind of role you might find yourself in if you were to go for commercial practice, for example. Is this what you hoped for when you embarked upon your law studies? If not, look into the other options. Being aware of your preferences is vital when choosing a firm with whom you want to carry out your training. Not only will it make what you learn more worthwhile, but you will find it easier to choose a firm. The firm will also find it easier to choose you.
For most training contract applicants, the choice boils down to the simple question: “Do I work in London, or do I work for a local regional firm? This is something of a personal choice, with implications that will affect your quality of life and your career. The largest firms are based in London and the legal market which circles the capital’s financial services industry is one of the most lucrative in the world. This translates into higher average pay packets for London solicitors. Aside from the careers benefits to choosing London, trainees can enjoy all the social and cultural activities that the cosmopolitan city has to offer. However, the cost of living is higher in London and you will have to content with the traffic and rush hour crushes on the tube. Working hours are often longer at London firms and you may find a more attractive work-life balance at firms outside of the capital. The choice, as always, is yours.
✑ Commercial awareness
Identify a current commercial article that you read or a recent event from the business world which has attracted your attention recently. Why do you consider it to be significant? Who are the key stakeholders in this situation and what are the implications for those concerned?
Business acumen and commercial awareness are important elements to becoming a successful solicitor. Please outline, in your opinion, why you think this would be important and tell us about a time when you’ve demonstrated your abilities in this area. What was the occasion and what impact did possessing this awareness have over the final outcome?
Choose a sector group of the firm and summarise the biggest challenges and opportunities they will face in the future.
Commercial awareness is something that firms almost without exception mention as a desirable quality. Commercial awareness is generally defined as a candidate’ʹs general knowledge of business. It can be summed up as an interest in business and an understanding of the wider environment in which an organisation operates: its customers and competitors. For corporates, this is about establishing “competitive advantage”, and it’s often interesting to work out how companies enter new markets (especially the BRIC emerging economies), and what barriers there might be for companies competing effectively in critical markets.
Commercial awareness generally means an understanding of a client’ʹs business and the industry or sector in which it operates. It is a key competency for applicants. It involves not only keeping up to date with commercial issues and it is also about being able to demonstrate commercial awareness through any business/work experience and, specifically, the applicant’s understanding of the type of firm to which they are applying. Clients seek business solutions, presented in a way that makes sense. An understanding that a law firm operates in a competitive industry is also considered as being commercially aware.
As a result you may be expected to demonstrate an understanding as to how the firm or chambers markets itself to its clients. To know who the firm’s main competitors are. To explain how you would attract a potential client by explaining the unique selling points of the firm (USPs). For example, if you’re applying to a foreign firm, it’s not inconceivable you could be asked who the major players are in that particular market (e.g. the US market). In addition to this you will be expected to know about the practice areas in which the firm or chambers operate and to be aware of key changes in legislation and the economic market which may affect the way in which they operate.
Have you done a LL.M. in international commercial law where you might have gained important experience in drafting or case analysis in this particular field of law? Have you even done a M.B.A. where you have studied business management in great detail? You could also think about participating in any student societies where you are doing the GDL or LPC – these are very active the vast majority of “learning providers”.
Mention any business/commercial experience you have had, including non-legal work and/or roles which involve dealing with clients or members of the public. Have you ever been a Director of a private limited company yourself? This can highlight your awareness of customer needs and expectations. Were you ever given the task of improving a current service or product? Did you add value to it? If so, how did you go about it, what factors did you have to take into consideration? Are you able to identify the long term and short term goals of an organisation or a project?
Thinking in terms of a SWOT (the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the firm or legal sector can be helpful.
Did you have a key role in any society committees at school or university? Were you given a financial role? Any of these can be good indicators that you have had to think about different perspectives in the market place.
Have you ever raised money for a charity, secured sponsorship for an event? What process did you go through to secure the funds? Read the business press regularly. Try to know something about current leading stories/issues, and how they might have an impact on the firm’s clients. Look out for stories that will affect the firm to which you are applying, or its clients, directly or indirectly.
