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Legal Interview Skills: How to Excel In Your Virtual Interview

  • January 22, 2022

Though this post will focus on virtual interviewing ideas, the fundamental process of the interview is the same.

Interviews are an opportunity for candidates and employers to ‘meet’ virtually or face to face. This enables you to ask questions of each other, demonstrate why you as a candidate will be an ideal hire for the firm in question while you test their compatibility to help you develop your legal career.

Interviews can still be an unsettling experience, particularly in an environment where virtual interactions are still taking place across the sector, and many of us aren’t always keen to jump in front of a camera.

Like any life skill, preparation is key. As you prepare for your interview, ensure you answer the following.

  • Knowing why you want to move now.
  • How you will communicate the value you bring through the results you can achieve.
  • How to demonstrate your confidence and capability in every way, including on video
  • And how to confirm you are what your prospective employer is looking for.

If you plan to develop your legal career in a new role, this blog will help. I will be reviewing several interview fundamentals and how to present well on video.

The first part of any interview process is to gather data – let me explain.

1. Do Your Research

As a legal professional, you will be used to researching extensively for cases and arguments. The same dedication should influence your job search too. Start by getting to know the firm you’re hoping to work for and make sure you can answer the question, “Why are you a good fit for our team?”

The legal recruitment consultant you are working with will help with this, and it is vital to do your research.

Assessing the firm’s website, social media channels, current legal team, and online content can give you a good insight into the values and principles that guide the business.
You may even find it helpful to look into the background of the person who will be interviewing you on LinkedIn so that you can ask questions related to their role. Remember, asking questions in an interview is a great way to show you are interested, involved, and engaged, all key employability skills every firm is looking for.

2. Plan and Prepare

Planning and preparation can make all the difference to how confident you are as you enter the interview.

As you prepare, look through the job description and expectations and discuss the key motivations and drivers for the firm with your recruitment consultant.

For example, suppose you were applying for a Family Solicitor role. In that case, the requirement might be to demonstrate prior experience working within Private Family Law and manage your workload efficiently.

Therefore, logically what examples do you have to demonstrate where you have gone above and beyond in this area? Once you are clear on examples, it is much easier to use them to answer questions.

Though you can’t predict every single question you will be asked, several time-tested questions might appear. Prepare for questions around:

  • Your motivation to study law
  • What’s the most difficult case you’ve ever had to deal with?
  • How do you deal with an X, Y or Z situation?
  • How would you handle a difficult client? Can you share an example?
  • Why us and why now?
  • What are your career aspirations?

Many firms use a combination of general and competency-based questions, so be prepared for both. A general question may have a yes or no answer though there is usually an opportunity to share more detail, which helps you demonstrate your knowledge and the drive you will bring to the role.

A competency-based question may be asked so that you can demonstrate your knowledge and skill in a specific area. Say that is client management. Use a situation here and describe the scenario, then share your action and the result you achieved.

Practising your interview skills is a great way to perfect your answers to complex questions. It’s also a chance for you to ask people whether you’re making the right impression with your overall attitude, presentation, and image.

3. Master Your Video Skills: It is Easier Than You Think

Video interviews are still often part of the first stage of the hiring process after the hiring team has viewed your CV.

Depending on the firm, you may be asked to record a video where you answer a number of questions about yourself and your capabilities as part of a first screening stage.
Videos ahead of time give you an opportunity for multiple takes to get everything right. Though the hiring manager won’t expect you to be in a professional studio, it is important to record your video to profile you in the best possible way.

People use two popular cameras; one is a webcam, the other a smartphone. I want to share a few important details about both.

Using a smartphone, use a stand to avoid a camera shake from a nervous had. A useful technique is to look up or directly at the camera rather than down. This allows you to use your eye contact and body language to maximum effect.

When it comes to video technology, smartphones do an amazing job, and to improve the impact, better lighting and an external microphone will lift the experience. The number of people using video technology has meant that you can get a camera stand, lighting, and a microphone for under forty pounds.

Remember to record in a well-lit room with a plain background behind you.

Recording ahead of time allows you to practise what you say and how you come across. Importantly remember to look into the camera lens, which you can test ahead of time.

Similar principles apply to web cameras which can often be plugged onto a monitor screen or are part of your computer. Test the audio quality ahead of time as using ear jacks or an external microphone might give a better experience.

A headset and earphones are gamers’ choices; however, try to avoid using a headset like this during an interview as they can restrict your movement and are not flattering to wear.

It’s also worth taking extra steps to “set up your space” for video. Make sure your lighting is excellent in your room of choice, and there isn’t clutter or a window behind you in the video stream. If you can’t find a professional-looking space in your home, use virtual or custom backgrounds instead.

Remember, when you record a video like this, taking one will rarely be your best version. Practice really does make perfect, and a rushed or unrehearsed video stands out a mile.

