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INTERVIEW ADVICE

During your interviews, you need to perform to the best of your ability for approximately 1 hour. Thorough preparation is key, a cool head, charisma and intellectual agility are also essential ingredients to a good interview. Do also mentally prepare for the unexpected. Many firms will throw ‘curveballs’ to see how quick you think under pressure!

Great news, you have been invited in for a first interview, now we need to arrange a date and time: It is notoriously difficult to get a number of partners, HR and in some cases counsel/associates to synch their diaries in order to find time slots that they can all make. Your diary schedule is equally important, but you have only one diary to consider, and as such, it is imperative that you are as flexible as you possibly can be when suggesting time slots to the employer. This sends out positive signals that you are prioritising the opportunity, that you are keen and that you are flexible.

Clients sometimes postpone interviews and so do candidates for perfectly legitimate reasons, however please ensure that you thoroughly check your diary before suggesting times and do your best to ‘ringfence’ a time when the interview time is arranged and agreed in order to minimise the risk that you may need to postpone and reorganise.

Quick note: when you commence the interview process, ensure that there is nothing controversial written by or about you on social media sites. If there is, please apply privacy settings to facebook, myspace, twitter etc…

The most common mistake a candidate can make before their interview and also during the job search itself, is to carry out insufficient research on prospective employers. Research is imperative to securing a job offer. If you are armed with knowledge, you will feel more confident and positive at the interview. Information about a prospective employer may give you a vital edge over other applicants during the interview process.

Q: What do you need to prepare for?
A: Anything and Everything!

Outwardly, you must familiarise yourself with the job spec, research the employer, their positioning in the market, your sector, recent events, deals/cases and changes in legislation, any topical matters relevant to your specialisation. Firms are increasingly thorough when interviewing.

Inwardly, think about yourself, strengths, weaknesses, why you decided to become a lawyer, what you like about your specialisation, research everything on your CV down to minutiae, what was your involvement in each case/deal, what obstacles did you face, what was the outcome…the list goes on (ensure you can answer any question based on the information on your CV).

Make a list of personality traits that best describe you. Decide on the qualities you would like the interviewer to remember about you after the interview. Incorporate some of the same words used in the job specification or advert.

There are many instances when candidates are told to expect a non-technical interview and the reality is quite the opposite, so be prepared for ‘curveballs’ in interviews in the same way you make provisions for them in your work life.

What tools are available to carry out my research?
There are no excuses for not being able to find out relevant information on a potential employer. In today’s world, access to information is easy and potential employers are fully aware of this. A few of the many information resources include:

  • Firm’s website – the department, the partners’ profiles, press releases
  • Contacting your Noble Legal consultant
  • thelawyer.com incl news archive
  • legalweek.com incl news archive
  • Using your own contacts and asking other lawyers in the field

As part of the process, at least 1 VC interview is likely to take place, usually an MS Teams interview, occasionally Zoom.

What to wear
This is always more tricky for men, who would ordinarily wear a suit and tie. Obviously if interviewing at home via Teams, wearing a suit will look strange. We would suggest a smart shirt, no tie.

Other things to consider:

  • Log in via the link that you will be sent c.2 mins before the interview starts
  • Be in a relatively neutral room or use one of the more formal backgrounds you can pick
  • Ensure that your Broadband connection is good in the spot you choose
  • Ensure the camera is on – we get occasional reports of people turning it off!
  • You can put a few notes down, i.e. good questions to ask at the end, perhaps a few bullet points regarding things you may wish to bring in to the conversation. This is an advantage you have in a VC interview which you are not afforded in a face to face interview. Keep bullet points very short – you do not want to look like you ae reading off a sheet.

It is very useful to prepare your answers to questions before the interview. In order for you to do this, you must be able to anticipate questions that will be asked, have done your research into the prospective employer, understood the job specification, and researched your own skills and experience.

If you plan on saying you are good at something, prove it with a true experience story. You should be able to back up anything you say on your CV or in an interview with a story or an example of how you have done well in a difficult situation. Preparing your stories is one of the most beneficial exercises you can do to become focused before your interview.

