Work experience and interviews are clashing with my exams – what should I do?

Getting work experience or an interview at a law firm is a fantastic thing.

But increasingly, students are being offered open days, interviews, assessment centres and even work experience placements at the same time as their university exams.

What should you do in that situation? Is going on an open day the day before an important exam ever a good idea? We asked some experts for their opinion...

Jess Booker, graduate recruitment expert and former trainee recruitment manager at a magic circle firm

“Don’t see it as automatically having to choose either your exams or the opportunity with the firm over the other. There is probably a compromise that could be made from both sides if you have a conversation with the firm’s recruitment team.

“If it is something like an open day or work experience programme, could you be considered for another similar opportunity later in the year? If not, can you ask for an informal meeting over a coffee with a trainee or an informal work experience placement when your exams are over?

“If it is an interview, could you ask for it to be done over the phone/via Skype so to eliminate the time needed to travel?

“Think of a potential solution or compromise and go to the firm with that idea. If they are completely closed off to your idea or fail to present their own, are they a firm you really want to work for in the future?

“There will be many similar opportunities with firms over the course of your academic career and beyond, but there will only be one opportunity to sit an exam. Doing well academically is usually an important prerequisite to a career in law and getting those opportunities with firms. Only take time and energy away from your revision is you are confident your results won’t be undermined.”

Lisa Powell, graduate recruitment and development manager, Weil Gotshal & Manges

“Should an assessment day or interview clash with the date of an exam, we would suggest calling the graduate recruitment team to explain the situation and see whether an alternative date or time could be offered.  

“During our 2015/16 vacation scheme recruitment process, we have had a number of candidates that have found themselves in this situation.  Fortunately, for those that have informed us of the issue in a timely manner, we have been in a position to offer a more suitable interview date or time.” 

Husnara Begum, legal recruiter and careers coach

“Employers should avoid scheduling events and placement schemes during the university exam period. But I appreciate it’s not always that easy given the volume of talks, open days and work experience opportunities of offer.

“Students who are worried about a clash should flag this with any employers as soon as possible and request an alternative date or time. If the employer is inflexible then it speaks volumes about the culture of the organisation.

“And although the ability to juggle exams with work experience and other activities is a good skill to be able to demonstrate, if you had to choose exams should always take priority.”

Edward Walker, graduate recruitment and development professional

“Juggling competing tasks and deadlines is an important skill that aspiring lawyers would do well to practice before embarking on a legal career. Planning ahead and learning to prioritise will stop many potential clashes from arising but it is almost inevitable that they will happen from time to time.

“In such circumstances, it is always worth exploring whether any of the parties involved can offer you some flexibility and when they can’t try to get a clear understanding of why this is. This may allow you to identify an alternative solution.

“In this example, could the law firm send you a copy of the materials from the open day and would it be possible to arrange an informal visit to the office on an alternative date?

“Life can seem unfair at times but it is important to acknowledge the constraints that other people are working within; in my experience, it is impossible to keep everyone happy all of the time.”