When it comes to having an interactive video interview, the same principles apply that I mentioned earlier.  Remember to look into the camera as much as you can, varying your gaze when someone else is speaking so that you can get a sense check on the body language your interviewer is sharing.

It goes without saying that you should dress for the role you want, which includes all areas of your body that will be both off and on camera.

Being generally confident, friendly, and open will make it easier for your interviewer to connect with you and imagine a space for you in the firm. Pay attention to your actions throughout the interview, and try not to engage in any nervous behaviours like wringing your fingers, or tapping your desk, as this can make you look impatient.

We have focused on working with the camera and sound, and there may be other software involved. If that is the case, download the software you need for the conversation in advance, and practice using it. Ensure you know how to do everything from sharing your screen to muting yourself when someone else talks.

Check the quality of your internet connection in advance, so you can warn your interviewer if you’re concerned you might have any lag issues. You can also contact a friend or family member via video to check your video and audio look and sound as good as possible.

Next Steps

The legal industry is on the verge of a virtual hiring revolution. For some time now, recruitment has been growing increasingly virtual.

Before the pandemic, the Clayton group had already begun utilising video interviewing for our client and our candidate recruitment, with great results.

We have invested in the latest video technology that provides an unparalleled recruitment process for legal job seekers.

Contact the Clayton Legal team today if you would like support to develop your legal job search in the virtual age.

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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Get noticed, get standout, get hired: Top 10 Tips to supercharge your legal job application

  • October 5, 2021

For legal professionals considering a career move, navigating the job market, now more than ever, can be daunting, especially in practice areas where creating stand out is key. Making sure your application is the one that gets noticed, makes that vital positive first impression and works hard to get you that interview, and into that dream role is key. Read our top 10 tips:

1. Do the groundwork thoroughly

You’ve scoured the market, you’ve seen a new opportunity that has piqued your interest, and you know you’re a great fit – but taking a step back and researching that new opportunity beyond the advert is important. Research the firm thoroughly, even if you’re already aware of their brand and reputation in the market. Look at their digital footprint, their social media channels, their brand, and voice across the sector. What are their values, their mission and vision? What are their growth plans and future aspirations? If, at the end of the process you’re sure you’re on the right path, this undertaking will pay dividends at interview stage in demonstrating your knowledge about them as a potential employer.

2. Give your CV some TLC

Neglect your CV at your peril. This humble document is still a pivotal tool to sell your skills, competences and experience and is often the first opportunity you have to impress. Pay close attention to spelling and grammar and don’t forget the basics – clear formatting, chronological work history, personal contact details – but above all make the time to make it relevant to the role you’re applying for. For those who have previous experience outside of legal, perhaps just include the basics here – Company, job title and employment dates. You can then use the remaining space you have to focus on the experience and skills from your most recent roles – applicable, of course, to the role you’re applying for. The same applies if you have many years of experience – you won’t have the space to describe in detail each role and your responsibilities and achievements; particularly as we’d recommended a CV should be on average 2/3 pages long – and at most, 4 depending on your level of experience. Leveraging those skills and experience to make it clear you’re a match is vital – make it compelling, engaging but above all, specific.

3. Learn to love a cover letter

Whilst some believe the ‘cover letter’ as a tool in your application armory has had its day, many in the legal sector concede that they do still have a part to play in allowing lawyers to further demonstrate suitability for roles and illustrate relevant skills and experience. Again – making it specific to the role and that Firm is key. Demonstrate you’ve done your research about that Firm and highlight why you’re the person they need to hire. Be clear, concise and don’t ramble. We’d recommend keeping it to the one page if you can.

4. Hone that elevator pitch

Refining and perfecting your elevator pitch is time well spent as a jobseeker – and will add value when you’re in an interview scenario further down the line. Being able to articulate your intent, unique attributes, experience, and skill set in 30-60 seconds is an art, but once you have this crafted, it can be used to help define your personal statement and across online application forms.

5. Set aside time

Taking time to search the market for new opportunities takes time, and with those prospective roles in sight, formal job applications often take much longer than you might think – especially if you take on board the advice to personalise your application and supporting documents. Setting time aside in your schedule to dedicate to your job application activity is crucial; factoring in time to proofread, spell check and customise.

6. Embrace the tech

The pandemic has certainly brought about a lot of change when it comes to hiring legal professionals – virtual interviews and onboarding made possible through the rapid acceleration and adoption of tech solutions. As a job seeker, look to standout with alternative ways to raise your personal profile. Video platforms for example are a great way to add personality and weight to your application far beyond the traditional CV and cover letter duo. Requests for video supported applications are increasing, and often facilitated by recruitment agencies. Embrace these tools if they’re offered as another vehicle to demonstrate your suitability.

