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Preparing for your Legal Job Interview

Written by: Corinne Mills, Personal Career Management
Published on: 7 Aug 2014

Preparing for your Legal Job Interview

  • Corinne Mills is the Managing Director of Personal Career Management, the leading career coaching company who are partners with TotallyLegal.

    Your CV has been shortlisted and you’ve been invited to an interview. You should feel reasonably confident about your chances as they must think you are a genuine potential contender for the legal job. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just turn up, lack of preparation can scupper the chances of even the most talented legal professionals.

    Here are some top tips on how to excel in your legal job interview.

  • 1. Interview Logistics

    From a practical point of view, it is important to be clear about what to expect on the day. So check the following with the employer or agency:

     • What type of interview it is likely to be (e.g. one to one, panel)?
     • Will there be subsequent interviews or tests?
     • Will you be shown around the department, meet potential colleagues etc?
     • How will you get there? Check beforehand if parking is available if you need it.

    In today’s virtual world, make sure this applies to video interviews too. Ensure you have your computer somewhere at home with a tidy, neutral background and that you are not expecting interruptions. You can read more advice in our video interview tips article.

  • 2. Who are you trying to impress?

    Find out the names and job titles of your interviewers and check out their profile on Linkedin and any other information you can find out about them online. Knowing their background, career history and what they look like means that they will feel less like strangers when you do meet and this can give you a psychological advantage.

    On an interview panel, each member is likely to have a different perspective on who constitutes an ideal legal candidate. This will depend on their relationship with the post-holder as well as their own professional focus. For instance a Head of Department or Managing Partner may be keen to assess the commercial acumen of the candidates and their contribution to the firm's profitability.

    Try to anticipate their needs and concerns and think about what information you could share that would reassure them.

  • 3. Research the Company/Law Firm

    You need to conduct extensive research on the company or law firm before you go for the interview. This will help you talk more knowledgably about why you think you are a good fit for the firm, demonstrate your keen interest in the job as well as your professionalism and diligence.

    Look beyond just the company website to find out other information such as press and PR pieces, information about new clients and cases, shareholder reports, financial information. Try to talk to people who have either worked for or with the organisation in some capacity.

    Your research should include:

     • Statistics – company/ firm size, turnover, market share, key people, etc.
     • Key products and services and target clients
     • Who are its competitors and how do they compare?
     • What are the likely challenges and opportunities ahead?
     • What it’s like to work there?

    Make notes of your findings so that you can impress at the interview by quoting relevant facts and figures and showing you understand the organisation’s priorities and challenges.

  • 4. Prove your suitability

    You should have the job advert and a job description, if you haven’t got these, then it’s worth asking if they’re available as they may just have forgotten to give it to you.

    Go through all of the job details and consider your wider research to anticipate the kind of questions they will be asking at the interview to ascertain your suitability. You will need to prove your capabilities for every single aspect of their selection criteria so you must prepare a number of stories that illustrate the relevant legal skills clearly. Wherever possible choose positive stories that show how you have “added value” to a company e.g. increased profitability, won clients and case, resolved problems etc as this will help you sound like a high performing employee.

  • 5. Anticipate tricky questions

    Where you think they may be looking for something that you don’t have, then don’t ignore it and hope for the best. Be proactive in thinking about how you might close the gap or perhaps minimise its importance. Perhaps you can read up on the area in question, investigate courses, arrange relevant work experience etc. You must have an answer ready to convince them that the gap is not an issue. If you’re at the start of your legal career and searching for training contracts, you can find out our common law training contract interview questions and how to answer them.

    Prepare answers to those particularly tricky questions such as why you left your last job to make sure that they come across positively. Steer clear of talking about anything that is negative or critical about previous employers or roles. At the end of the interview you will be given the opportunity to ask questions of your own so it’s important to think of questions to ask in your law job interview.

  • 6. Practice out loud

    It’s very important to practice your interview answers out loud before you get to the interview. Most candidates tend to waffle so answers that are succinct and well-crafted will be a welcome relief for the interviewers and make you stand out positively by comparison.

    Wherever possible, try a mock interview beforehand with a career coach, or trusted friend so that you can get some objective feedback on your answers and body language to ensure that they are consistent with the messages that you want to convey.

    If you are doing the interview over the phone, read our telephone interview tips for locums article to get some guidance on how to impress.

  • 7. How much time should I spend on preparation?

    Expect to spend several hours, researching and rehearsing for your interview. It signals to an employer that you genuinely want the job and the level of professionalism you are likely to bring to the job if appointed.

    To find your next legal job and put the interview tips into practice, search and apply on TotallyLegal today.