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Panel beating

Published on: 1 Jun 2021

So you landed yourself an interview with your dazzling CV, and maybe a nice chat on the phone. That’s a good start.

However, firms are only looking for the best, and you’re kidding if you think a poor interview will get ignored in favour of your excellent credentials. The interview is where you make or break your chances for getting hired, so you need to make it count.

So to maximise your chances,  how can you best prepare yourself for interview success?

  1. Research the firm, where it sits within its markets, and the latest changes/developments in the practice area you’re interviewing for. It’s an obvious one for sure, but it’s still surprising how many candidates don’t do their homework. Proper research (most obviously of the firm’s website and trade press) will instantly improve your credibility, and it will stop you asking any stupid questions the answers for which could have been Googled in seconds.
  2. Be prepared to meet a variety of people with varying approaches and differing interview skills. You may start with a senior member of the HR team – who will be proficient interviewers in ‘competency based’ questions, focused on soft skills and behaviours related to teamwork, communication and leadership. Later on, more senior partners will be keen to test your legal expertise with more technical questions that delve into your past deals and specific expertise.
  3. Have a very clear and succinct sense of who you are, why you stand out from the crowd, and how you will contribute to the development of the firm. And be able to articulate this quickly and consistently through practising in advance of the interview. This will also stop you rambling if asked an open question such as ‘Tell us more about yourself…’
  4. Interviews come in different guises. You may have to do an initial telephone interview, or a video conference as part of the first stage of the interview process. This can be daunting, especially if you are not used to the technology. But just try and treat it like a normal interview – give yourself time and space to prepare and ensure that you will not be disturbed or distracted for the period of the interview.
  5. Second interviews will be more detailed and technical. If you haven’t already done so, ensure that you can talk at length about any and every aspect of your CV. Any concerns raised in your first interview will most likely come up again in your second – so be prepared.
  6. The more senior you are, the more you will be expected to have some kind of experience in business development and marketing – or at least show some kind of aptitude to develop these skills. Think hard about what you can offer in this respect.
  7. Verbal reasoning and numerical tests are becoming more popular, particularly among larger firms. Don’t panic. There are plenty of examples of such tests online, including ones typically geared to legal recruitment. Get familiar with the format and do some practice tests in advance.
  8. Psychometric tests are also gaining in popularity. Best to just be honest with these and trust that your desire to enter law was based on some kind of personality compatibility. Certain psychopathic tendencies may also go down quite well with certain firms, of course.
  9. Continue to ask questions in second interviews and beyond. Show that you have really thought about the conversations arising in previous interviews and that you are visualising yourself as a member of the team.
  10. If you are invited to join the team for drinks or a meal to ‘seal the deal’, don’t get drunk. You don’t want them getting sight of your wilder side, at least not until you’ve got your feet well and truly under the table.

In the next article in this series on successful job-hunting, we will look at closing the deal – and in particular how to manage the offer/resignation process.