LIKELY QUESTIONS

Some questions are likely to be asked by HR, i.e. tell me a time when….? Strengths / weaknesses? How would you describe yourself?

Other questions are more likely to be asked by partners / counsel, i.e. specific technical questions, why you are suitable for the role, deals/cases you have worked on, deals/cases you would like to work on etc…

Sample of Questions and Responses

Q. What made you apply for this position?
R: Very important question. You have the opportunity to show why you are right for the job and why the job is right for you. Your answer will provide insight into how well you might perform, how well you will fit in with the culture and how long you will stay.
Q. Tell me about yourself.
You should have prepared a winning statement about yourself. Talk about your qualifications, career history, aspirations, personality and range of skills. Emphasise those skills that are relevant to the position on offer.
Q: Can you describe one or two of your most important accomplishments?
R: Select a couple of achievements that are career related. Identify the skills you used in this situation, the obstacles, your initiative and ability to meet or exceed goals and quantify the benefits.
Q: What has been the most challenging situation you have been recently faced with and how did you deal with it?
R: Be careful how you respond to this question. Make sure that you select a difficult work situation where you were not the cause, the possible options that were available to you, why and how you selected the appropriate option and why it resolved the situation with a positive outcome.
Q: What are your strengths?
R: This question in one form or other is very likely to be asked. List three or four of your main strengths could benefit a new employer in the particular role on offer. Strengths you should consider to include technical proficiency, fast learning ability, determination, positive attitude and your strong inter-personal skills and team spirit – provide examples.
Q: Everyone has weaknesses. What are yours?
R: Never say you do not have any – none of us are perfect!. You are best advised to use a professional weakness such as some experience which is not essential for the job you are being interviewed for. You could take a negative trait and make it sound like an asset. For example, say you are a stickler for meeting deadlines and will stay on top of a project until it is done according to your specifications, which may cause you to sometimes work late nights. You can also allude to how you have addressed your weakness.
Q: Why do you wish to leave your present job / why did you leave your last job?
R: Provide positive reasons such as looking for more challenge, responsibility and experience. DO NOT criticise your last or current boss or firm/company. Focus on what you are looking for, not what you don’t like about your current role.
Q: Tell me about a time when you had to juggle priorities to meet a deadline?
R: If you hear at interview “tell me about a time when”, the interviewer is using behavioural interviewing techniques. Beware!!! The basis of this technique is to use your past experiences and behaviour as an indicator of your future success. In other words, if you can demonstrate through examples that you accomplished something before, the interviewer is likely to believe you are equipped to do it. Your answer must give a specific example or examples.

Broader list of questions (and what employers are looking for)

DEALING WITH PEOPLE

  • Tell me about the last time you disagreed with your Partner. How did you resolve this?
  • What kinds of people do you like working with? (Be careful when answering this question)
  • Tell me about a time when you were working with someone who wasn’t pulling their weight. How did you deal with this person? Give a specific example.

CAREER- GOALS

  • What is your long-term employment or career objective?
  • What in your past experience affected your present career objectives?
  • Why do you think you would like this role?

SELF-ASSESSMENT

  • Can you describe a difficult obstacle you have had to overcome? How did you handle it?
  • How would you describe yourself as a person?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest achievements to date and why?
  • What frustrates you the most and how do you usually cope with it?

DECISIVENESS

  • Do you consider yourself to be thoughtful and analytical or do you make up your mind quickly?
  • What was your most difficult decision in the last three months? What made it difficult?
  • How do you go about making an important decision affecting your career?
  • What was the last major work problem that you were confronted with and what action did you take?

MOTIVATION

  • What motivates you?
  • Do you have a professional goal and what is it?

WORK STANDARDS

  • How do you measure your own performance?
  • In your position, how would you define doing a good job?

LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT

  • What specifically do you do to set an example for your team?
  • How do you get people who do not want to work together to establish a common approach to a problem?
  • How would you describe your basic leadership style? Give specific examples
  • Do you feel you work more effectively on a one to one basis or in a group situation?

ORAL PRESENTATION SKILLS

  • Have you ever made any group or public presentations?

