The inside scoop on applying for graduate programs // Ashurst


In 2018 generationYOU is once again proud to have Ashurst as our national career partner for our live event series.


Ashurst is a leading global law firm with a rich history spanning almost 200 years. Within the Firm, Jo, Lauren and Kate are primarily responsible for managing the clerkship and graduate programs.


They know as well as we do, how daunting the prospect of graduating from University, finding a job and starting a whole new role can be … so we had a chat to them and picked their brains on how to stand out from the crowd,  what mistakes to avoid and how to know whether an organisation is good for you!



1 // What is the first thing you look at when reviewing a candidate’s application?


Jo: I read the candidate’s cover letter first and I am looking for the candidate to be able to clearly articulate why they are interested in our firm. They need to be able to show their passion and the research they have done into the firm. Then I am keen to read why they think they will be a good fit for our firm.


Kate: I also focus my attention on the cover letter first. Here I am looking for a candidate to show me who they are, why they are interested in the firm and why we should be interested in them. This is your opportunity to shine and really sell who you are as an individual. Remember, the cover letter should not be a straight regurgitation of your CV.


Lauren: I read a candidate’s CV first because I’m looking for a good range of experiences, which they will be able to bring to the role and the program. Also to show that they have the potential to demonstrate some of our key selection criteria in interview. Then I read the cover letter and ensure there is a clear reason why they have chosen Ashurst over other firms.


2 //  How can a student let their personality shine in an application form – particularly when they are limited by specific questions and word counts?


Jo: It is important for students to be authentic and genuine in their responses. Do your research and really think about why it is that the firm/organisation you’re applying to interests you.


Kate: Demonstrate who you are outside of just your university studies. Have you gone on exchange? Are you part of a student club or organisation? Do you speak another language? Do you volunteer? Make sure you try to include these details somewhere, either in the application or in your CV as we want to be able to get an overall picture of who you are and what you can bring to the firm.


Lauren: Not repeating the information on our website is definitely an advantage! Authenticity is also key. Demonstrating honesty and not just what a candidate thinks we want to hear is always a good move.


3 // Whilst graduate programs are very sought after, not every firm is right for an individual. What tips do you have to help a candidate evaluate company culture and fit, prior to filling in the graduate application?


All: It’s important to use as many different sources of information about the firm/organisation as possible. For example –

  • Firm/organisation websites
  • Industry body websites
  • Graduate employment websites like GradConnection or GradAustralia
  • University career guides
  • Social media accounts: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram

However, you are really going to get the most amount of value out of attending careers fairs or industry networking events. Here, you’ll be able to talk to graduates and other people from the firm/organisation who actually work there.


Make sure you meet as many people as possible and ask questions that are important to you. This will give you a good sense of whether you can see yourself working with those people and whether that firm/organisation is ultimately the right fit for you.


4 // What are the biggest pitfalls or mistakes you keep seeing time and time again?


Jo: In relation to applications, the biggest pitfall I see is a lack of attention to detail – addressing the cover letter to the incorrect firm, typos, spelling and grammatical mistakes. The second common mistake is superficial research which leads to a generic cover letter. Here, the student is generally unable to show why they are interested in our firm and specifically, why they are interested in the type of work we do.


Kate: A lack of personalisation in their application and again, attention to detail issues. I find that this is usually because candidates leave their application until the 11th hour and are then rushing to get it in. Start your application early and take your time.


You should be customising your applications for each firm/organisation that you are applying to and make sure you address exactly what the firm/organisation is asking you for. It can be really tempting but you shouldn’t just copy and paste you responses from a previous application.


You should always proofread your own application but also ask someone else (a friend, a parent, a colleague) to proofread it for you as they will likely pick up typos or poor sentence structures that aren’t immediately clear to you when you are writing it.


5 // What is one thing that an applicant can do to stand out before submitting their application?


Lauren: Make sure you try to develop a personal connection with the firm/organisation that demonstrates genuine interest in who we are and what we do.


Jo: There are many options including –

  • Being involved in extra-curricular activities to ensure your CV is balanced (student society involvement, university competitions, volunteering, international exchange)
  • Part-time work (hospitality or retail work will help you build really useful, transferrable skills)
  • Visit the firm/organisation when they are on campus or at careers fairs



Do you want to ensure you’re in the best possible position to secure a job when you graduate?


Attend one of your local generationYOU Live Events to be inspired by our speakers, learn soft skills your degree may not teach you and walk away knowing you’ve made an investment for yourself and your future endeavours.