7. Time to get personal

Without a doubt, your (relevant) experience, skills, qualifications, and education are the hero elements of your legal job application– be that in your CV or a Firm’s own application form. But highlighting your interests out of work is still a great technique to demonstrate your personal qualities, and how you might fit with company culture.  Often an optional section of your application forms or CV, that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of time. Rather, used smartly, hobbies and interests can really strengthen your application and make you more ‘human’.  Try to stay away from stipulating interests that don’t really demonstrate a skill or quality that you’re hoping the hiring manager is looking for. ‘Going out with friends’ for example may be something you do outside of work, but it does little to further exhibit your strengths, skill set, personality, or transferrable qualities relating to the job at hand.

8. Audit your own digital footprint

Like it or not, hirers may conduct their own research into you as a potential employee far beyond the documentation that you have sent to champion that application. Therefore, it’s always wise to sense-check your social media channels to either set to private, or ensure your profile is one you wouldn’t mind your new employer seeing.

9. Boost your network

Connecting with the Hiring Manager at the Firm you’re applying to on LinkedIn may seem bullish, but it can be a savvy move and increase your chances of getting an interview. The connection request should be seen as another opportunity to introduce yourself and interest in the role and wider Firm. Being proactive means you could also open up conversations around the role in more detail that the job spec advertised, and a reciprocal ‘follow’ or connection will offer that individual another window into your experience and voice in the market. It is also worth saying that at this juncture, keep it professional. You don’t want to pile any pressure on regarding your application at this stage.

10. Enlist the help of an expert

Formally registering with a specialist recruitment agency will undoubtedly give you a head start with your job search – furnishing you with market insight as well as the inside track on the Law Firms that are hiring. And, when that dream role is in sight, you’ll be offered practical advice on the basics, refined by experts who live the hiring process and all of its anomalies day in, day out.

Next Steps

If you would like to speak to us confidentially about market conditions, opportunities in your practice area or geographical region, or if you are actively looking for a role and would like us to help give you that competitive edge, we would love to speak to you.

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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How to Make a Compelling Legal Job Application

  • May 25, 2021

We were delighted to take part in a Live Q&A event in association with The Law Society earlier this month where we offered our advice and expertise to legal professionals on how to make a compelling legal job application.

In the session we covered a wide range of subjects – from how to master CV basics, to revealing some recent market research where we spoke to Partners and Hiring Managers about what they’re looking for when reviewing applications.

If you weren’t able to join us, you’ll be pleased to know that the session was recorded – click below to view.

We also spoke in detail about current market conditions, and the so-called ‘war for talent’; much documented in recent weeks across many professional sectors. According to statistics from Broadbean, despite a 20 per cent rise in vacancies advertised in Q1 2021 compared to the last three months of 2020, applications to those roles rose by only 4% in the same period.

Law Firms are once again competing for the same, sometimes scarce, pool of legal professionals; some of whom are reluctant to move roles against the backdrop of a pandemic and perceived market uncertainty, and others who do have that confidence and find they have a number of options available to them.

Despite the backdrop of the pandemic, the market is awash with opportunities for those considering a move. If you are indeed in the market as a jobseeker, making your application compelling, engaging, and one that works hard to give you standout is still as important as ever – whether you choose to go direct to the Firm, via a job board, or utilising the services of an experienced legal recruiter.

Top 10 Tips for Supercharging Your Legal Job Application

For legal professionals considering a career move, navigating the job market can be daunting. We were recently asked to share our top 10 tips for creating a standout legal job application with The Law Society which we also wanted to share here:

Click here to have a read

If you would like any further guidance on current market conditions or would like to speak to us in more detail about the opportunities within your region or practice area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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.

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The 5 Legal Interview Mistakes

  • September 28, 2019

You may be a legal professional with knowledge, experience and the right soft skills to nail your next role, but it’s still easy to slip up in an interview.

Preparation and knowing how to act at your interview will allow you to showcase your talents, but if you don’t prepare sufficiently or think carefully about what you are saying on the day, you risk falling into the trap many legal professionals make, scuppering your chances of getting that ideal legal role.

Here are the five most common interview mistakes legal professionals make – and how to avoid them.

Not Being Prepared

Fail to prepare; prepare to fail. Failure to do your research and preparation can make you look lazy and uninterested in the role.

Reading up on the firm’s background, noting its place and competitors in the legal sector, its specialisms and recent positive news will put you in a great position to arrive confidently ready for anything. Your background research will give you a ‘feel’ for the firm and will demonstrate to the interviewer your understanding of both the firm, the market/verticals in which it operates and the role on offer.

Research can be as simple as checking out the firm’s website for information. Additionally, you could dig a bit deeper by checking out individual LinkedIn profiles, reviews, blogs and articles to give you a rounded view of the firm you hope to work for and help you prepare for the questions you may be asked.

Not Looking the Part

Legal roles, be they at trainee or Senior Partner level, require a certain level of professional dress.

I know it sounds obvious, but some candidates do fail to dress suitably for interview.

You should arrive for your interview as you would expect to arrive at work. Smart, professional, clean and tidy. First impressions do count in the legal world, and you won’t impress an interviewer if you roll up in creased, worn or just plain inappropriate clothing.

