10 answers you need to know to blitz a legal interview by Kara Plummer
It’s surprising the amount of feedback we get from clients saying that candidates are underprepared for interviews and really haven’t bothered to do enough research and preparation before the interview. There is really no excuse now for not having done any preparation. If you’re going to bother to make the application in the first place, you should be bothered to do some preparation. That involves having a think about some of the more likely questions you’ll be asked and thinking through some answers before you get there. Here are what we think are the most common questions that lawyers are asked at interview:
Tell us about yourself. Talk us through your background.
Keep it succinct and relevant. A chronological approach usually works best.
Why are you seeking to leave your current firm?
Obviously telling the firm you hate the partner you’re currently working with isn’t the best of ideas. Focus on things like moving to a larger firm (or smaller firm), wanting a different mix of work, different clients, that sort of thing. Keep things positive and don’t ever slag off your current firm.
Why in particular are you approaching this firm?
Look at the team profile and profiles of the partners prior to the interview and link that information to why you want to work there. It shows you’ve researched their firm before you get there.
Talk us through the work you’ve done.
Be able to give a good overview of the type of work you do, the type of clients you work for and your involvement in particular matters. A lot of lawyers find it difficult to do this. Practice beforehand. Obviously always keep confidentiality in the back of your mind and be aware that some partners can treat interviews as an information gathering exercise about the competition.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
It still comes up in interviews. A good way to answer it is to refer to a recent appraisal and mention strengths from there. That’s independent third party backup as well. Obviously be careful what you mention as a weakness, use something fixable (delegating, time management) and mention you’re working on improving it.
What are your short/medium/long term goals?
Short term – move to another firm which can achieve your current career objectives. Medium-Long Term goals – develop your own client base, specialise in an area. Be careful of mentioning partnership if you’re still only quite junior.
Who else have you made applications to? Where else are you interviewing?
You have a few other things on the go but aren’t in a desperate hurry to move. You don’t need to give them an exact breakdown of every firm you’ve applied to.
What salary are you currently on and what salary are you looking for?
In relation to salary expectations, most firms are really wanting some idea of what you’re after. Saying market rate doesn’t really cut it. When you give a figure though, don’t over inflate it. Firms are well aware of what market rate is and giving a false over inflated figure can certainly harm your chances of securing a role.
General questions in relation to the legal market/current issues.
What’s particularly topical for your practice area or firm? Have a read through a few websites before you get into the interview.
What do you do outside of work?
You’d be amazed at how many people stumble on this one. Be prepared to answer questions which aren’t related to law (shock horror!)
Interviewing really isn’t rocket science, but a small amount of preparation will go a long way to getting you an offer.
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