Succeeding at an Interview


Throughout my career in legal recruitment, I have worked with lawyers of all levels of seniority, and I make sure that I take the time with every candidate to ensure that they are as ready as they can be for any interview. Research shows that over 80% of candidates do little or no preparation before an interview. That’s good news for you - if you do the opposite.

Here are my tips to ensure sure you shine at the interview:

1) Preparation

  • Research the firm - websites are often a great starting point but try to get a behind-the-scenes perspective using your own network. External news sources and legal directories are also a great source of information.
  • Find out about the people interviewing you - many websites carry partner profiles, so make sure you know their names, their positions at the firm and, where relevant, the type of work they are involved in. They may also have a LinkedIn profile you could look at.
  • Familiarise yourself with the job spec - what are they looking for? Knowing this will give you the best chance to persuade the firm that you meet their needs.
  • Confirm the format of the interview - will there be a psychometric test or a technical exercise?

2) Practice

  • Gathering your thoughts on likely questions beforehand will enhance your overall presentation.
  • Consider the points you want to make, and how to structure your responses to best sell your strengths against their requirements.

Specific points to consider include:

  • Know your CV inside out - be ready to expand on any decisions you’ve made regarding studies or previous career moves and be confident talking about your key achievements.
  • Strengths and weaknesses - analyse and assess them honestly. Be prepared to answer questions on them in a way that illustrates your skills and how you could contribute to the firm.
  • Reasons for leaving - guard against being too negative or critical about your current firm. Focus more on what you hope the move will achieve rather than what you are keen to leave behind.
  • Career aims - both short and longer term, and how they relate to the position on offer.
  • Think through what you want from the meeting and what questions you need to ask. Interviewers often feedback that they are as impressed with the questions a candidate asks as the answers they have given.
  • We’d never advocate preparing answers to questions to roll out word for word, but it may be wise to prepare a brief career overview in response to that popular kick-off question ‘tell me something about yourself’.

3) Punctuality

  • Confirm the exact address where the interview is taking place.
  • Allow yourself plenty of travel time and always take a contact number in case of any unforeseen delays.
  • Arrive about 10 minutes early to give yourself time to collect your thoughts.

4) Presentation

  • Dress to impress. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • A strong but not overbearing handshake and a natural smile complete the positive picture.
  • Be confident but courteous.

5) Performance

  • Practise a comfortable sitting position beforehand that feels natural. Relaxed shoulders present an open and confident manner. If you tend to fidget, keep your hands apart and don’t hold anything.
  • Be aware of your voice - pace, tone and intonation all contribute to your success in an interview. If the role demands energy and enthusiasm, show some.
  • Be yourself - personality and culture fit is important, so act naturally and ask yourself whether the environment suits you.
  • Listen carefully and think before you speak - pauses seem longer than they are, and the interviewers would rather hear the best answer you can provide, not the quickest.
  • Make your answers clear and concise and always use positive language.
  • Do not get discouraged if a particular point doesn’t go as well as hoped. Your interviewers will form opinions over the whole interview rather than one question.
  • Although you’ve thought about the salary, always allow your interviewer to initiate discussions. This often won’t occur during the first interview. Negotiate as late as possible: you will have the most influence when the interviewer has decided they want to offer you the job. I would advise using a recruitment consultant to do this for you to avoid awkward conversations with a future employer.
  • Ask questions - as well as completing the picture from your perspective, this shows you have done your research, and demonstrates a genuine interest in the firm.
  • Remember - It is a business meeting, not an exam.

6) Post-interview

  • Make notes immediately afterwards on what you thought went well, what didn’t and what you’d do differently next time.
  • Pass your interview feedback on to your recruitment consultant.
  • If you are not using a recruitment agency, follow up with a brief thank you e-mail, reiterating your interest in the position. If you have any additional information, which might help the company make a decision in your favour, offer it here.


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