If in doubt about how formal you should go, lean on the side of caution – too formal is better than not formal enough and of course check in with your legal recruitment consultant who will be conversant with what is expected at the firm where you are being interviewed!

Looking the part will also give you an air of confidence: if you know you look professional, you will feel it.

Oh, and remember to switch your phone off too!

Talking too Much (or Clamming Up)

There’s a fine line between showing you’re interested and taking over the conversation. You don’t want the interviewer to think you’re going to be the employee who spends all day chatting to colleagues, but neither do you want to hold back and appear disengaged.

Waffling is a common side effect of nerves, so if you feel yourself beginning to ramble, take a moment to gather your thoughts and think about the question you’re being asked before giving your answer.

Conversely, being too concise in your answers can make you appear indifferent to the job or worse still lacking knowledge.

Practising answers to the type of questions you are likely to be asked will help enormously. You can practice with a friend or your recruitment specialist. The more you rehearse your answers, the more you will find you are confident in what to say. This will go a long way to help alleviate your nerves on the day and will allow you to deliver your answers calmly and with confidence.

Remember, interviewers are human too, and they know that nerves can be an issue. So, if your mind goes totally blank, it’s fine to take some time to gather your thoughts or ask if you can come back to that question to give you time to think about your answer.

Bad-mouthing Former Employers

This is an absolute no-no.

Regardless of how you feel about a former workplace or colleagues, your interview is not the appropriate place to indulge in a rant about how awful your ex-team was, or how you believe the Senior Partner was incapable of doing their job.

Nothing will put your interviewer off you quicker than listening to you complain about former colleagues. It gives a terrible impression of you and will make them wonder what you might say about them in future!

I always advise candidates that diplomacy is called for if you are asked about former work situations. If they weren’t great, try to focus on the positives by concentrating on how you dealt will potentially tricky occasions (without going into detail) so you are seen as loyal and proactive, rather than hostile.

Not Thinking About Your Own Questions

Preparing for the questions you will be asked is only one half of the interview. It’s a two-way conversation, and you are almost certain to be asked if you have any questions.

Whatever you do, never say you don’t have any or ‘I think you have covered everything’, even if your interviewer may have!

As part of your preparation, it’s ideal to come up with three or four questions to ask when it comes to your turn. Suggestions include:

“What does a typical day look like?” (shows you imagine yourself in the role)

“Is there scope in this role for me to add value to it?” (shows you are keen to develop and expand your abilities)

“Do you see the firm scaling up/taking on additional specialisms in the future” (indicates you are planning to stay, and are interested in helping the firm grow)

Questions you definitely should not ask include anything related to salary or annual leave. Those concerns can be discussed once you’ve been offered the role.

Remember, preparation is vital for interview success; prepare well, and you will have confidence in yourself on the day.

Your interview is an opportunity to showcase your talents, interest and character, and be memorable to the interviewer – for the right reasons!

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.

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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5 Questions Legal Hiring Managers Always Ask At Interview

  • September 10, 2019

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.

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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7 Steps to Success at Your Legal Job Interview

  • August 20, 2019

Whether you are a Child Care Paralegal or a Senior Conveyancing Solicitor, an interview is potentially the start of a new level in your career and a step nearer achieving your aspirations. So, it’s essential to get it right.

You’ve already made a positive impression with your CV, or perhaps a direct application or covering letter – so that first hurdle has been crossed.

The interview, be it over the phone, over a video call virtually, or face to face, is a chance to bring all of those points to life – and it’s essential to put your best foot forward and create a positive first impression that increases your chance of the job offer.

Here are our top seven steps to success…

1. Plan Ahead

Give yourself plenty of time to do your research. Learn all you can about the law firm and the job you’re applying for.

Don’t just look at the facts and figures; see if they have an online newsletter and sign up for it and follow them on social media. You may spot an interesting snippet of information or news story that you can bring into the interview.

Find out what specialisms they have, and what their plans are for future scaling.

These easy hacks will show your knowledge and demonstrate you are keen to work for their law firm.

2. Work with Your Recruiter

It’s also a good idea to work closely with your specialist legal recruiter. They will be able to discuss the role in depth with you and point out any gaps in your skillset that need addressing.

They can also help you assess your value and the strengths you bring to the role, such as soft skills, as they will have in-depth knowledge of the law firm you’re hoping to join.

3. Create a Cheat Sheet

Interviews are stressful enough without adding to the anxiety.

This top tip is useful in keeping you calm and avoiding any last-minute panic. You can use the notes app on your phone to list all the essential things about the recruitment job you need to remember.

Include:

  • address of the interview
  • contact number
  • interviewer’s name
  • time of your interview

Add three or four main points you want to make during your interview, some brief notes on your answers to competency-based questions and anything else that you think you might need.

You will then have all the information to hand for last-minute revision – allowing you to walk into the interview with confidence.

