- Sep 6, 2020
I’ll be honest - I don’t think this would work, so it wouldn’t be something I would personally endorse/support.
It seems simplistic but it requires technology and in the era of data and subject access requests could actually present more risks to a employer than benefit. It would also be time consuming to complete, so would slow down recruitment processes, which in turn causes more frustrations for the talent pool (as we often see in this forum).
Nice idea, but incredibly time consuming to actually do. The article makes it sound easy, but for those of us who see it from the recruiters' side - it's not a very easy thing to do at all. I'm not aware of a single organisation in any sector that implements a model like this - that's very telling. And it isn't because recruiters can't be bothered!
Plus, in my experience, many candidates aren't rejected for a specific and discrete issue as the article suggests - you are being compared against everyone else who applies in that particular application round.
I try to do my best to produce informative articles/videos on how to improve an application that has been rejected, but I just can't see how it can be done on an individual level when we receive thousands of applications.
Thank you all for your replies - I really appreciate your insights!!Thank you for this post @danieljonesqb - the issue is a really tricky one! Forgive me for my own flood of conflicting thoughts on the issue below
I remember when applying that I felt the exact same way as you, especially after one firm where I attended a vac scheme (and was unsuccessful in getting a TC offer) sent a simple rejection e-mail stating that it was unable to offer feedback due to the number of applicants...
But then I did receive feedback from some firms post-VS, post-AC, post-VI and even post-application form and I realised that whilst feedback can sometimes seem useful, I understand why many firms choose not to offer it and why it can actually have a counterproductive effect on candidates!
First of all, feedback is often not transferrable between firms. The firm which gave me post-application form feedback told me that I should have related my answer to 'Why commercial law?' back to the firm, whilst I know that other firms explicitly do not want candidates to do this, emphasising that applicants should only answer the exact question being asked. I think that feedback is only really helpful where there is some sort of standard for a clear 'before and after' comparison.
Indeed, feedback can be very useful where there is a clear metric being assessed, such as in a psychometric test or perhaps even in competency answers involving a formulaic list of questions (such as in a Video Interview) where the goal is to assess whether candidates identify and demonstrate relevant competencies.
Feedback can be unhelpful, however, as it becomes more subjective in environments like an interview or group exercise. Remember that law is an inherently human profession and as much as firms try to standardise the process, there is no true standard and everything boils down to whether you, as a person, are who they are looking for at that point in time. Things that factor in heavily are whether recruiters think you would fit into the firm culture or whether your interviewers or the people reading your application *like* you from what they know about you. Should there be a tick-box option, 'We just get the wrong vibe from your application'?
I have two anecdotal examples that may illustrate why firms have a tough time coming up with proper feedback to give to candidates:
- A firm told my friend after an AC that he performed excellently in his interview but that in the trainee meet-and-greet session he was reported to have asked what it felt like to see a deal in the newspaper after working on it, which led them to wonder what his real motivation for pursuing law was. The reason they gave him struck me as rather dubious - would one question like this during an informal chat with trainees really scupper an offer if everything else were excellent? Or was the issue that the firm simply preferred other candidates for a variety of more intangible reasons and had to actively come up with a concrete reason purely for the sake of the feedback?
- On the opposite side of the spectrum, a firm offered me post-vac scheme feedback where the head of graduate recruitment told me in a zoom call that I did very well throughout the vac scheme, although my educational background (I was in the middle of a master's degree in music) made them question whether I really wanted to become a lawyer and this worried them as they did not want the possibility of their trainees leaving law after qualifying. In my opinion, this is a completely fair reason to select trainees and it was probably the most honest piece of feedback I received... but it was not feedback on my performance. Nothing I could have done during the vac scheme would have changed this concern and so there was no advice I could take with me going forward, but for the fact I should maybe drop out of the process if my educational background was going to stop me obtaining a Training Contract. Luckily, I committed to self-reflection on controlling the things that I could control and improving in areas where I felt that I could do better, and I ended up succeeding in the process (after 40 applications)
Ultimately, I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to feedback, as the Legal Cheek article is trying to create. The examples listed in the article are very generic - is it really informative at all to be told that your application did not show enough commercial awareness? What if you feel that it did show enough? If it indeed showed very little, should you have not noticed that yourself and how would this generic piece of advice enable you to show more next time? Similarly, if you are told that you made one grammar or spelling error but cannot work out what it is, then this would be incredibly frustrating and the firm may have to start fielding queries (and/or accusations) about whether candidates' application forms were assessed incorrectly.
The fact of the matter is that whilst many candidates will fall down for a 'mistake' of some sort, such as the ones listed in the article, the number who do not make any such mistakes will still far exceed the number of interview spaces available. Also, what if a candidate does make such a mistake but the rest of their application is stellar and the firm really wants to interview them? There really is no fool-proof way to standardise the process. Would there be a tick-box option for 'The candidate simply did not stand out to us'? If so, I imagine that this would be the one most commonly used by graduate recruiters and would be of absolutely no use to applicants!
I have a slightly related anecdotal story from my time attending university in the US. Regulations there require that individuals have the opportunity to review what university admissions officers wrote about them when reviewing their application. Soon before I graduated, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go and take a look (it took me four years to get around to doing this because there was a tricky procedure to arrange it and I had to have someone supervising me etc.). First of all, the comments I read were extremely clinical and if I had read them before knowing I was admitted, I would definitely have been demoralised! This made me learn that the method by which a decision is made does not necessarily lend itself to good feedback. Decision-makers are not in the best place to give feedback because they have no investment in unsuccessful applicants improving and the feedback could easily demoralise candidates. For constructive feedback, I think that the best destination would be advisers and resources such as TCLA, who are able to really identify from their own experiences what does and doesn't work and who want nothing more than to help! I would recommend these as your first port of call for feedback and I think, in particular, that TCLA's application review service offers excellent advice on how to improve written applications (although of course I am biased, having worked for them myself)
My own application journey was a very personal one and I started to work out by trial and improvement what worked and what did not. Over the course of a year, I found that I was the only person who is able to make my own story coherent and compelling. I worry that feedback may only lead to further frustration for candidates who believe that they did not make the mistake they were told they made, who do not understand how to implement the feedback, or who feel that they did in fact implement feedback from another firm and that now they are being told something contradictory. At the end of the day, the most important thing is self-reflection and not a tick-box value judgement by a stranger, in my opinion!
Apologies for the long post - this is a really interesting discussion and I am really glad that you started it! I am not sure that we should expect the graduate recruiters to weigh in on the discussion as their opinions on the issue could risk creating a conflict of interest with the firms they work for now and those they may work for in future - nevertheless, it is an important discussion and I would love to hear other people's thoughts on the issue