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5 Questions Legal Hiring Managers Always Ask At Interview

Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

Interviews. They don’t get any easier with time, even if you are a seasoned legal professional, it can still be nerve-wracking attending an interview.

Obviously, you are there because you want that ideal legal role, and the key to success is always in your preparation.

So, along with the usual planning of what to wear, how to get to the interview, times, dates and name of the interviewer, there’s the essential practising of potential interview questions.

But how on earth do you know what the interviewer is going to ask?

There will be specific role-related questions; that’s a given. And as you have worked in this role before and/or have all the relevant qualifications, you’re ahead on that one.

There may be questions about the company you are hoping to work for, so with a bit of research online, you can garner information about them, their latest news, company newsletters, mission and goals etc.

You can also bring your soft skills in to play by aligning them to the role. If you’re going for a Senior Partnership or Manager role, these could include your ability to lead a team, to time manage efficiently, delegate, and give constructive feedback thanks to your emotional intelligence.

If you are early on in your career and looking for a Fee Earner position, your soft skills could include being a great team collaborator, empathetic to others, able to manage your own diary and with an excellent work ethic.

There will likely be questions on all of the above, but there is also a set of fundamental questions that legal hiring managers ask all candidates time and time again.

So, note them down now and make sure your answers are ready to ensure you nail that interview!

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is often the first question interviewers will ask. They don’t want to know your life history here, so don’t be tempted to go off on a tangent.

What this question is trying to do is act as an icebreaker and test how you respond to open-ended queries. This could prove useful to the employer in gauging how you will react to similar questions within your working role.

You can use this question to (briefly, please!) describe how you got to be where you are today – so tell them about your achievements so far in your career, career highlights you have most enjoyed and your goals for the future.

Use the ‘present-past-future’ formula to enable you to give a potted version of your career history.

So, for example, you are applying for a position as an HR Manager in a law firm. Your answer to the past, present, future may look something like this:

“My interest in HR started about 6 years ago when I was working at X firm. I partnered with the HR team helping to design some custom training programmes.

I’m currently working as X. I recently completed my Master’s degree in Y, which I’ve studied part time.

My ultimate goal is to become an HR Director within a law firm.”

It’s also appropriate here to mention your hobbies. For example, you may enjoy chess or hunting in antique shops at the weekend.

Additionally, an interest in a sport or physical exercise such as tennis or yoga shows you take your health and mental wellbeing seriously.

2. Why do you want this role?

Don’t be fooled into thinking this question is asking about your personal goals and ambitions in the legal world.

It's more about testing what you know about the job role you’re applying for: have you done your homework, and are you really keen, or is this just one application in a scattergun approach to job seeking?

Employers know that the best employees will proactively seek to improve their performance by embracing lifelong learning and growing their skillsets. This question, therefore, also addresses your motivation to learn new things and develop your career.

As well as establishing your interest in the role and your motivation to develop, this question will also allow you to give credibility to your current skills and qualifications and confirm you can hit the ground running in your new position.

If you mention the benefits of working for the company as a whole, you’ll score additional points too!

3. Tell me about a time you faced a significant challenge or problem in your last role – how did you successfully overcome it?

This question is trying to ascertain how you react to problems and your ability to solve issues that arise. It is looking to see how you work under pressure, test your emotional intelligence and resilience to stay positive and focused if things don’t go to plan.

The answer to this will require you to have one or two examples to hand, so ensure you can illustrate your response with tangible examples of a time when you dealt with difficult situations successfully.

4. What is your greatest weakness?

This one is a classic interview question and catches a lot of people out.

Whatever you do, don’t respond with the implication that you are perfect – the interviewer won’t believe you anyway!

The question is devised to test your self-awareness by acknowledging your less-positive strengths and how you cope with them. So, the best answer to this one is to give an example of an area you know you need to work on, and what you are doing to overcome it.

For example, you could say that you are a perfectionist who needs your work to be perfect every time, and consequently, you find projects can overrun as you tinker with things. But you are dealing with this by setting yourself deadlines to ensure you hit targets.


5. What can you bring to this law firm? 

The interviewer is assessing the law firm’s ROI here.

They want to be sure they take on an employee who will be a good fit for them in terms of team working, skills, ability and dedication.

They are investing a lot of time and money in interviewing, hiring, onboarding and providing training – so they want to get it right first time.

So be sure to show your enthusiasm in your answer as well as expressing your confidence that you can help them increase the business in terms of clients and monetary value and collaborate in striving to achieve company aspirations and goals.

Armed with your responses to these questions, you can sail through your interview confidently and land your perfect legal role.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.



Thanks

Lynn


About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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