Look at the BBC news and business website. Read also publications like the Financial Times, the Economist, and The Lawyer. There are business related programmes on BBC Radio which are also available to listen again on-‐‑line and as podcasts such as:
The Bottom Line (with @EvanHD) http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/bottomline “Insight into business from the people at the top. Evan Davis meets influential business leaders for a round table conversation about the issues that matter to their companies and their customers.”
Describe an occasion when you spotted an opportunity to make an improvement in ‘going the extra mile’, and took action without being asked to do so. What steps did you take? What was the outcome? Explain why you think this attribute is relevant for a solicitor.
This question is testing your problem solving ability. Detail what the issue was, why it was difficult and then what you did to resolve it. If you are talking about a group activity, do not put ’ʹwe‘ʹ - they are interested in what you did. As with all your answers use this question to differentiate yourself i.e. make it personal and substantiate what you say with specific examples.
Aspects of a good answer might be as follows.
- Use initiative to act on opportunities. Become a leader before other people view you as one. Healthy organisations often reward those who take the lead, not just those with formal management roles.
- Take responsibility for own objectives: set priorities. Display a ”ʺcan do“ʺ attitude even in demanding situations. Try to solve problems, rather than to pass them on to other people.
- ʺGo the extra mileʺ when asked to do tasks. Go beyond your job description. Do work that gets you noticed. Show enthusiasm: this will be noticed and you will eventually be rewarded.
- Take ownership of problems: anticipate potential problems, take pre-emptive action and act quickly to resolve problems. Develop innovative practices. Value innovative thinking.
- Learn new skills that will enhance capability.
Describe a time that you have had to change your approach to a project or task halfway through. What changes did you have to make? Why did you need to make these changes? What was the outcome?
This means that you are able to modify your approach to achieve a goal, and you are open to change and new information; you can rapidly adapt to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles. Legal recuiters are often looking for the following aspects.
1. Values need for flexibility:
- Accepts that other people’s points of view are reasonable or valid.
- Acknowledges that people are entitled to their opinions, and accepts that they are different.
- Steps into colleagues’ tasks when needed or required.
2. Demonstrates flexibility:
- Works creatively within standard procedures to fit a specific situation.
- Understands policies and can work within them to meet office, work group, team or individual goals.
3. Adapts approach:
- Changes one’s approach as required to achieve intended outcomes.
- Prioritises actions effectively in order to respond to numerous, diverse challenges and demands.
4. Adapts strategy:
- Changes the overall service plan and implements new practices when original approach and assumptions are no longer valid.
- Able to shift strategic focus and activities quickly in response to changing organisational priorities.
Teamwork is considered crucial to functioning well as a trainee/junior in a corporate law firm.
Please give an example of a situation where you were required to work in a team to accomplish an important objective and describe your role in achieving this objective.
A law student who is good at teamwork might:
- Believe that working together with others or in teams gives higher synergies to self and the teams, and therefore is positive and enthusiastic about teamwork and team building.
- Contributes significantly when working as a member of a team or when working as a team leader to build a strong team; respects all the members of the team and cooperates with every team member and the team leader.
- Provides help and support to those team members who are in need of help and support, and shares relevant knowledge and information with all the team members including the team leader.
- Maintains the required level of communication in terms of quality, quantity and timeliness with the team members and the team leader.
- When working as a team leader, facilitates developing team goals with team members’ participation.
- Motivates the team members while working as a leader of the team or even when working as a member of the team, building up high team morale; creates a sense or feeling of cohesiveness among the fellow members.
- Is good at resolving the conflicts that might arise due to diverse personalities of various team members.
- When the members seem to err from the shared mission, goals and priorities, brings them back on the desired focus.
- Seeks for each and every member’ʹs active and enthusiastic participation all the time and accordingly motivates the members who seem to be getting disinterested or tuned out from time to time.
- Makes every member feel that each one’ʹs work or contribution is equally important.
- Shares credit for success of team with all the others in the team.
- Celebrates the team’ʹs success together with all the others in the team.
- Makes sure that the various teams do not become islands in themselves and form unnecessary boundaries around them.
