Whatever job you're applying for, you will either complete a formal application or you will make a speculative application. Application styles can vary significantly from employer to employer.

Application forms

These can come in many guises. The most prescriptive tend to be application forms for roles at big firms who have HR specialists with a standardised procedure. You can expect to have to complete a relatively rigid pro-forma for big companies, which will often feel like a tick-box exercise.

You might be left with little opportunity to be creative on these types of forms and really have the chance to see yourself in an interesting way. Look out for opportunities where free-text answers come into play, to answer questions like 'what do you know about the firm' or 'why do you think you'd be a good fit for us', as there's are the chances for you to impress more. Make sure you demonstrate your research, commercial awareness and, importantly, how you're special whenever you can.

If you don't get an opportunity to be more creative, just focus on completing everything fully and ticking as many boxes as you can. It might be that the recruiter wants to know minimal information for the initial screening process, then you'll be invited to say much more about yourself during an interview.

Applying with a CV and covering letter

This could be regarded as the 'traditional way' of applying for a job. Some employers simply ask for a CV and covering letter for a job application, rather than providing a specific application form that needs completing.

You should always tailor your CV and covering letter when applying for a job. If you make blanket applications using the same documents, you are almost guaranteed to be wasting your time. You would fill in a new application form for every role you apply to and it's no different for CVs and covering letters.

For guidance on how to write a great covering letter, download the document below which is full of handy guidance to make the process simple.

What is a speculative application?

This means applying without there being a specific advert for an opportunity, but getting in touch with a company to express your interest and highlight your abilities nonetheless. Sometimes smaller and medium sized firms don't advertise their opportunities, so speculative applications are essential. Speculative applications should include your CV and a strong covering letter outlining what you are looking for, and making your case for why you should be considered.

Bear in mind that applying speculatively for roles can be quite a hard process, just because often employers simply might not be looking to take someone on. Getting rejected doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong. However, the employer might like your CV and hold on to it in case a position comes up in future, or they might know someone else who is looking to hire someone. It's worth putting yourself out there.

Use the Society's Find A Solicitor function to identify which legal firms operate close to where you are based, or who undertake work in subject areas that interest you.

Write a great CV

Are you confident you are formatting your CV in the best way and you are selling yourself to the best of your ability? Visit our CV clinic for tips about how to add that extra polish.