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How To Bounce Back from Rejection in a Legal Interview

  • November 16, 2022

After days or weeks of getting ready for that legal job interview, few things are more crushing than learning you haven’t been successful in getting the role. Rejection is difficult to deal with in any part of life, but it can be particularly upsetting when you’re striving for the perfect job in law and have already invested time and emotion in preparing for it.

However, rejection is also a common part of the job searching process. Learning how to respond productively to a lost job opportunity is the way to ensure you keep focused on your job search, learn from any ‘mistakes’ that may have been made, and fine-tune your approach.

Here’s what you can do turn interview rejection to your advantage.

Step 1: Ask Yourself if the Legal Role Was What You Really Wanted

First, it’s worth asking whether the role was right for you in the first place – despite the fact that the hiring manager has obviously seen ‘a fit’ somewhere in the application process. When you’re keen to take the next step in your legal career, you might start applying for just “close enough” roles to what you really want rather than seeking the ideal role.

Perhaps you were attracted to certain aspects of the position but were a little concerned about the firm culture. Maybe you were happy about the opportunity to find your first job in the legal industry, but the position in question didn’t really give you much scope to showcase your skills.

If you weren’t particularly passionate about the job in the first place, there’s a good chance the hiring manager picked up on that fact. Maybe you rushed through the research stage of preparing for the interview or failed to leave a lasting impression.

Ask yourself whether this role was right for you and going forward, apply only for the positions you truly care about as that will motivate you to showcase the best version of yourself during your next interview.

Step 2: Brush up on Your Interview Confidence

If you did have all the necessary experience for the role, the problem could be with your technique. Lack of confidence during an interview is a common reason why around 40% of candidates don’t make it past the first interview stage.

Look back over the conversation you had. Were you constantly fidgeting, looking down at your CV, or failing to make eye contact? Your body language in an interview can say a lot about your kind of person and how confident you feel in your abilities.

Try practising with a friend or colleague to prepare for your next interview. Make a list of common interview questions similar to the ones you were asked in your last interview, and practice responding to them. But more importantly, practice demonstrating an air of positive self-esteem. Sit straight, keep your hands still, and make eye contact regularly. A smile can go a long way in an interview too.

Step 3: Look for Ways to Improve Your Answers

When you’ve figured out how to improve on your non-verbal communication, it’s time to reflect on what you did (or didn’t) say during your interview. Take the time to go back over it in your head and ask yourself where you struggled.

Were there certain questions you didn’t have a good response to? If so, you can practice generating relevant answers. Think about any competency-based questions you might have been asked and your answers to them. Did you give enough practical examples to showcase the skills the hiring manager is looking for? If not, then take the time now to incorporate them into your answers as this will give you a far better chance of convincing potential employers of your suitability for any role you might be interviewed for in future.

You may also have failed to make the right impression because you didn’t have enough information about the law firm you applied for. Around 47% of candidates fail their interviews because they haven’t done enough research. Learning as much as possible about the firm before you start applying for roles will help you tailor your answers and CV to the firm’s needs.

However, if you did indeed do your research and ensured your responses reflected that then the problem may be how knowledgeable you came across to the hiring manager about the legal field in general. Employers want to know what you can do to make their firm stand out from the competition and showcasing knowledge about the firm’s competitors or about current trends in the industry will go a long way in convincing hiring managers that you have the necessary commercial awareness they’re looking for.

Now is a good time to ensure that you have this up-to-date knowledge and if you want to really put yourself ahead of the competition, do whatever research you can beyond the general information that’s easily found on the internet as other legal candidates will also have access to that.

Step 4: Respond to the Rejection (The Right Way)

Finally, a good way to improve your chances of success in upcoming legal interviews is to respond to your interviewer after they send you the rejection message. Thank the law firm for their time, and they’ll be more likely to think of you positively if you apply for roles with the same business. What’s more, this is a great chance to ask for feedback.

If you’re left not really understanding the reasons why you’ve not progressed to the next step in the process, do request more detailed information. This will really help to focus on any improvements you can make – although sometimes it may simply come down to the fact that others in the process are simply a better fit and more suitable than yourself, rather than anything you actually ‘did’ or said.

Time to Rethink Your Approach?

There are many routes to applying for new roles – whether that’s through general advertising online, or approaching law firms directly, however utilising the services of a legal recruitment agency can pay dividends when it comes to gaining general market knowledge and understanding what opportunities there are in your specific region or practice area.

What’s more, many legal recruiters will work with you throughout the interview process – ensuring you feel fully prepared with things like your CV and covering letters/emails, as well as specific information relating to the hiring manager or Partner who will be interviewing you, typical questions being asked, and general expectations.

