Situational Judgement Tests – a better way to hire the best trainees

Ability, not background, is what really counts at the law firm Wragge & Co. Changes to its trainee selection process are ensuring that, in tune with its diversity-minded approach it recruits only top-quality candidates, and in a way that takes less management time.

Each year the international law firm, Wragge & Co recruits around twenty-five trainees to work on two-year training contracts at its Birmingham and London offices. Head of Recruitment, Julie Caudle says: ‘We look for bright people with well-rounded personalities from a range of different backgrounds and cultures. What matters is they have the intellectual capabilities to provide the fresh thinking and high-quality services that clients expect.’

Identifying those with the potential to become exceptional commercial lawyers has typically involved screening applicants to go through to the telephone interview, and an assessment day. To make the process more robust and ensure Wragge & Co does not lose out on good candidates, Pearn Kandola introduced an online Situational Judgement Test (SJT). Such tests are good predictors of on-the-job performance and fit well with the firm’s focus on recruiting from a diverse talent pool.

In this case, the SJT presents candidates with a range of realistic scenarios they might encounter as trainees, and asks them to choose from a number of options the approach they would take. Their responses are then compared to those of experts. These situations, developed with the help of the firm’s trainees, experienced lawyers and partners, measure judgement on issues such as dealing with people and prioritising workload.

To fine-tune and validate the test, it was used to score around 350 actual applications, although the results were not used in selection. Our analysis showed that the test effectively predicts successful candidates. Specifically, none of the candidates who scored in the bottom twenty-five per cent on the SJT were ultimately selected by the firm.

Confident that the best people are reaching the final stages, Wragge & Co can reduce the amount of time needed to screen candidates, saving time for the partners and HR staff involved.

‘With Pearn Kandola’s solution, the tests are completed online and automatically scored, so the business does not have to invest as much time to recruit a diverse range of excellent trainees. What’s more, candidates get a better idea of the work they’ll be doing, which helps with motivation and retention. This fits well with our ethos of developing people throughout their careers, enabling them to be the lawyer they want to be,” she says.

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