Love them, or more likely loathe them, Interviews are unavoidable for most of us, but with the right preparation and approach you can significantly increase your chances of getting the job. Below are a number of tips that have served lawyers well over the years. You'll never need all of them but by preparing properly, you can go in confident and ready for anything they throw at you.
Preparation - About You
- Read through your CV in detail in advance of the interview. Take time to think about each of your previous jobs, checking that the dates are right and giving careful thought to your ‘reason for leaving’. There is no right or wrong but professional development and career progression are generally safe ground, whilst personality clashes and complaints about the firm are dangerous. If in any doubt, talk it through with your recruitment consultant.
- Taking your CV as a whole, pick out one or two examples each of:
- Obstacles or challenges that you had to overcome, and how you did it
- Difficult relationships you had to deal with, clients or colleagues, and how you handled it
- Going the extra mile for a client or for your colleagues
- Dealing with time pressure versus quality of work
- Showing flexibility and initiative, thinking on your feet
- Mistakes you have made and how you have rectified them
- Client facing successes, winning new clients or strengthening existing relationships
- Some of the old chestnuts may well crop up so prepare answers for:
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Failures and successes (think life not just work)
- Where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years’ time
- What do you do outside of the office?
- Why should we employ you? This is your ‘elevator pitch’ – i.e. one or two minute statement that summarises everything you can offer.
- How much do you want to earn?
- When could you start if offered the job?
- Stating the obvious perhaps, but print off the details of the interview – when, where, who you are meeting well in advance and double check the dates. If you are delayed en route, call your consultant who will attempt to smooth things over for you. (One tip – if you are unable to predict whether you will be able to escape the office, think about making appointments for first thing in the morning rather than after work).
Preparation - About Them
- Go through the firm’s website paying particular attention to the team relevant to you, profiles of the Partners you would work with, deals they have done, recent news/announcements, the careers section (they may sometimes describe the culture for example). Also know the basics – where are their offices, roughly how many Partners/lawyers, history - have they merged, how do they market themselves, key practice areas outside of your area of interest, name of the Managing Partner and Senior Partner.
- Search the firm’s name in the www.thelawyer.com archives. If you have old copies of Legal Business it is also worth checking for any articles about the firm in there.
- Talk to your recruitment consultant about the firm. They should be able to give you good pointers on the vacancy, likely interview style, the culture of the firm, feedback from previous interviews, things to avoid etc.
- Given what you now know about the firm, consider how you might fit into what they do. Look for synergies of course but it may also raise questions, which you can then explore in the interview.
- If it involves relocation, make sure you know the key facts about the place you would be relocating to. Where it is, its economy, tax situation, work permits/accommodation licenses.
In the Interview
- Remember the niceties – people generally don’t hire people that they don’t like so building a rapport is critical. Yes of course this means getting the handshake and introductions right, but beyond that, it also means trying as much as you can to relax, smile, make eye contact and be yourself. Preparation is vital as discussed above, but delivering pre-prepared answers in a robotic fashion is a sure-fire route to disaster.
- Take your time over questions. If a particular question stumps you, don’t get flustered – it may well be that the interviewer knows it’s a difficult question and is asking it to see how you handle that type of situation. If you don’t have an answer, think about whether you can change the question, for example:
“So have you had any experience of investment funds work?” If the answer is no, don’t panic! You ideally want to avoid just saying no, and lying is out, so answer a different question…
“As you can see from my CV, I’m not an investment funds expert but I think I have shown throughout my career that I have the ability to adapt – when I was with firm x, for example, I was hired to handle mainstream corporate work but as the market changed found myself becoming a restructuring lawyer. I actually enjoy the challenge and would welcome the chance to develop my funds experience.”
- Don’t ramble but keep one word answers to a minimum. Striking the right balance is key – if you have prepared well you will know your experience and strengths inside out so keep the answers on point, concise but elaborate enough for it to be a conversation not a series of consecutive questions.
- Know your key selling points and make sure you get them in. This is particularly important in the more laid back, conversational interviews. It is easy to walk away from one of these chats having heard a great deal about them but not really said much about you. It is of course a failing in the interviewer but that is academic if you don’t get the job so make a mental (or if you like physical) note of the things that you are determined to tell them about you, and make sure you get it in, even if you take advantage of the ‘any questions’ at the end.
- Get the job first, then worry about whether you want it. If you go into an interview half-hearted, chances are you won’t get it. That’s fine if you really don’t want it but you might discover during the conversation that actually you do, by which time it could be too late.
- Unless you are sure it is not for you, remember to finish the interview by expressing your interest in the role. Interviewers get a lift from knowing that they have done a good job of ‘selling you’ the opportunity and your enthusiasm is likely to count in your favour when decisions are made at a later date.
To discuss this in more detail or for any advice on your career options or the market in general, please contact Jason Horobin, Director, at Gladwin Law on +44 (0)20 7096 1681 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All enquiries are confidential.
(c) Gladwin Law 2011