How to succeed at an interview

Whether you’re searching for a firm to take you on as a trainee or are a well-seasoned professional looking for the next step in your legal career, securing an interview is a cause for celebration. Before you pop the Champagne, however, it’s essential you set aside time to prepare. After all, no matter how experienced you are, an unexpected question can easily catch you off guard and leave you stuttering, silent or scratching your head: not a great first impression. Of course, each firm will have a unique approach to the interview process: some will focus on your ambitions, others your industry knowledge and some may put you through psychometric tests designed to identify your key skills. While you can’t predict the specifics, taking the following steps should see you succeed at your next interview.

Identify competencies

Most of the questions asked in your interview should revolve around the essential requirements penned in the job description and person specification. Therefore, preparing for your interview should begin with an assessment of the capabilities and qualities outlined by the firm. This could include organisation and planning, attention to detail and strong analytical abilities. As you might have guessed, it’s not uncommon for an employer to quiz you on these competencies by asking you to provide examples of times you demonstrated the desired behaviour. If you’re at the start of your career, don’t worry about your lack of experience and definitely don’t try to make something up on the spot: instead, try to draw on highlights of your academic career.

Research the firm

As well as ensuring you have the right skills for the role, an interviewer will want to test your commercial awareness and knowledge on the firm itself. Doing your homework on their history, their place in the market and their unique selling proposition will give you the competitive edge, but remember, you aren’t the only candidate with internet access. Taking notes from their homepage is a start, but any additional research you can undertake on industry trends and key competitors will only help to make you a stronger candidate.

Prepare targeted questions

“Do you have any questions for us?”

When an interviewer asks a candidate this question, the last answer they want to receive is “no, thank you.” Failing to ask questions will not only give a bad impression to the firm, it will leave you in the dark about factors which could influence your decision. Remember, as well as pitching yourself as the perfect candidate, you’re here to gauge what the firm can are offer you. Therefore, the questions you ask should reflect your key priorities for your next role: do they offer training opportunities? How is the working environment? What is expected of you in the next three months, should you be successful? How diverse is their workforce? Don’t hesitate to put them on the spot – in fact, the more genuine and intelligent your questions, the more invested you will appear in the role.

Don’t panic

While you may have a pretty good idea of why you want to be a solicitor for this firm in particular, expressing this coherently in a face-to-face interview with a senior partner you’ve never met will undoubtedly be a daunting experience. Once all your preparation is done and the big day has arrived, try to bear in mind that recruitment is a two-way street. You may be a fledgling lawyer and they may be a prestigious firm with a well-polished reputation, but their success depends on the productivity of their people.