Interviews can be intimidating especially when your dream job is at stake and you know competition will be strong.
The best way to quell your nerves and boost your chances of success is to be well prepared. If you are aiming for a position in a top law firm, that means gaining as much information as possible about it, the practice area that you hope to join and people you could be meeting. The firm’s website and social media, as well as reviews on Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 should indicate the nature and scope of its work. The legal press can provide useful material too and some insight into the firm’s culture and values. These sources can also help you learn about the partners who will be interviewing you, particularly Linkedin.
While it is a good idea to carry a copy of your CV, you should not have to refer to it. Rather, keep it in your head and be prepared to address the material it includes. ‘You should ensure that all the information on your CV is relevant and up-to-date. Remember that anything on your CV is fair game for interviewers and you may be questioned on it,’ advises Tarnjeet Purewal, a director of RedLaw Recruitment. ‘Think about the questions you might be asked and how you would answer them and be ready to provide practical examples of your skills and how they are suited to the position.’
Develop as clear an idea as possible of what the position involves and use the interview to increase your understanding of the role. Matters you can raise include the sort of work offered, how it is allocated and what levels of responsibility are involved. Questions about training and development and career track indicate ambition and an interest in a long-term relationship. Try to resist the urge to ask about remuneration. ‘Salary is a no-no, certainly in a first interview,’ warns Tarnjeet Purewal. ‘If you are going to a legal recruitment consultant, they should guide you on this and negotiate your package.
Personal presentation will play a big role in the assessment process and first impressions are vital. ‘Interviewers, like partners, will be asking themselves whether you can be put in front of clients,’ advises Tarnjeet Purewal. Arrive in plenty of time for the interview and ensure that your appearance is smart and that you are appropriately dressed. Most interviewers are adept at reading body language which is often more persuasive than the spoken word. ‘Closed’ body language like folded arms will be noted. A firm handshake and an upright posture will create a good impression.
Law firms are seeking to recruit the right people, not automatons, so let your personality shine through. They will be considering how well you would fit within their team. A positive, enthusiastic manner will signify confidence and inspire it. Interest and emotion can be conveyed through the tone and pitch of your voice while smiling and having a respectful, relaxed presence will suggest a willingness to engage well with others. Make eye contact and interact with all members of an interview panel.
Above all, aim to have a rewarding and interesting interview. Your interviewers are also looking for a positive outcome.