✑ Defining qualities of the candidate
What can you tell us about yourself that sets you apart from other applicants, and which are convincing reasons why we should recruit you?
In a sense, your answer to this question is to some extent governed by your personal qualities not covered elsewhere in the form. Here are some further competences which might be relevant here.
A trainee will be expected to upholds the principles of the current SRA Code of Conduct. Some aspects might include:
- Holds to a laudable value structure all the time and in all the situations.
- Practices integrity while dealing with everyone and therefore is regarded as trustworthy person.
- Does not turn and twist the information to gain something or to score a point in an underhand manner.
- Uses confidential information confidentially. Does not divulge the confidential information even under any pressure.
- Does not indulge in any kind of corruption or corrupt practices.
- Motivates others to practice integrity by being an example to others.
Some aspects might include:
- Can envision the advancement and growth opportunities.
- Possesses abilities for high degree of conceptualization, strategizing and analysis.
- Demonstrates high achievement orientation. Therefore, emphasizes commitment,
- accountability, action orientation and results.
- Adept at interpersonal relationships and puts emotional intelligence in action.
- Excellent communicator.
- Uses his excellent influencing skills for bringing out the desired consensus, decisions and actions.
- Very good at decision making processes and once decisions are reached, displays firmness and decisiveness in implementation.
- Displays required flexibility and adaptability in different situations and times.
- Is great team builder and team player. Provides necessary support and cooperativeness.
- Possesses high commercial awareness and business acumen.
- Develops many next line leaders.
✑ Communication skills
All solicitors at [X] work with a wide range of people so need to be able to persuade, influence and display effective communication skills. Describe a situation when you have had to communicate effectively.
You should think of various forms of effective communications, e.g. oral presentations, written papers, written papers, drafting, interviewing or advising (on the LPC), practical legal research (on the LPC), blogging, participating in podcasts, and how you have adapted your method of communication according to the target audience. Your answer is bound to be more compelling if you can give concrete examples. Some related specific competences are given as below.
One scenario where persuading skills can be important is the job interview, but the following tips are valuable in many other settings.
- Focus on the needs of the other party. Take time to listen to them carefully and find out about their interests and expectations. This shows that you are really interested in them and they are then more likely to trust and respect you. It will also make it easier for you to outline the benefits of your proposal in terms they understand.
- Argue your case with logic. Do careful research on your ideas and those of your competitors (if there are any) and make sure that any claims you make can be verified.
- Use positive rather than negative language: instead of saying ”ʺYou’ʹre wrong about this”ʺ, say ”ʺThat’ʹs true but ….”ʺ, ”ʺThat’ʹs an excellent idea, but if we look more deeply …..”ʺ or ”ʺI agree with what you say but have you considered ….”ʺ.
Some aspects might include:
- Believes that listening strengthens the quality of communication, interpersonal relations, human relations, emotional intelligence, conflict management and team management.
- Every interaction requires one to respond and since the quality of response depends on the quality of listening, tries to improve quality of his listening constantly.
- Thus, listens to understand the other person and not just to react, reply, control or manipulate the other person. By understanding the other person properly, can respond or act in the best possible manner.
- Generally respects other people and demonstrates openness and trust through his body language and spoken words.
- Then, paves way to influencing the people in right directions by diagnosing the issues and concerns of others in a better way for effective problem solving.
- Promotes a more participative style of managing by involving people.
✑ Conflict and pressure
The success of [X] is built on the self-motivation and applied effort of all its employees, as demonstrated by their ability to work through setbacks coping effectively with conflict and pressure. Describe a situation when you have had to deal with conflict and pressure. Which other people involved? What did you learn about yourself?
Some aspects might include the observations that the law student:
- Recognises the fact that conflicts are quite natural in any organization and yet these need appropriate redressing to move on with apt solutions, thereforeis willing to take up the responsibility of managing and resolving the conflict.
- Can think through clearly in a conflicting situation.
- Keeps his eyes constantly on the desired goals and therefore, does not drift away from them despite conflicting arguments and points of views.
- Listens well and patiently all the conflicting arguments and presentations.
