Interviews can be daunting, especially if you haven’t done one for some time, if this is your first virtual interview or if this is your first interview as you move into the legal job market after university. In this ultra-competitive market the key to a successful interview, is all about the preparation.
Over the last 12 months’, for the most part, interviews have moved online using a range of video tools (Zoom, MS Teams, Facetime etc), but preparation is still absolutely crucial for success.
In this ever changing market, I wanted to share my thoughts on interview preparation and how this has recently changed, if at all, and what you need to be thinking about before a virtual or face to face interview. It is so hard to anticipate what questions will come up in an interview as all interviews are different. However, I have put together some useful tips that will guide your preparation.
Make sure your tech is set up properly
On a practical point, make sure that you have received the link to your video call and that it works. I always advise my candidates to log in around 20 minutes before, just to make sure that everything is working as it should be. If it’s not, we should be able to sort the issue before starting the meeting. It also means you are a lot calmer and not worried about being late.Make sure that you are set up in a well-lit area of the house, with a blank background (or perhaps a bookshelf, as seen on many TV interviews. Avoid having ‘interesting’ objectives in view). If possible, sit yourself at a table or desk, where the camera is at an appropriate height.Finally, always remember to allow permission, for your microphone and camera to be used. Test them out. If you are uncomfortable with any of this, I am always on hand to go through a practise run with you.
Now for the prep
Ensure you know your CV very well
This is a vital point. You must be prepared to be questioned on anything on your CV, so make sure that you know it inside and out, back to front and that you are able to expand on anything within it. Go through it and think about the skills and legal matters/projects that you have listed. You should be able to confidently discuss any matter/project, your duties and responsibilities, how you worked with the wider team, how you worked independently, how the matter was concluded and what did you learn? Highlight your achievements. Be proud of them!
Be prepared to expand on decisions that you have made during your career. Think about decisions that you have made concerning studying, career moves and choices of legal areas/disciplines. It is important that you are able to talk through any reasons for leaving previous employment, but it is important to remain positive.
If you have been provided with a job specification, try and draw synergies between this and your skills. Always use examples of work that you have done which are the most relevant. For example, if this is a residential property role, use residential property examples. If you have none, use something else closely linked such as commercial property. Remember an interviewer will be looking to establish whether you have the skills necessary to carry out the job. By using your CV, past experience and knowledge, you need to demonstrate exactly why you are perfect!
Research the law firm and interviewers
There is nearly always an interviewer that asks; ‘Why this firm?’ ‘What do you know about us?’ ‘Why do you want to work here?’, so it is important that you have done your research on the law firm, team and interviewers.
It is fine to use the firm’s website as a good starting point. It is also important to use other information from sources including directory rankings, legal articles, relevant news, LinkedIn. Perhaps you know people who work there/who have worked there? And not forgetting, a good recruitment consultant will be able to provide you with a lot of information.
You should also find out who will be conducting your interview and look them up. Usually, these are names on a website or on LinkedIn. It means you are able to gain an insight into the type of work they do. You will be able to learn about their career from their LinkedIn page and perhaps any shared interests.
When answering questions, try and relate the information that you find back to yourself and your motivations. For example, if you have found out that your interviewer does a particular type of work, tell them why that work is interesting to you.
Consider and plan for the common interview questions
It’s a good idea to consider how you’d answer some of the more typical interview style questions. These may include: “tell me about yourself” and “strengths/weaknesses?” You may also be asked “why do you want this role?” It’s really important not to emphasise that the paralegal role is just a “stop gap” until you secure a training contract. Remember, law firms want to see a passion and commitment for that particular role. Practice with a friend or someone at home.
Think about your questions
An interview should be a ‘two way conversation’, so I always encourage candidates to have a list of questions that they want to ask that are important to them and this move. For example, if this move is about progression, ask questions around the career structure that is currently in place. If your move is about the quality of work, ask questions around the type of work that the team undertakes (showcasing your knowledge about the team as above).
We also advise candidates to prepare questions that they might want to ask in order to show a genuine interest in the firm. Just be careful that you don’t ask something that has already been covered in the interview. Interviewers have commented in the past that they are as impressed with the questions that a candidate asks, as the answers they have given to their questions. Your interview is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd and really sell yourself. So ensure you do your preparation and leave a lasting positive impression.
If you need any help in preparing for your interview, please contact Emma Lester on 0121 726 9738 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emma is an Associate within the Chadwick Nott Paralegal team and recruits Paralegals and Legal Executives in all practice areas within the South West, Midlands and South East.