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Interview tips for Australian and New Zealand lawyers looking to move to the UK

The path to the UK for Australian and New Zealand lawyers, is well trodden. That said, the journey there is not without its obstacles: Correctly tailoring your CV, understanding the variety and distinction between firms on offer, and managing your own expectations regarding the recruitment process, being just a few such obstacles.

Once applications have been made and an interview secured, the next major hurdle is the interview itself.

One of the most common observations by Aussie and Kiwi lawyers interviewing in London, is the formality of the process. Generally speaking, the often informal chats you may be used to, make way for a far more structured and testing process.

To ensure that you don’t trip up at the interview stage, here are a few tips to help:

#1 KNOW THE FORMAT

Your recruiter should let you know, in advance of the interview, what format it will take. Telephone and Skype interviews are commonplace, but so too are video conferences at the firm’s overseas office or conferencing centre.

First things first, get the practicalities of the interview sorted.

Ensure that your Skype is properly set up (e.g. trial call a friend); ensure that your phone line is good and your volume correct (e.g. call your UK recruiter to check); know timings and directions to the appropriate office/conference centre to ensure that you arrive on-time and unflustered. Professional attire, a must.

#2 KNOW THE QUESTIONS

Ask your recruiter to give you a feel for the types of question you can expect to be asked.

As a general rule, at some point during the interview process (whether at the first or subsequent interviews), the following types of questions will be asked:

- Relocation questions around why you are looking to leave your firm, and/or relocate countries and for how long;
- Standard competency based questions (e.g. what’s your biggest strength/weakness);
- Technical questions peculiar to your area of expertise;
- Motivational questions about the firm you have applied to (e.g. why have you chosen to apply to this firm and/or this department);
- Questions around your experience: Either specifically identifying items in your CV (or indeed any gaps in your experience) or general competency based questions (e.g. what has been the biggest/most complex/most challenging deal or case you have worked on).

It is key that you run through prospective answers to these types of question with your recruiter. He/She will be able to guide towards your best answer(s).

Answers should be used as a means of exemplifying your experience (by reference to very specific examples) and demonstrating your extensive research of the firm/practice area.

In any event, the key to answering any of these types of question is preparation.

#3 KNOW THE LEVEL OF PREPARATION REQUIRED

The interview process can be long and arduous, particularly if you are interviewing at multiple firms. Nevertheless, you must research your prospective firm ad nauseam: The end result being a confident delivery of highly tailored answers.

Useful sources of information for tailored answers include:

- Your recruiter;
- Our previous blogs (http://www.cnlegalnews.com/);
- Chambers & Partners (https://www.chambersandpartners.com/);
- Chambers Student (http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/);
- The Legal 500 (https://www.legal500.com/);
- Legal Cheek and Roll on Friday (https://www.legalcheek.com/; http://www.rollonfriday.com);
- Your prospective firm’s website;
- Legal publications (like the Lawyer, Legal Week, the Law Society Gazette and Legal Business: https://www.thelawyer.com/; http://www.legalweek.com/; https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/; https://www.legalbusiness.co.uk/) for up to date legal news;
- General internet searches for other newsworthy detail about your prospective firm.

Also ensure that you can competently talk about your legal experience. To do so, make sure that you know each entry on your CV, and are happy to talk about each. If need be, remind yourself of the detail regarding certain issues by talking with colleagues and/or reviewing file notes.

It is also recommended that you have at least 3 transactions/cases you are able talk about in detail. For each, ensure that you know: (1) the background of the deal/issue, your client’s objective and what your firm was instructed to do; (2) your responsibility in the matter, the issues that arose, any legal complexities and how those were resolved; and (3) the outcome of the matter, your involvement in that outcome (both internally and with the client), and the broader impact of the outcome on the client’s business. Having these types of example to hand will be invaluable when asked competency based questions around your experience.

#4 KNOW YOUR QUESTIONS

A key part of the interview process are the questions you ask.

Often forgotten is the fact that the ‘questions section’, although at the end of the interview, is still an assessed part of the process.

Failure to ask any questions can be fatal. Far worse are questions asked that demonstrate a lack of interest or understanding of the firm/relevant practice area.

For any interview, ensure that you have at least 10 pre-prepared questions to hand. 10 is a conservative number: Often you will find that a number of your carefully prepared questions will be answered during the course of the interview.

Each question should be very tailored. If your question could be asked of another firm, it’s too generic and needs more tailoring.

Again, your recruiter can help ensure you ask the right questions.

#5 KNOW YOUR PACE

Speaking too quickly or too slowly can cause difficulties.

Those who speak too quickly can come across as energetic and enthusiastic, but combined with an accent, that speed may result in your interviewer simply not being able to understand you. Talk too slowly, and you may come across as laid back or overconfident. To avoid any such misunderstandings, match the interviewer’s pace.

You may also have other foibles and idiosyncrasies (e.g. lots of “ums” or “basically” or “you know”), which your recruiter will be able to help identity and ensure a far more polished performance at interview.

Our team is well versed at relocating top international legal talent from Australia and New Zealand to the UK (and major offshore financial centres). Our expertise extends past permanent positions and includes temporary and flexible solutions.

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