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Prepare, excel and get the job with our legal interview checklist

06/07/2018
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

You’ve crafted a great CV, made a stellar application, and you’ve been selected for interview. Congratulations! You can rest assured that your personal brand is working well if you’ve been selected for an interview. But don’t be complacent. Now the work to secure you your ideal role really begins.

Performing well at interview is not about being a legal genius, it’s about the small practical things you can do that will give you the best chance at success. View the interview as an opportunity to enhance your personal brand further – our interview checklist will help you prepare for the challenge and to secure the best outcome.

Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know. 

Practicalities

First of all, arrange time off with your current employer. Don’t just go AWOL on the day, as you want to retain good relations with the firm that is currently employing you. Gather all of the relevant information from the recruiter – the who, what, when, where and format of the interview. Allow plenty of time to reach the destination and factor in time to find a parking space if the office is in a busy city centre location. 

Research, research, research. The best way to ensure interview success is to be clear what the job involves, and what is being asked of the candidate. If it’s a multi-stage interview process, ensure you have plenty of examples to showcase your skills as repeating the same anecdote will risk you sounding like a one-trick pony. Breadth and depth of experience is much more impressive to partners and hiring managers than a solitary moment of high achievement.

The interview

While progress may be slower than in the business sector, the legal profession is becoming more diverse. From the number of solicitors working in-house in corporate roles to the ways in which law firms choose to structure their practice, the landscape is changing. That’s why it's important to be flexible and open to different ways of working – and your interview is the ideal place to show those qualities off. Look the firm up online, take time to understand the role and prepare for questions you may be asked ahead of time. Just make sure that you answer the question you’re asked on the day, and you’re not just shoehorning what you want to say into the conversation.

If you have a phone interview initially, speak slowly and clearly. You may well be on a speaker phone in a meeting room – not favourable acoustics at the best of times – and you want to make sure that everyone in the room hears you. 

Whatever interview stage you’re at, bear these tips in mind:

  • Hone in on your skills and have the job spec in front of you - or at least review it before your interview. Relate your past experience to what the new firm is looking for. 
  • Be specific when talking about your experience. The STAR method helps you to answer questions fully while staying focused. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Explain the situation you were faced with, the task that needed to be done, what action you took, and the end result. 
  • Asking about development opportunities is fine, as this shows that you want to stick around, but do not ask about salary or benefits!
  • Your reasons for leaving may be a question the interviewer asks, so have a professional answer prepared. It’s OK to be honest but do frame it in a positive light – saying that the firm was moving in a different direction to where you wanted to go, or that you feel you’ve achieved all that you can in the post will be sufficient.
  • Don’t talk down your current employer. Following the previous point, this is absolutely vital. Any unprofessional or personal comments will not win you brownie points with the interviewer.
  • Ask the interviewer questions, for example: the legal specialisms of the firm, how they plan to grow, or where the partners want to take the firm. It’s important you show an interest in the firm you may work for. 

Popular interview questions still revolve around the topics of: teamwork, business development, planning and organisational skills, client focus, initiative, and motivation/drive for results. Consider these interview questions and how you might answer them. We’ve put some tips and tricks to give you a head start:

1. Tell me about one of the toughest groups you've had to work with. What made it difficult? - What did you do?

Talk about why the group was tough, without talking down other people. Was there a deadline, or a challenging area of the law you had to address, for instance? Focus on your actions, not other people’s.

2. Tell me a situation in which you were able to turn around a negative client? - What was the issue? - How did you accomplish the turnaround?

Again, don’t vent about the client. Explain how they came to be upset. Demonstrate that you took positive actions, like listening and being patient, to resolve the situation.

3. Give me an example of when a mistake you made provided you with a learning experience?

This isn’t a trick question – we all make mistakes, so don’t say you haven’t! Focus on how your rectifying the mistake resulted in a better way of working for you, the team or firm. 

Celebrations and learnings

So, you excelled at the interview and have been offered a position – great news! However, if you didn’t receive an offer this time, don’t panic! You can still take a lot away from the experience. Ask the interviewer or your recruitment consultant for feedback – understanding areas where your interview performance could have been better gives you insight into what to change next time.

Our interview checklist for legal candidates is full of practical tips and information to help you make the best of an interview. From preparation to the actual interview, it has everything to help you land your dream legal job. Visit our website or call 01772 259 121 to request your free copy.

And if you enjoyed this blog, you may also like to read our blog top tips for your first few weeks. Don’t forget to have a look at our recent job vacancies too.

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