STRESS TOLERANCE

  • When do you feel pressure in your job?
  • What has been the highest pressure situation you have been under in the last 12 months and how did you cope with it?

STABILITY & MATURITY

  • How have you reacted when your work has been criticised? (Give an example including the outcome which should show you in a positive light)
  • What have you done about it?
  • Wear your smartest suit (never wild or loud). Appearances do count.
  • Make sure you arrive with plenty of time to spare (allow for travel delays) and know the exact location of the interview.
  • Ensure you have memorised the names and titles of the people you will be meeting.
  • Look confident and sit confidently whether in the reception or the interview room (never slouch or look too casual)
  • Relax (not too much), smile, engage, a touch of humour will demonstrate your gregarious personality, assuming it is not too often and not risky in any way.
  • Listen carefully to questions, think before you speak – what do they want to know, what do I want to say – don’t get diverted, don’t be verbose, don’t waffle – stay on message.
  • Make sure you look at people when greeting them, smile. Make sure you remember all their names so you can address them throughout the interview. Eye contact and smiles can indicate a confident and upbeat attitude. Look the interviewer in the eye when replying to questions (but don’t stare). By constantly looking around the room while you are talking, you convey a lack of confidence or discomfort with what is being discussed.
  • Answer an open question with an open answer (not yes/no).
  • Never lie or embellish
  • Avoid negative comments, talk about what you like, not what you don’t like.
  • Do not fidget, play with your hair, click pen tops, tap feet or unconsciously touch parts of the body such as your neck, mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Many employers look for enthusiasm and energy. This is a good opportunity to demonstrate your social and interpersonal skills as well as your excitement about the opportunity for which you’re interviewing.
  • Your voice (pace, tone, intonation) and the volume of your speech convey a strong impression. Your vocabulary will say something about you, as well as your knowledge of the industry. Use positive language.
  • Ensure your mobile is switched to silent and switched off (perchance it turns back on again in your pocket!)
  • Contact your consultant at Noble Legal with feedback immediately after the interview. The client will call us and the first question they will ask is, “have you heard back from the candidate?” Any delay in you providing feedback will slow down the whole process.

An interview is a two-way process. As well as the employer interviewing you for information, you are also attending the interview to gain valuable and vital information in order to assess the suitability of the role and the employer for your requirements.

Asking questions shows that you have thought about the interview beforehand. Furthermore, if you can get an interviewer to talk about themselves or the company, you build rapport. You might consider directing certain questions to certain types of individuals. If you are interviewing with the hiring Partner, you might ask questions about the job, the desired qualities and the challenges. If you are interviewing with the HR manager, you might direct your questions about the Firm.

Therefore, it is vital that you prepare questions prior to the interview.

Typical questions include:

  • How has this position arisen?
  • If Senior, what criteria must be fulfilled to progress to Partnership?
  • Which Partner would I report to?
  • Are there secondment opportunities to clients / other offices?
  • What would I expect to be involved in during the first 3/6/12 months?
  • What motivated you to join the Firm? (An excellent question to ask!)
  • Will there be opportunities to take an active role in departmental development?
  • What is the next step?

You should prepare at least 12 questions prior to the interview. During the interview, 5 of them are likely to be answered. During the interview, it is likely that information will be given to you that will prompt you to ask further questions. Use your judgment about the number of questions you ask and when to ask them.

Ask about the next interview stage if appropriate. There may be an explanation of how the process will continue. Try to find out when you should hear back. However, do not appear pushy.

Make sure you say that you look forward to hearing from them. Finally, thank your interviewer for his or her time, shake hands and smile. Do not forget to say a personal farewell to each person present at the interview.

Do not ignore the receptionist when you leave.

At this stage, the numbers of candidates have been whittled down to usually two or three.

