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!
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.