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Preparing for an interview

Good preparation will help you to perform better and reduce interview nerves.

Find out as much as you can about the organisation before the interview. Visit their website and check legal press websites for a more objective view.

No interviewer expects you to know everything about the organisation, but they will want to see that you have prepared and are interested in the role.

You should be ready to talk about:

  • your skills and experience and how they fit the requirements
  • what you can offer, and anything that makes you stand out from the competition
  • why you want a career in law
  • what areas of law you’re most interested in, and why
  • what interests you about the organisation and the role

If you need practical adjustments for an interview, you should arrange this in advance.

What the employer is looking for

An employer will have criteria that they expect candidates to meet, and the interview is your chance to prove this. The criteria will be different for each role, but examples are:

  • drive and initiative
  • influencing people
  • analytical skills
  • flexibility
  • technical knowledge
  • organisational skills
  • ability to cope with pressure and deadlines

At the interview, be prepared to back up your answers with real-life examples.

Competency-based interviews

Many employers use competency-based interview questions, which are aimed at finding out whether candidates have the skills and behaviours that are needed for the job. You’ll be asked about how you have dealt with a particular situation in the past, such as a time you have handled a difficult client or how you have planned your time to deliver a project.

Prepare by checking the job description to find out what competencies the employer will be looking for. Then think about examples from your work history that demonstrate how you used the relevant skills. Prepare how you will describe the situation, what you did and the outcome. You should focus on your contribution and the skills you used.

You should be ready to adapt the examples you have prepared to fit the questions.

Interview exercises and tests

Normally the recruiter will tell you before the interview if you’ll be expected to do an exercise or test.

Think about how you will approach typical exercises such as:

  • psychometric tests of your numerical, verbal and reasoning skills
  • personality questionnaires to assess your style of working and other personal characteristics
  • in-tray exercises, where you will be asked to read and deal with a large amount of material such as minutes, reports, emails and letters – these test your ability to prioritise, plan and organise, and how you handle complex information
  • written tests, such as summarising information, writing a letter to a client or reading materials and writing a report
  • presentations – these test your communication skills and your ability to plan, structure and deliver the presentation, as well as your knowledge of the presentation topic

Assessment centres

Larger organisations sometimes use assessment centres as part of their selection process. You may be asked to attend for anything from half a day to three days.

You will normally be asked to do both individual and group exercises that are designed to assess your skills and personal qualities, and how suitable you are for the firm and the role. You’ll be assessed on how you perform under pressure, solve problems and work with other people.

You should prepare in the same way you would for an interview. Think about the tests listed above, as some of these are likely to be included.

At the interview

Remember that clients need to have complete confidence in their solicitor. Putting the interviewer at ease and appearing confident and professional will show you can manage clients.

Be professional and business-like:

  • dress smartly
  • arrive five to ten minutes early
  • smile and make eye contact
  • sit upright to show engagement, and hold your hands together if you think you might fidget
  • at the end of the interview, thank your interviewer for seeing you, shake hands and remember to say goodbye

When answering the questions:

  • if there is more than one interviewer, try to address your answers equally to each one
  • be succinct and to the point, but say enough to sell yourself
  • do not try to fill silences while the interviewer is looking at your CV or their questions
  • listen carefully to the questions and answer them precisely – remember, this is what clients will expect from a solicitor
  • adapt your prepared answers to the questions the interviewer asks
  • if you do not understand something, ask your interviewer to explain
  • prepare some of your own questions to ask at the end of the interview

What to ask

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will usually ask if you have any questions. This is a good opportunity to show your interest in the job and the organisation. Be prepared with a few questions and avoid asking questions that have already been answered or anything you should already know from details they have sent you.

Good topics include:

  • the organisation – strategic goals, challenges they’re facing, why the interviewer(s) enjoy working there, recent developments
  • the role – what you would be working on, systems and processes, how performance is evaluated
  • any reasonable adjustments that you’ll need
  • the working conditions – opportunities, career development
  • the selection process and what happens next

After the interview

The interview is also your opportunity to decide if you want to work for the organisation so think about what you've learned and your impressions.

Think about the questions the interviewer asked. Were you satisfied with your answers, or could you do better next time?

If they do not contact you by the agreed time, or if it's been more than two weeks since the interview, contact them to check the situation.

If you haven't been successful, ask for feedback.