4. Be on Time

Being on time for an interview is crucial to setting yourself up positively in the eyes of the hiring manager. It says you are a reliable professional and conveys respect.

Conversely, being late for an interview is a no-no. It leaves a lasting impression and will not go down well with the hiring manager, trust me.

To minimise problems on the day, make sure you know where you are going for the interview and how you’re going to get there. Ideally, do a practice run and time yourself.

Everyone knows that hold-ups on the roads or public transport can affect us all.

If the worse happens and you are delayed, phone and apologise as a courtesy. Keep calm and provide them with details of how long you will be (if you know) or ask to reschedule.

It won’t hurt to follow up with a polite email later in the day to reinforce your apology. Good manners cost nothing but can convey a good lasting impression.

5. Harness Your Anxiety

Even with the experience of presenting at conferences or making court appearances, interviews can make the most experienced solicitor or paralegal nervous.

An excellent confidence technique is to “make friends” with your anxiety, says mindfulness teacher Charlie Morley. Acknowledge its presence, but don’t let it overpower you.

Try channelling all that adrenaline by changing your thought patterns – so you view your nervous energy as excited energy. You’ll still feel charged but in a positive way!

You may also consider doing some basic breathing exercises before you go into the interview. I’ve found this NHS exercise helpful.

Finally, positive thought can work wonders. So, picture yourself having a positive outcome and landing your dream legal job. It will boost your confidence levels and give you that extra push to sail through the interview.

6. Know Your Value

Your value to the company goes beyond your knowledge and skills in your specialist area of legal practice.

That doesn’t mean to say that these are not a priority; of course, they are paramount to the job, but your soft skills are also relevant.

Ask yourself what you bring to the law firm that is your USP. Are you a great team player? Do your ethics match those of the law firm? Are you a good culture fit?

If you have relevant testimonials, referrals or letters of recommendation from satisfied clients, take them with you to show the interviewer.

7. Watch Your Body Language

Interviews are not just about talking the talk. You may know all there is to know about your specialist area of family law or litigation and have a first-class degree, but your body language can still let you down and scupper your chances of success.

Body language is more important than you might think – in fact, Mehrabian’s findings are that:

  • 7% of meaning in words that are spoken
  • 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of meaning is in facial expression.

So, pay attention to it!

Avoid fidgeting, crossing your arms, making wild, distracting hand gestures, or slumping in your seat.

Eye contact is the fastest way to build rapport, but at the same time remember not to stare your interviewer out!

Three to five seconds of eye contact works perfectly. If you have more than one interviewer, give the person asking the question 60% of your eye contact when answering and share the remaining 40% across other panel members.

Finally, smile. It’s a fact that smiling will make you feel more confident and you will appear friendly.

The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself and prove your potential value to the employer. So, adopt a pleasant manner and follow these tried and tested interview secrets to get your dream 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.

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 guide here.

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5 Proven Strategies For Boosting Your Interview Confidence

  • May 20, 2019

Having an interview isn’t something you do every day of your life, is it? There are times during your career when you will have bursts of interview activity as you look to secure a new role as your career progresses.

For many people, it could then be several years before they experience an interview again. It’s no wonder then that for someone heading into an interview for a potentially life-changing role – this could be your first shot at a ‘Partner’ position – fear and interview nerves are a reality.

Whether it’s your heart that starts pounding, your hands that get clammy, embarrassingly getting beads of sweat on your forehead, or your breathing gets just a little quicker than usual; each can be visible to your future employer or prospective fellow partners. Not exactly the impression you want to make, is it?

At Clayton Legal, we appreciate how stressful interview situations can be. We also know that confidence is a crucial ingredient to interview success. So, here are our top five strategies for giving your interview confidence a real boost.

1. Give Your Inner Voice A Holiday

Whether we like to admit it in public or not, the fact is that we all have a voice in our head that
at times is our biggest supporter and at others will start spinning stories and runs riot.

Why does it do this? Getting technical for a moment, the brain’s job is to keep us safe by minimising any risk of danger, especially in situations where the outcome is unknown. Cue the interview.

As an interview approaches, ‘our voice’ kicks into action:
“The competition seems stiff, I’ll never make it.”
“They’ve have probably got a strong internal candidate in mind already.”
“Whenever I really want a job, I always blow the interview.”

You see the brain goes into overdrive with all kinds of stories when it doesn’t know what the outcome is. Being aware of this is the starting point. Then there are 2 things you can do.

a. Take control of the stories. Maxwell Maltz, the famous Psychiatrist who wrote Pysco-Cybernetics, describes the brain as a “Success seeking machine”. Use it to create your own success story.

b. Now I know this may sound weird and…when you notice your voice is playing the not so good story game, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and count to 10.
Notice how it switches the voice off. This simple action cuts the circuit that the brain was running. Don’t believe me though, test it for yourself.

2. Do Your Research

As with most things in life, preparation is key, and I know you may think that, compared to some of the work you prepare for a day in court or on contracts, what I am about to say is a no brainer.

