8 tips to prepare you for a legal job interview

How to give a successful interview

In this article we will explore how ambitious lawyers should prepare for a job interview, how to behave and some of the things you should do and say during the interview.

If you are lucky enough to be invited for an initial interview at a law firm, remember that this is likely to be the start of several rounds of interviews. You must consider what you want to achieve in each interview. Gain confidence in the fact that your CV was sufficiently intriguing for you to be invited to an interview. You should then take a short-term approach and make sure that you do enough to be invited to the next stage of the process.

What made you stand out?

Your CV showed that you have the skills, knowledge and experience to be considered for this company. Your job over the next series of interviews is to reinforce that for your future employer. The interview will go better if you prepare for it before you arrive so remember to learn your CV and have stories to tell about it. You should also learn about the law firm so you can mention some of what you learned to show your interest in the company.

You must also consider some probing questions to ask your interviewer. This will show your own depth of knowledge, curiosity and understanding of your work and their company, and also what is important to you. As you will probably have several interviews, you will need to change these questions as you proceed through the interview process.

Think of the standard questions you expect to be asked and practice them with a friend or coach beforehand. If you mention an example of your success, be prepared to answer questions about it. Many people fail to stress a past success sufficiently to impress the interviewer with it.

The night before an interview

Search on Google Maps to find the location of your interview and do a street search too. If you are in a big city, check the best way to get to the venue. Prepare all the documents you will need, including copies of your CV and any examples of your work that you would like to show the interviewers. You should also prepare your clothes the day before to avoid any wasted time worrying about what to wear.

On the day itself, remember to leave in good time to arrive before the interview is due to start – Don’t put yourself under pressure before you have even arrived at their office.

During the interview

The interviewer will be making several decisions while you talk with them – particularly to see if you are the ‘right fit’ for the firm. Remember to be outgoing, positive and friendly. Make friendly eye contact (but not like Hannibal the Cannibal!). Be professional by arriving on time and in clean professional clothes. Give a firm handshake, especially to westerners working in the law company – this is very important so you should practice beforehand. During the interview, make sure that you answer the questions but make certain that you keep to your message. Don’t be afraid to take control of the conversation to some extent – it shows confidence.

8 key legal interview tips

We all know that job interviews can be nerve-wracking and daunting but if you follow these top tips you won’t go far wrong.

Your CV will form the basis of the interview discussion so it’s important you can talk at length about everything you’ve achieved in your career. In particular, expect to talk about each individual project that you have worked on – so if you say you have worked on an acquisition of an asset valued at several million pounds, expect the interviewer to go into minute detail about it.

Research the firm

Before you go to the interview, spend several hours thoroughly researching the law firm you wish to work for. Don’t leave this until the night before as you may not be able to get the information you need first time round.

You should know about recent financial updates and the basic country/office count, which you should be able to get direct from the company website. Read recent press articles, legal journals and scour the company’s social media pages to add some depth to your knowledge.

Be positive

Be positive about everything that you discuss in the interview, even if it’s about a former employer that you hated working for. If you spend your interview being negative and moaning all the time, the interviewer will wonder what you will be like if they were to employ you and whether you will impact morale. Employers want someone who is upbeat and willing to meet challenges head on.

It’s all in the timing

Aim to arrive around 10 or 15 minutes before the interview as it may take some time to get settled in.  The interview room may also be some distance from reception and it’s a good opportunity to calm your nerves.

If you’re early, find a nearby coffee shop that you can sit in while you do some last minute reading through your notes. 

Leave salary negotiations until later

Don’t raise the issue of your salary at an interview unless you are asked. You should have an idea of how much the job will pay from the advertisement and from the market rate.  If you’re worried that your new employer may not be able to match the compensation package you have in mind, you can raise that if you’re offered the job.  Even if you’re asked, don’t give too much away as it may work against you when it comes to negotiations further down the line.

Whatever you feel, they feel

Line managers want someone who ‘fits’ in and is able to represent them professionally both internally and externally. With cultures varying significantly from one business to another, mirroring the personality of the interviewer can be a good idea. Remember to be professional at all times and make sure you come across as enthusiastic about the job – if it feels as if you are acting then don’t do it.

Dress for the job you want

Although dressing appropriately may sound obvious, some people still get it wrong. Some law firms are very old-fashioned whilst others have PlayStation consoles on each floor – just be aware of the culture.

A good quality suit and trouser/skirt suit or dress and jacket if you’re a woman will be a safe bet. There’s nothing wrong with being a little overdressed.

Work on your key message 

Think about why you should be given the job (which isn’t the same as why you want the job) and write down three sentences that sum this up. Include some of the words or phrases used in the job description.

Aim to get your key message into at least one of your answers, but if all else fails and you’ve not been able to, do this at the end of the interview by thanking the interviewer for the chance to be considered for the job and delivering your three killer sentences. 

Be prepared for the unexpected

Your interviewer may wish to see how you respond in an unexpected situation, or if a sudden problem occurred. For this reason, you may be asked what seems a really stupid question such as “if you found a million pounds, what you do”? The interviewer is trying to surprise you and the most important thing is that you are able to think quickly and give an answer, even if it sounds as stupid as the question.

If you have any questions or comments about how to gain an advantage at a legal job interview, fill in the form below.

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