Vacation Placement Analysis

As you may have noticed we have been a bit quiet of late, this is not because we have been taking a break (if only) in fact the Graduate team has been extremely busy screening all the applications we received to our vacation placement programme and more recently providing verbal feedback to those candidates who were unsuccessful following the interviews we conducted.

Pinsent Masons prides itself on the feedback it offers candidates and we know that it is frustrating for candidates who spend a long time completing lengthy application forms to receive only a generic email telling them that they have been unsuccessful.  Unfortunately individual feedback is something we are unable to offer to every candidate who applies to us as the recruitment team is only small (two persons) and this year we received over 1000 applications for our vacation placement programme.


Application forms – a necessary evil?

We tried to offer a bit more generic guidance to students who were unsuccessful about what steps they could take to improve their future applications; this included highlighting the different scoring areas of the application form and suggesting candidates ask a careers adviser to look over their application to see if they could help identify any areas for development.  We also asked all the candidates who applied to us (both successful and unsuccessful) what they thought of the recruitment process.  We know from the survey feedback  that in a small number of cases candidates found the feedback unhelpful and patronising.  Clearly this was not our intention but we will try to ensure this does not happen in the future.  If you have any helpful suggestions about how we could improve our feedback please let us know by leaving a comment on the blog or completing the aforementioned survey.

The old adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is also one we fully endorse.  That is why we have tried to make our application process as transparent as possible this year.  We have published our competency framework, circulated application hints & tips documents on our website and delivered a number of campus events on making successful applications.  Hopefully this left candidates in no doubt about what we were looking for in an application.


Creating opportunities for all

Another unforseen issue arose as a direct result of the new equal opportunity questions we have asked this year.  These relate to the socio-economic background of our candidates (we have continued to ask the more commonly seen questions that relates to gender, race, sexuality etc).  Following the high profile evidence cited by the Sutton Report into Social Mobility we felt this was a positive step in the right direction, that it would  build upon our award-winning diversity policy and demonstrate our pioneering approach in this area.

Unfortunately this development was met with suspicion by some candidates, despite our best efforts to explain why we were collecting the data.  As I explained to Lawyer2B  earlier today, individual candidate data cannot be accessed, we can only view the information in its totality e.g. % of male candidates, % white candidates and % of candidates who attended an independent school etc.

There is no hidden agenda behind this and we do not have any quotas for certain groups that we are looking to fill.  The information will however, allow us to better understand how we can tailor our attraction strategy to reach out to talented candidates from all backgrounds and also help us identify whether or not our selection process has unintentionally had an adverse impact on any group of candidates.  Our agenda is very simple, we want to ensure the very best candidates apply to Pinsent Masons; that they can fully demonstrate their abilities throughout the selection process; and that the best candidates get made an offer.


Did the selection process throw up any surprises?

The answer would have to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’.   In some respects little has changed, as despite our best efforts a significant number of candidates are still failing to:

  •  Demonstrate sufficent levels of attention to detail on their applications (although this was less of an issue than in previous years)
  • Clearly explain what relevant skills they acquired and what they achieved from their work experience and extra-curricular activities (as opposed to simply describing the duties of their role)
  • [At interview] adequately demonstrate their ‘commercial awareness’, in comparison to other competencies and clearly verbalise why they were applying to Pinsent Masons in particular.

There were however, some interesting developments compared to previous years:

  • This year those candidates who attended an Open Evening at the firm typically performed better than candidates who had not.  This was true at the interview stage and particularly at the application sifting stage.  Although it is not a straight-forward relationship to explain our advice is to attend an Open Evening; we are going to increase the number of places we offer in future to help ensure this is feasible for candidates.
  • Those candidates who ‘followed us’ on Brave New Talent while small in number (3% of all candidates) performed disproportionately well at both the screening stage and at interview and secured 6% of all offers.  Again our advice is keep up to date with the information we disseminate through this medium.
  • The impact of location.  Although candidates are required to perform to the same standard to secure the offer of a vacation scheme or training contract in all our offices, it is harder to secure an interview in our London office than elsewhere.  This is because while almost half of all applications were made to London only around a quarter of the 2011 vacation placements were in this office.  The number of people we interview reflects the number of positions available and not the number of people who apply.  Please note this does not mean the quality of the candidates in our regional offices is lower than in London, however, are more candidates (of a comparable quality) chasing every place .
  • Our new candidate management system is slow compared to other firms.  We are actively working on this and hope to have made significant improvements by the training contract deadline in July.

I hope this information has proven helpful to you but if there are any questions you would like to ask please do not hesitate to leave a message on the blog as we will respond to every question that is raised.