Interview advice

Whether you are a newly qualified solicitor or a partner who has been with the same firm since your training contract, moving jobs can be a daunting process. There is some element of luck involved in succeeding at interview and the outcome will, to some extent, depend on whether or not you are the right 'fit' for the firm in question. However, there are some rules to follow which should take much of the uncertainty out of the process:

Presentation

  • Ensure you look smart and well groomed. Although a number of firms now have a casual dress code always wear a suit to your interview.
  • Be aware of your body language. It is important to convey the impression that you are a polished, confident individual. Shake hands firmly and maintain eye contact. Sit upright in your chair and look alert and interested at all times. Research shows that the vast majority of all communication is non verbal.
  • Smile - whilst it is not an appropriate time to be cracking jokes it is worthwhile displaying enthusiasm.

Preparation

  • Preparation is vital. Research the firm and interviewers thoroughly beforehand by reading legal directories and websites.
  • Plan your route to ensure you arrive in good time. Late arrival for an interview is never excusable.
  • Know your CV. You will be asked questions to assess your technical ability and will therefore be expected to talk through transactions you have been involved in.
  • Know yourself. You will almost certainly be asked about your strengths and weaknesses, aspirations and ambitions.
  • Prepare the questions you will ask during the interview. Remember that an interview is a two way process - you need to know if the firm and position are right for you.

The Interview

The recruitment process usually comprises of at least two interviews. If the initial interview is with an HR professional as well as a partner, it is likely to be more structured with questions aimed at revealing aspects of your personality ie motivations etc. The second interview is more likely to be with partners where your technical ability will be closely assessed. Frequently, there is a final, informal stage where you will meet associates for drinks.

Interview dos and don'ts:

Do

  • Listen carefully to questions and think about your answers before responding. Answer questions as truthfully, frankly and succinctly as possible.
  • Be prepared to answers questions such as:
    • Why did you choose this particular firm?
    • Why are you leaving your current firm?
    • What do you want to be doing in your career five years from now? Why?
    • What style of management brings out the best in you?
    • How would your current employer/peers describe you?
    • What are your major strengths/weaknesses? What have you done to address your weaknesses?
    • How do you cope under pressure?
    • Have you mainly worked in teams or with individuals, and do you enjoy working as a team or on your own?
    • How much drafting or negotiating have you done?
    • How do you spend your spare time?
  • Always conduct yourself as if you want the job you are discussing. Never close the door on an opportunity.
  • Use your common sense - try not to come across as vague or unsure about the direction you want to take.
  • Demonstrate genuine enthusiasm and motivation by asking your interviewers relevant questions such as:
    • What training is available?
    • What is the team structure?
    • What do they attribute the success of the firm to?
    • What is the firm's five year plan?

Don't

  • Ask where your desk will be and how long your lunch break is.
  • Be flustered - occasionally you will be asked extremely odd questions - a candidate of ours was interviewing for a junior position in London, when out of the blue, the partner suddenly asked him if he wanted to be a partner in their Baghdad office - in this situation it's best to be non-commital and ask for time to think about it.
  • Make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers. Always try to construe them in a positive light, however difficult your experience may have been.

After the interview

Contact your consultant after the interview and let him/her know how it went. If appropriate send a short email to the interviewing partners thanking them for their time and expressing your interest - however do not be too effusive or you may project desperation.

In short, always adhere to the following advice:

"10 top interview tips"

  1. Research the firm and your interviewers thoroughly.
  2. Know your CV inside out.
  3. Spend time beforehand thinking about your motivations etc.
  4. Look smart and professional, and turn up on time.
  5. Listen carefully to the questions asked and answer them honestly.
  6. In turn ask intelligent questions about the firm and the position.
  7. Always appear positive and enthusiastic.
  8. Don't allow yourself to be badgered into answering a question you don't want to.
  9. If all else fails try to remain calm - breathe deeply if you're feeling flustered!
  10. Follow up with feedback to your recruitment consultant.

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