Oct 15, 2021

Written By Robert Greene

How to ask for feedback if your training contract application is rejected

Oct 15, 2021

Written By Robert Greene

Being rejected for a training contract is a disheartening – but universal – experience. There are few, if any, students who won’t receive at least one rejection. But while it may not seem like it at the time, being rejected can be a very valuable experience. It can give you the insights you need to succeed the next time. In this article, we’ll look at how to ask for feedback if your training contract application is rejected and how to improve your chances of success.

When it comes to training contract applications, rejection is the name of the game. On average, roughly 16,000 students qualify with a law degree each year. However, there are only about 6,000 training contracts offered each year. This means around 37% of students who qualify with a law degree receive a training contract offer.

So, if you’ve received a rejection, you’re not alone. But what you do with it can be the difference between getting rejected again or being successful next time. We’ve put together some tips on what to do if your training contract application is rejected.

 

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Accept the rejection

If your training contract application is rejected, do not try to convince the firm that they made the wrong decision, or even worse: reject the decision. The legal industry is relatively small. You do not want your name to get out there for all the wrong reasons!

The best response to a rejection is to thank the firm for their time and ask them for feedback.

Ask for feedback

Getting feedback is crucial to improving your chances of landing a training contract next time. If you get through to an interview stage or assessment centre, it is likely that the graduate recruitment team will offer to give you feedback, usually over the phone or email. The benefit of a phone call is that you can ask questions; the plus side of an email is that you have a written record of the feedback.

Rebecca Reese, Senior Knowledge, Learning & Development Adviser at Farrer & Co LLP says: "If you have been rejected after a vacation scheme or assessment centre, we always offer a feedback session to help you develop.”

If the firm does not offer feedback, you can still ask for it. For example, Samantha Bracey, Future Talent Advisor at TLT LLP, says students can email their Graduate Recruitment team and that they will provide training contract application feedback.

Unfortunately, if you do not get past the first stage of the application process, firms may not be willing or able to provide individual feedback due to the volume of applications received. In this case, there is no harm in asking, but it is also worthwhile discussing how to improve your application with a member of the careers advice team at your university.

The Graduate Recruitment Team at DLA Piper says: “Unfortunately, because of the high number of applications received it’s often not possible to receive individualised feedback after the initial application stage.

“If a candidate does receive a rejection, we’d encourage them to self-reflect on the strength of their initial application and seek opportunities to engage with the firm (for example at a presentation or careers fair) where they will have the opportunity to ask firm representatives questions about the selection criteria.”

Don’t bash the firm

Don’t just be polite in your response. Be polite after you are rejected. Criticising the firm in future interviews or on social media is a self-destructive strategy. It will harm you more than it will harm the firm.

Word spreads like wildfire, especially in the age of social media. The last thing you want is for your tweet bashing the firm to go viral on Twitter. No law firms will look on this too kindly!

Make changes

If you do receive feedback, be polite, express gratitude, and do not challenge it; the goal is to improve your chances of getting a training contract next time, not to prove that the firm made a mistake.

Use the feedback to create an action plan. Where are the areas you fell down on and how can you improve on them? If your knowledge of the firm was not up to scratch, for example, consider attending more events run by the firm and setting up a Google Alert to keep on top of the firm’s news. Or if you lacked relevant legal experience, you could look into pro bono opportunities or paralegal roles.

Most application forms include a section which asks whether you have applied to the firm before. This is your opportunity to show that you listened to the feedback and you made the necessary changes.

Reapply

Finally, once you’ve gone about making those changes: reapply! That’s if you want to, of course. You may ultimately decide that you do not want to approach the same firm again, which is fine. But the feedback you received can still be valuable and help improve your applications to other firms.

It’s worth noting that some law firms do not allow you to apply twice in the same application cycle. So, if you were rejected for a vacation scheme, you may not be able to apply for a training contract until the next cycle. This should be made clear to you in the rejection email or on the firm’s website. Otherwise, ask the graduate recruitment team.

Some firms also cap the number of times you can reapply. Again, if this information is not available on the firm’s website, speak to the graduate recruitment team.

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