- Controls the people and their communication patterns in the discussions that takes place when resolving a conflict.
- Facilitates the innovative and creative thinking of the people caught up in the conflict.
- Does not take sides of any particular set of people or their thinking. Rather, tries to facilitate working out genuinely appropriate and optimal solutions.
- Contributes his own inputs, ideas, creativity and analysis to supplement the missing or erroneous information and thus uncover the real issues and reasons that led to the conflict. Then proceeds to help find the answers.
- Gains agreements without leaving behind any bitter taste or disrupting the human relationships.
- Is proactive and as far as possible anticipates the conflicting situations and dissolves them well before they turn into conflicts.
✑ Commitment to excellence
Describe an occasion when you have demonstrated commitment to a task or project that resulted in you exceeding expectations either for yourself or others. What steps did you take? What was the outcome?
You will be able to achieve the excellence in any skill or competency only if you rehearse or practice the learned skill a large number of times. Knowledge alone is no guarantee for achieving great levels in skills or competencies. For example, only if you start swimming, you will become a swimmer; mere knowledge of swimming or great theories of swimming will not automatically make you even an ordinary swimmer. Knowledge surely helps and is a must but without doing, it is of no use to you. Implementation of knowledge is the name of the game. Wisdom is in knowing what to do and how to do but the virtue is doing it.
It’s said that you should become both consciously and unconsciously competent in your strive for excellence. Consciously competent means gaining the knowledge about the skill to be mastered and begin practicing the knowledge gained (example: gaining knowledge on how to swim using proper styles of swimming and start swimming using the right styles of swimming). On the other hand, unconsciously competent means keep practicing the knowledge gained till you gain mastery in the skill (example: you have now become an expert swimmer since you have been swimming using the proper styles of swimming over number of hours and you can now give yourself 9 on 10 or even 10 on 10). For greater success in life, you should try to reach the unconsciously competent level in the skills required by you for your professional, personal, family and social activities/tasks/projects.
✑ Personal challenge
Describe a significant challenge that you have faced outside of your academic studies ideally from the last 2 years. How did you initially analyse the challenge? What approach did you take to solving it? What did you learn from this challenge?
- Successful answers to these sorts of questions need to be as concrete as possible. Supply specific detail on the situation, the actions taken and the results achieved. Figures can be particularly useful in this context.
- Your example need not be very “significant”. Go for something you genuinely believe to be a real achievement rather than give them something you think they want to hear - it’ll be more convincing. The important thing is to set it in context. Explain why it was significant to you - if you’re unsporty, uncoordinated and broke your leg six months previously, learning to stay upright while sliding a few hundred metres downhill may well have been a major achievement.
- A useful device is the Trojan horse technique, which allows you to smuggle in other examples as in “ I considered selecting one of several achievements, including x and y. However I have chosen z because…....”
Aspects of a convincing answer might include the following.
1. Recognises Lack of Success:
Acknowledges areas where expectations are not met, and provides reasons which may or may not involve self.
2. Remains Positive:
Re-energises after loss or failure or after encountering a significant hurdle to readdress the situation and to overcome it; approaches new situations with continuing positive outlook, despite previous disappointments.
3. Takes Responsibility:
Acknowledges personal responsibility for outcomes, even when not all elements of a situation are within direct control but could have been personally managed.
4. Learns from Mistakes and Successes:
Analyses situations on an ongoing basis to improve own performance; designs a personal action plan to address own issues constructively and decisively.
5. Shares Learning with Team:
Deals openly with failure by bringing team together to define specific problems and present solutions; may involve team in diagnosis and in developing solutions to effectively transfer knowledge into the organisation.
✑ Mitigating circumstances
Are there any important mitigating circumstances why you feel the exam results you have listed do not fully reflect your abilities?
There may be good reasons why you ‘underperformed’, due to recent bereavement, or illness and disease, and these should be set out with reference to documentary evidence where possible.
If applicable, please state any additional information which you think is relevant and supportive to your application or which you think has not been covered adequately in this form.
This is a good opportunity to do precisely that!