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Legal trainee recruitment

Pupil barrister and trainee solicitor posts within HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are offered as part of the wider Government Legal Service (GLS) annual recruitment campaign. The various stages of the GLS recruitment process are outlined below but please note that the process may change from year to year so you should always check the GLS website (Opens new window) for the current arrangements.

The application process usually opens in early July each year and the deadline for applications is 12.00pm on 31 July. By sending your contact details to, you will be added to a mailing list and sent a reminder as soon as the application process opens. You will need to visit the graduate recruitment section of the GLS website to apply.

Application stage

There are three stages:

1. Online Application Form and Online Situational Judgment Test (SJT)

On the application form you will be asked to provide some background information about your nationality, your higher education and any legal or vocational qualifications or work experience you have. The information you provide at this stage will not impact on your progression to the next stage of the recruitment process other than in verifying that you meet the minimum eligibility criteria (nationality, academic etc).

Once the recruitment process is complete, this information will be used to compile anonymous management reports.

You will also complete an online Situational Judgement Test (SJT). You will be given a number of situations and a list of possible reactions to each situation. You will be asked to specify which reaction you think would be the “most effective” initial response to the situation and which reaction you think would be the “least effective” initial response.

An example:

One week into your final seat you have been asked to go along to a meeting with counsel on your own. Your supervisor has given you the objectives that you need to get out of the meeting. You are nervous as this is the first time you have been sent to a meeting alone without supervision. You worry counsel may not take you seriously as you are still training. Do you:

Possible actions: Most Least
1. Spend time doing as much research as possible before the meeting so you feel as prepared as you can be for any questions that may arise. X  
2. Decide that you usually cope well under pressure so will go along to the meeting and hope you are not asked anything you cannot answer.    
3. Go along to the meeting but tell council that you are still training so you may not be able to answer all their questions but you will try.    
4. Decide the meeting may have a better outcome if a more experienced lawyer went along so find a reason as to why you cannot attend.   X

In this example the participant has felt that the first action is the most effective and that the last action is the least effective.

The SJT is predominately designed to test judgement. It also links to values, culture, ability, motivation and vision.

2. Online Verbal Reasoning Test (VRT)

Candidates who pass stage one will be invited to take the Verbal Reasoning Test (VRT).

The VRT will comprise of a number of short passages of text followed by statements based on the information given in each passage. You will be asked to indicate whether the statements are true, false, or whether it is not possible to say either way.

This exercise is designed to test your analytical skills.

Applicants will be sent the VRT via email and given approximately five days to complete the test.

If you would like to familiarise yourself with this type of test please visit SHL (Opens new window).

3. Online Critical Reasoning Test (CRT)

Candidates who have passed stages one and two will be invited to take the Watson Glaser Criteria Thinking Appraisal, a Critical Reasoning Test (CRT). The test is designed to assess your ability to logically analyse assumptions, arguments, deductions, inferences and interpret information.

You will be provided with a short statement of facts, followed by a number of possible inferences, assumptions, conclusions or arguments based on those facts. You will be asked to assess those statements.

The CRT is timed and you will be given 25 minutes to complete the test. Applicants will be sent the CRT via email and given approximately three days to complete the test.

You can view some example CRT questions on the GLS website.

Assessment centre stage

If you pass the three parts of the application stage, you will be invited to attend an Assessment Centre. There are specific arrangements for candidates applying under the Guaranteed Interview Scheme.

The Assessment Centre takes half a day and will be held in London (usually over a five day period in September).

At the Assessment Centre, you will be assessed against the core competencies through three exercises - a written exercise, a competency based interview and a technical interview.

1. Written Exercise

The written exercise will present a legal scenario and you will be assessed on the key competencies of analytical ability, constructive and innovative thinking, judgement and written communication. This is not a test of legal knowledge and you will not be given credit for any evidence of legal knowledge beyond the information included in the supporting material provided. You will be given 55 minutes to complete this exercise.

2. Interview

The interview is comprised of two parts; a technical interview and a competency based interview. The interview panel will be comprised of two senior GLS lawyers and an external HR professional.
During the technical interview you will be asked to spend the first five minutes presenting an argument to the panel on a public law related topic which you'll be given when we invite you to attend the Assessment Centre. The remainder of the technical interview will test your analytical ability, judgement, influential communication, drive and determination, potential for self-development and motivation for the law and the GLS.

The competency based interview will assess your constructive and innovative thinking, influential communication, team working, drive and determination and potential for self development.

The interview, not including the presentation, lasts 70 minutes.

The offer

Candidates who pass the Assessment Centre will be offered a position using a 'top-down' approach. This means that if there are 25 posts available then they will be allocated to the 25 successful candidates who have achieved the highest marks at the Assessment Centre, taking in to account the number of pupillages and training contracts which are available.

Your performance at the Assessment Centre against the core competencies will determine whether or not you will be offered a post. Factors such as your university, the nature of your degree or your previous work history do not form part of the decision-making process.
The GLS aims to ensure that you are notified whether or not you have been successful by 30 September. All offers made are conditional on the successful completion of pre-appointment enquiries. If you accept the offer, the GLS carries out further health and security checks. Once these are completed the GLS steps out of the picture and the relationship between the employing department and the successful candidate can begin in earnest. Please note that the GLS recruits candidates two years in advance of their proposed start dates, but there are often vacancies for successful candidates to start their training earlier.

The offer of pupillage or a training contact includes the payment of tuition fees for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or Legal Practice Course (LPC) by the department which has made the offer, as long as the successful candidate has not already completed the course. Successful candidates also qualify for a bursary of between £5,000 - £8,000 for living costs whilst on the BPTC or LPC. If you are currently undertaking the course when you receive your offer, you will receive a pro-rata payment. However, you will not receive any payment if you have already completed the course when you get the offer.

On acceptance of the offer you will be invited to visit HMRC Solicitor's Office for one week's paid work experience. You will shadow one of the current second year trainees. This will give you an opportunity to get a feel for the type of work you will be engaged in and to meet the other trainees and some of your future colleagues.

The terms and conditions of the pupillage or training contract vary from department to department. In 2012, HMRC offered a starting salary of £24,610 with 22 days annual leave increasing to 25 days in the second year.