You may be meeting with one, two or three people, perhaps your prospective Partner, or someone from HR, or with several interviewers in a panel interview or a series of one to one interviews – be prepared for anything! At this interview, the people you meet will be examining two particular areas:

Your competency to do the job. The focus of questions will be on examining your current skills, experience, abilities and learning capability.
Your ability to fit in with the firm, its culture and work well with their existing employees? The assessment of your personality and inter-personal skills as well as the personal impact you make in the role are critical factors which will determine whether you beat your competition. Often, you will be asked more searching questions than in the first interview, so you will be required to give fuller answers to different questions.
Think about your first interview carefully. It is very possible that the main areas that the questions were concentrated on will again be a focus but even more intensive this time.

Interviewers in this instance will be probing perceived weaknesses or confirming or clarifying their opinions of you. If you prepare in advance, you will be more confident in answering these questions and your responses will be stronger. Make sure that you do not contradict your earlier answers, as notes will have been taken at the first interview. If asked about achievements, provide new information and examples.

Remember, the interview is a two way process. The second interview could be your last chance for you to clarify any doubts you have or clarify information gained earlier about the firm, its culture, the role and your professional development. Find out if you like the firm, the role and the people you will be working with. These are people you will have to spend a lot of time with so it is best to find out now. If you are introduced to your peer group, ask what it is like to work for the firm, what the office atmosphere is like.

Remember to give immediate feedback to your consultant, who will be waiting to find out how you thought the interview went. You should include areas you felt you were weak or where you are worried about a specific answer you gave, or where you did not press home a point about a special skill or experience you have. Your Noble Legal consultant can cover this for you when they call the employer.

There is often a third stage to the interview process and this is the social stage. Essentially, do we like you, do you like us? Will you fit in from a cultural perspective, do you like our working culture?

Historically, this would lead to an offer in almost every instance, however employers are empowering their employees ever more and as such, if reports back from the social meeting are not favourable, an offer will not materialise. Do still view it as an interview of sorts, especially as it is not uncommon for an employer to take two applicants out on different afternoons/evenings with the intention of offering a job to only one.

Who will attend from the employer side? Often it will be with employees (peers) to get the ‘lowdown’ of what it is like to work for them, sometimes more senior members may join initially and then leave after a drink/coffee.

  • Do leave after a few drinks (if evening drinks, not if lunch/coffee)
  • Do dress as you would in an interview
  • Do go on a charm offensive
  • Do ask the questions you need answering
  • Do not drop your guard
  • Do not say anything negative about your current / previous employer
  • Do not take risks, ask/say anything controversial

Tests are likely to measure your personality and your ability and aptitude. As the interview process gets ever more stringent, more and more employers are applying tests to the recruitment process. Please be prepared for testing at any stage. You should be notified in advance, but there occasions when candidates are not forewarned, usually with respect to case study tests – so again, be prepared for the unexpected!

Psychometric / Personality Testing

This information is generally derived from the answers to a series of multiple choice questions administered using a computerised questionnaire (possibly online) or on paper. Personality questionnaires are not tests and are often un-timed. It is worth remembering that there is nothing daunting about personality measures – what comes out is determined by what you put in – it is a structured way of getting you to describe yourself.

The questions are designed to identify how you prefer to react in certain work situations – how you interact with people, your managerial style, thinking style etc. There are no `right’ or `wrong’ answers, because people tend to have different but equally understandable reactions. When completing the questionnaire you must try to respond to the questions honestly. Some of the questions ask about similar situations, but in slightly different ways. Answer them in terms of how you see yourself, not how you would like to be. If you do not answer honestly, your results could appear inconsistent and thus odd, not reflect who you really are.

Ability & Aptitude Testing – Critical Reasoning

Verbal reasoning tests are a test of your skill at making sense of reports which cannot be relied upon to be objective, truthful or even consistent. Numerical tests are designed to test your skill at reasoning with numbers. Abstract tests are designed to test your skill at finding similarities and differences in groups of patterns. The tests are used to help gain a better understanding of your abilities, personality and motivation. Test materials are carefully controlled and not generally available for inspection or practice, although there are websites available which give example questions:

After the testing day, a profile will be put together to identify your ability, strengths and areas for development in relation to the role you have applied for. When the test is over your answers will be scored and this information will be used to help decide whether you will be suitable for the job, the organisation or training programmes provided.

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