Our team at Clayton Legal for example have over 23 years’ experience in helping candidates navigate the job market and work with them every step of the way to prepare and ace their interviews.

And, whilst rejection after an interview is a sign you need to brush up on your interview skills and confidence, sometimes it is simply a case of another candidate better suited to the role in question. With any luck, you will have other irons in the fire, and interviews lined up to attend  – so it’s incredibly important not to feel too defeated or disheartened. Instead, put the time already spent on prepping and researching to good use in the inevitable next interview.

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.

Click here to speak to one of our experienced Legal specialists or call 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

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Interview Rejection: Handling Rejection From The Law Firm You Wanted To Work For

  • February 22, 2022

Rejection rarely feels good.

I am sure we can all remember that amazing boy or girl we thought we would be with forever who then unceremoniously dumped us.


On the upside, although being rejected for a role in a firm hurts, it’s rarely personal, unlike Mr or Miss Right, who cuttingly informed us they didn’t feel the same way we did.

Over the years, we have placed thousands of candidates, and the law of averages naturally suggests our clients have rejected many more. In today’s post, we wanted to share insights and ideas on how to bounce back, learn the lesson and move on to something even better.

Managing Your Mind

Our minds are amazing. They keep our body working like clockwork most of the time and enable us to do the most incredible things. For example, inventing technology that allows us to speak to our friends in LA or design our new fitted kitchen online with one click.

All good, although unfortunately, our brains always want to keep us safe and consequently swerve towards the negative more times than the positive, evidenced by the latest neuroscience research.

So, how does this relate to your interview rejection?

Candidates torture themselves when the hiring manager says no, often forgetting the bigger picture. Rejection is regularly blown out of proportion and viewed as a huge sign of failure.

By thinking objectively, you can use the experience to build on your strengths and address development areas, which helps you find the next role and law firm that suits you best.

Being objective, let’s start by asking for feedback to plan your next interview in an informed way.

Ask For Feedback

Always ask for feedback.

It might not be easy to hear, yet it is the best way forward if you want to make improvements.

Ideally, you will receive this from either the hiring manager or your legal recruitment consultant. If you are working with another recruitment consultant, not Clayton Legal, ask for it.

You might be surprised that there isn’t any feedback because the explanation might be as
simple as:

  • another candidate might have additional or relevant skills, or
  • worked in the role slightly longer, or
  • had gained more experience in a specific sub-sector.

All logical reasons why now wasn’t your time.

On the other hand, maybe there were gaps in your CV that you didn’t explain.

Perhaps the examples you shared were not relevant to the questions asked. Maybe interview nerves got the best of you, and your presentation floundered.

The key here is to use this useful data to hone your approach next time. With practise and focus, all of these areas can be improved.

Plan Your Future

The most common reasons for rejection are lack of technical skill, capability, experience, cultural misalignment and poor interview skills.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Technical skills and experience take application and time. It might be that additional training and self-development are required or looking at a sideways move to gain additional experience before moving upwards.

Cultural misalignment isn’t something you can always predict and in honesty, being turned down is probably a good thing. If you are very friendly, bubbly and enjoy a practical joke, being with a super analytical firm isn’t going to work long term for either of you.

Poor interview skills can be improved. These can range from being more confident, answering questions in detail about the results you have achieved for other law firms and communicating your worth.

It is not uncommon to find out that a candidate hasn’t shared some of their results or specifically how good they are at one part of the role.

Interview skills work both ways, and surprisingly your interview may be carried out by a partner that isn’t experienced in interviewing or remembered to ask you what you can bring to the role.

Always be prepared to answer questions in detail and have your top three results you are proud of that align with the job description you are working to.

Then communicate these achievements during the interview.

Knowing which areas need work is a great opportunity to create your plan, which can be in conjunction with your recruitment consultant.

Here at Clayton Legal, we work with our legal candidates confidentially, often years and months before they are ready to move.

Knowing the goals for their legal career, we can map out a logical approach and next steps. This might include suggesting a sideways move before going for a Head of Practice role or staying put for a year to gain stability and experience that specific law firms are looking for.

Finally, Look For The Gain

Though it isn’t always easy to see, rejections are often good for us. They help us identify what we are missing and do better next time with more knowledge and awareness.As recruitment consultants, it’s not uncommon to see a candidate rejected who, a few months later, gets an even better opportunity; imagine if that could be you?

How Can We Help?

Here at Clayton Legal, we have multiple clients looking for skilled and ambitious candidates like you. For a confidential conversation about your legal career goals and your next move, please get in contact with one of our team here.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country
since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and
reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from
Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T.
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.

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