12th November 2012

Each season of the year brings its joys and difficulties. As a cyclist I love setting off for work on a classic Autumn morning with that hint of frost in the air and seeing the countryside as it emerges from the darkness. Autumn of course also brings the joy of the English apple after a summer of tepid over sweet foreign fruits.

However, Autumn also brings trainee recruitment, dreaded I am sure by candidates and approached with some trepidation by those of us who are expected to do the selecting.

To put this into context, between June and October we ask people who are seeking training contracts to start in the September of the following year to make application to us. It is amazing how many leave it to the last minute.

The pressure on those selecting is not only to be fair but to be seen to be fair, so every stage is approached with care. These posts are massively oversubscribed and we do recognise that in most cases a great deal of effort has been put into writing the CV and covering letter. It is very easy to spot the candidates who have put in a generic application, and not helpful when the application is addressed to the managing partner of a rival local firm – which happens more frequently than one might imagine.

We do recognise, however, that behind each written application there is a person who has worked hard through University, has completed a testing postgraduate qualification (or 2) and who has often not only worked to earn money to see them through their studies but has an impressive list of extracurricular achievements.

Yet in drawing up even the long list of candidates we find ourselves arguing with some intensity over paper thin differences between one application and another. It is all very time consuming and I always wonder whether we have it right.

Every year we wish we could employ more of the applicants, every year we wish that the training institutions would make our job easier by filtering the candidates more rigorously so fewer people get through- yes I know this would be unfair and possibly elitist but as one struggles late into the evening to make a decision over who should be long listed, every fantasy has potential.

We do seek feedback from candidates and we try to improve year on year, so we hope candidates who I am sure at times think we are pure sadists will accept that we take this very seriously, spend a great deal of time on it, and allow it to partly spoil the joys of Autumn.