And it still makes sense to know where the interview is taking place, where to park, through to what evidence and success stories to prepare that will demonstrate your competencies.

(The last thing you want is to have been delayed because you didn’t realise that the longest city centre diversion ever had been introduced since you were last in the area!)

3. Bring Your Story To Life

At some point in your career, you will have been asked a common interview question such as, “Walk me through your CV”.

On the surface, it seems an easy question and most people will regurgitate their written CV verbally.
What a lost opportunity. Remember, while some practice areas such as private practice, property law and commercial litigation are suffering from a lack of candidates, there will still be competition because legal firms still want top quality talent.

To stand out from a competitive field of candidates, become good at bringing your story to life.

How?

Start by knowing your story. The roles you have had post qualifying, what made you choose your area of practice, the experiences you had and the types of clients you have worked with.

Take your CV and look at the highlights and bullet points and think in detail about what was happening at the time. Who were the clients, what was the situation, what were the projects or contracts you worked on. After all, some of these events will have taken place 4, 6 or 8+ years ago.

Be able to bring the events to life so that you fully demonstrate the results and impact they had.

4. Be Your Best Self

Being your best self means be at the top of your game on the day of the interview, which is when you are buzzing, excited, when things are just coming so easy for you. Some people describe it as “when you are in your flow”.

The question is, how do I know when I am being my best self, and what do I do to get myself there?

Let’s take the second part of the question first.

How do you get yourself to a place where you can be the best version of yourself in an interview context?

I. Create a list of all your skills, the experience that you bring with you, your strengths and talents. Have plenty of success stories as evidence to support why you are the best person for the role.

II. Be able to share all the above in your story as described in the strategy above.

III. Make sure you are not allowing any nerves to influence your confidence.

A quick exercise to tap into the feelings you have when you know you are being the best version of yourself.

Find a quiet place and sit with your eyes closed. Remember a recent time when you knew you were firing on all cylinders and smashing it. How does it feel as you remember this, and where do you notice this feeling is in your body? It could be in your stomach, chest or even in the hairs on the back of your neck! Imagine …that this place is your source of “confident energy”. When you need confidence, tap into this place in your body and feel the strength, confidence and power and the feeling will return.

Returning to part one of the original question. You will know you feel good and that you have a sense that the interview is going OK.

5. Connect with your Interviewers

Before you can impress or make an impact with a Managing or Senior Partner, or any line manager, you have to first build rapport. The fastest way to do this is through non-verbal body language; specifically your eye contact.

Many interviews will involve more than one person, which could be Head of Department, a Partner, plus an HR manager. The question becomes, who do you give the most eye contact to so that you build rapport with each interviewer?

As a general rule, you give 60% of your eye contact to the person asking the question and share the remaining 40% amongst the rest of the panel.

Building rapport is also about seeking to understand your prospective employer and demonstrating empathy. When you shift the focus of the interview onto your potential employer’s needs, you’re not only showing genuine interest; you will also inspire your audience to have confidence in you as a future member of their practice team.

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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Legal Interview Skills: Is Your Body Language Letting You Down At Interview

  • March 5, 2019

Your legal interview is just around the corner, and you have practised your responses to a list of the most common legal competency-based questions; but have you missed something critical to the process?

Your body language.

There has been extensive research into what impact our verbal and nonverbal communication can make and it’s fascinating. Have a look at Professor Albert Mehrabian’s work on the communication model. Here are a few key points he identified that are important in an interview situation.

  • 55% of the message we communicate relates to our body language and facial expression
  • 38% of the message we communicate relates to our voice tone and the way words are said.
  • 7% of message ONLY relates to the words we communicate

It probably now makes sense why our nervousness can easily lead to a host of body language mistakes, from unconscious fidgeting to awkward facial expressions.

Unfortunately, since half of the interviewers decide whether a person is right for the job before they ever have a chance to answer a question; the way you present yourself is more important than ever.

The good news is the common mistakes interviewees make can be rectified fast provided you know what they are.

So here, in no particular order, are the most common mistakes we see:

1. Forgetting to Smile

Anxious, stone-faced candidates don’t do well in interviews; no matter how good your law degree is. Even if you have the best legal CV in the UK, it’s important to sell yourself as someone that has a pleasant manner and will fit into the culture of a legal firm.

No-one wants to work with someone who’s constantly nervous or grumpy.

Not only can smiling make you appear warm and friendly, but it could calm your interview-based nerves. A genuine smile will help to decrease stress in your system and ensure that you feel more confident than you would with a frown.

2. Poor Eye Contact

In the world of body language errors, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to avoid eye contact with your interviewer. Hiring managers want to see the confidence in their prospective candidates, and keeping your vision cast down towards the floor makes you look nervous and lacking in confidence.

Though this can be a part of your personality, it’s something you need to consider and address.

Although you don’t want to ‘stare’ your interviewer out with too much intense eye contact, looking at them when answering their questions, or listening to their responses is of paramount importance in an interview.

It shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and providing your full attention. If you’re in a group interview, it’s best to make sure that you maintain eye contact mostly with the person asking the questions, while looking at the other people in the room from time to time.

3. Too Many Hand Gestures

When it comes to the hands, many candidates believe their handshake is the biggest threat to their chances of success; wrong.

Though it might surprise you there’s more you can do to damage your first impression than giving a handshake that’s too weak, or too strong.

From our own experience screening legal candidates over the last 20 years and talking to the legal hiring managers we work with, too many hand gestures while talking is distracting.

Although talking with your hands might be a common habit, it’s something you should cut down on when preparing for an interview. The more nervous you get, the more uncontrolled your movements can become, which never communicates what you have to offer in the best light.

4. Crossing your Arms

Though you might think this doesn’t happen any more in an interview situation, it still surprisingly does.

Remember in an interview situation people often see crossed arms as a sign that the person they’re talking to is disengaged, bored, or even worse – defensive.

While it’s highly unlikely you are feeling any of these emotions, sadly for you, this could be what you are communicating.

Sometimes, crossing your arms can make you feel more comfortable or protected in an interview situation, but it also blocks you off from your employer. Instead, think about how you can portray interest and engagement with your body language, by keeping yourself open, perhaps with your hands by your sides, and your body angled towards the interviewer.

5. Poor Posture

Finally, sitting slumped in your seat won’t portray you as a confident, professional person who your hiring manager would be happy to put in front of a new legal client.

No matter how tailored your suit may be, a bad posture can cause you to appear uninterested, or again even lack in confidence, possibly even rude.

Keep your spine straight against the back of your chair, and square your shoulders. This will help you to look more confident and show that you respect your interviewer and the potential job ahead of you. A strong posture stands out, making you look more like a leader. If you can’t sit straight, then focus on leaning slightly towards your interviewer, to show engagement.

So often candidates focus their interview preparation on preparing to answer questions that they
will be asked.

Remember, what you say accounts for just 7 % of how you communicate in your interview. How you communicate those words will be the difference that makes the difference.

Practice how you want to deliver your answers as well as what you plan to say.

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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The 72 Hour Countdown To Your Legal Interview

  • February 5, 2019

Irrespective of whether you are moving into a new private client solicitor role or you are a superb legal secretary looking for their next opportunity, this is still a key career move; at least for now.

You actively applied for this role because you believe it will deliver you closer to your career and broader life goals.

By giving the interview process the respect it deserves, you will increase your chances of being successful and securing the role.

To truly succeed at a legal interview and confirm to your hiring manager you have the appropriate skills, traits and you are a good culture fit, you will need to be ready.

Poor planning delivers poor results.

Therefore, we aren’t talking about a quick look through their website the night before. Instead, we are referring to being fully prepared and ready by making the most of the 72-hour preparation window you need before your interview begins.

Three days is the perfect length of time to deliver you to the interview primed and ready in a calm and confident fashion.

Here is where we suggest starting.

1. Research and a Conversation With Your Legal Recruitment Consultant

In the current legal recruitment market, it’s likely that you will have found your role through a specialist legal recruitment company like Clayton Legal.

That being the case we, your recruiting partner, should be your first port of call when it comes to knowing as much as possible about the specific legal role in question and the company you could potentially join.

It is imperative to do this sooner rather than later, as this will enable you to carry out additional research as necessary, to stand out. Alternatively, this will let you know about gaps you might have that must be addressed in how you communicate your value to your future employer.

Google is naturally your friend here.

Look at any news about the sector of law you will be involved with. For instance, earlier this month I was looking at information about collaborative law and came across a post from a press release by a Bath law firm who were offering free mediation information sessions to people considering divorce, as part of Family Mediation Week.

A talking point maybe? Though your skills and experience are critical, your wider knowledge of the law is important too.

Research the company online. Learn as much as you can from the website, including all their specialisms and any bigger cases they are working on and what their plans might be.

Review all their social media profiles and anything they have published on LinkedIn’s article platform.

If the website has staff profiles and an ‘Our Story’ page, so much the better. If you can, find out how many employees they have and who is part of the leadership team.

During this research stage, you will be able to prepare good questions to ask that will demonstrate you are a serious candidate who’s done their homework. You would be surprised how many candidates don’t make an effort in this regard, and you’re likely to stand out by doing this.

If you are working with a professional legal recruitment consultant, they will be able to help you with most of this too. So, it’s critical to discuss the job description in detail and how you can demonstrate your value, which leads me onto the next point.

2. Know And Demonstrate Your Value

In today’s legal field hiring managers are looking for skills and abilities, yes; though they are also looking for the value you can add.

Imagine some of the questions you might be asked and prepare your answers that communicate how you have added value in the past. For instance, it might be a new system you initiated on creating court documents that improved the process, or the updated advice process you developed that has generated positive testimonials and referrals.

