Interview Skills, Techniques and Etiquette
Whilst no two interviews are the same, performing well at interview is a skill which can be developed through experience, practice and preparation. By spotting the patterns and the themes that reoccur in almost every interview, you can ensure that you maximise the invaluable opportunity to sell yourself to a prospective employer.
Almost every interview can be prepared for through focusing upon three key areas:
- Consideration and application of your skills and experiences
Wherever possible, review a copy of the job description and highlight the required qualifications and main responsibilities. This can be especially important for in house positions where the nature of prospective roles can be more varied, and the responsibilities less predictable.
Learn as much about the employer's business and its position within the market as you can. Understand how the employer's business contrasts with those of its competitors. Whilst the best place to start is the employer's website, you should explore any resources available to enable you to demonstrate a competitive edge over other candidates at interview.
Consideration and application of your experiences
You should review and consider your qualifications and past experiences - both in and out of the workplace - in light of the requirements of the role. Consider all experiences which may be valuable, even if they do not relate directly to the role. Think about:
- Work experience
- Internships or summer placements
- Volunteer experience
- Academic projects
- Interests and hobbies
For each relevant experience, identify the skills utilised or developed, remembering that many skills may be transferrable from one situation to another. Consider how your experiences might be illustrative of your value to the employer. Be ready to explain how the experience demonstrates your potential contributions to the employer.
See "Interview Questions" below for help with this area of your preparation.
However silly it may feel, there is no substitute for concerted practice to improve your interviewing style and confidence.
Practice saying your prepared responses out loud. Use a mirror or video yourself so that you can see your body language and facial expressions as you prepare.
Alternatively, have a friend or family member act as mock interviewer and give you feedback. Ask them to cover both the content of your answers and your presentation style.
Ensure that you prepare at least 4-5 questions to put to the interviewer during the interview when given the opportunity to do so. Preparing this number will allow for a number of your questions being answered during the interview itself. Practice asking these questions in the same way as you practice giving answers.
Broadly, interview questions fall into three categories:
The internet is awash with example interview questions - so be prepared.
These questions tend to focus upon whether you are qualified - both academically and personally - to do the job. The questions will concentrate upon your background, experience and personal traits.
For instance, you may be asked why the employer should employ you or to talk about your personal strengths and weaknesses.
Relate you answers positively to what your research has uncovered about the requirements of role, the business and the industry.
These questions are usually based upon the premise that past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour.
It doesn't matter what the nature or level of the role, behavioural questions are likely to be a feature of any interview. Most sophisticated employers will assess the role for the traits relating to job success, and develop behavioural questions based upon this assessment.
An example of a commonly asked behavioural question would be: "Describe a situation in which you had to take on a leadership role."
When answering this type of question, give a response which provides context by describing the scenario or problem. Next, describe your actions. Conclude by explaining the results you achieved.
Technical questions concern matters specific to the industry in which the employer works. They may relate to market knowledge or to matters relating to a specialism or the specific skills required for the role.
Whilst not all employers interviewing for legal roles ask questions about the law or the practice area in question, many do.
- Be on time, ideally 10 minutes early. Ensure you know how to get where you are going well in advance of your interview slot.
- Ensure you know who to ask for on arrival.
- Consider your attire and personal presentation. Style your hair neatly and off your face. Avoid wearing strong smelling fragrances. Keep any jewellery and makeup to a minimum. Women should consider whether their hemline is appropriate and will work for different kinds and heights of chair.
- Turn off your mobile phone before entering the interview room.
- Do not put your belongings on the interview desk or table. Keep them in a bag or briefcase if necessary.
- Be polite to everyone, including administrative staff.
- Take spare copies of your c.v. along with you.
Remember that interviews are a two-way street.
Be observant and use the opportunity to assess what the atmosphere is like. Is this somewhere that you could see yourself working?
The best interviews tend to be those that evolve into a more conversational style. Whilst as a candidate you should avoid 'hijacking' the interview, there is nothing wrong with asking any questions that you may have as the interview progresses. This may help build a rapport with the interviewer and improve your prospects of being the stand-out candidate.