Ask your recruitment consultant to tell you what is behind the job specification and what are the crucial skills to demonstrate and communicate.

Finally, if you have a ‘brag’ file or letters of commendation or an end of year review that is positive and recent, take them with you and USE them.

It has been known for hiring managers to comment that James or Tania brought in a briefcase and never opened it!

Which left them wondering if they had missed something? No, but James and Tania missed the opportunity to demonstrate yet another validation of why they should get the role.

Remember to use everything at your disposal to position yourself as the logical choice.

3. Practical Logistics

With the best will in the world, we can all misjudge time. Double check the time and location of the interview, as well as the name of the hiring manager.

If you haven’t already been to check out the venue, prepare your route by car or train leaving plenty of time to get there in case you end up experiencing one of those annoying traffic jams that come from nowhere.

Let’s be frank, interviews are stressful enough, so there is no point adding to that unnecessarily by getting lost and certainly not by turning up late. Hint: hiring managers dislike latecomers.

Most people reading this post understand dress code and how what you are wearing does have an impact; you do, don’t you?

I will explore this briefly in a minute.

Firstly let’s talk about confidence and what you wear. I am not suggesting you head out and buy a new outfit or shoes. Instead, think about the outfit that always makes you feel good.

I have a few outfits I love, and I always wear them if I want a boost of confidence. Perhaps you have had this experience too?

No matter how many presentations you have given, or appearances in court; never underestimate interview nerves and their unexpected impact.

Finally, remember the goal of the interview is to leave the interviewers talking about your skills, attitude, and law experience and potentially how well you would fit into the team.

A fascinating fact I discovered last year is that over half of the population has a visual preference and a keen sense of smell and though we all like to think we don’t judge, we sometimes do.

The last thing you want to have your interviewers chatting about at lunch is how strong your perfume was or questioning if you smoked, or crikey how did you manage to walk in those heels?!

If you follow the steps in this post you have a template to impress the hiring manager with the depth of your knowledge in the company, and how confidently prepared you are.

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 looking for your next career move, we can help.
Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would more help on preparing for your interview download our interview checklist here.

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What is your interviewer actually looking for?

  • July 18, 2018

Over the past few months, we’ve given a considerable amount of advice on how to write a CV that will make a hiring manager sit up and take note and how to nail a job interview amongst various other things. However, we’re regularly asked what a job interviewer is actually looking for and what they’re thinking when they meet a candidate.

It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous and slightly uneasy in an interview, after all, it’s an important process and one that could shape your career prospects for years to come. Getting a job, as we all know, can change lives – particularly if it’s one you’re desperately keen to get – so it’s hardly surprising that for many people, interviewing can be highly stressful.

However, it helps to get inside the head of an interviewer and put yourself in their shoes. If you were hiring for your own company, what traits and skills would you be looking for?

Are they who they say they are?

This may sound obvious, but you’d be blown away by the number of people who openly lie on their CV. It’s easy to make yourself sound employable on your application if you just lie and any experienced hirer will likely want to run through your CV to clarify that you are who you say you are and that you’ve done what you’ve said you’ve done. They’ll probably want to throw a few open ended questions at you to allow you to talk through your CV in your own time and – as long as you are telling the truth – this should come naturally. It’s important to remember to consider how your past experiences can help you carry out the role. So rather than simply stating what you did, try and use examples and make a link with what you’ve done in your past and how it could help you in the position you’re applying for.

Cultural fit

One of the hardest things for an interviewer to gauge is whether the person sitting opposite them will fit into their current line-up. There are two distinct schools of thought. Some people like building teams with ‘disruptive’ characters who can challenge the status quo and create results and innovation by being different. Others recognise the value of employing people who can get on with their current employees and won’t upset the apple cart. Unfortunately, there’s no golden solution to this and if the employer doesn’t think you’ll work at their company for whatever reason, they’re unlikely to take you on. Your best bet is to be yourself. Your true personality will reveal itself further down the line and putting on a persona only raises the risk of you not actually being well suited to the organisation.

Are you up to the job?

Finally – and perhaps most obviously – the interviewer will want to know whether you’ve actually got the skills to do the job. This is where pinning examples to things you’ve done in your past really becomes valuable. If you can actually highlight times when you’ve made a difference to your former employer it saves them the task of linking your skills with the job specification and working out whether you’re cut out for the role. Others will do it in their interview and if a hiring manager has an obvious fit for a role, they’re hardly likely to think about other candidates quite so much. It also doesn’t come down to what you just say. If the role involves a lot of interaction with senior partners or associates then you’ll want to consider your speech patterns and ways of communicating. In addition, you should consider any obvious reasons why the company wouldn’t hire you and don’t let the interviewer jump to their own conclusions (which they will). If your CV shows signs of job hopping, for example, then provide reasons for why you’ve done so ahead of being asked.

For more insights from the team visit our blogs page or get in touch with the team for more career tips and tricks. 

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