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The theory behind competency based interviews is that they reveal to a prospective employer how you may act in the future by trying to understand how you have acted in the past. Competency based interviews are designed to be challenging. Hiring partners or HR professionals will be looking to put you under pressure to see how in a real life scenario you cope.
A good interview should make you think – providing evidence based answers will test how you think on your feet and how you hold your nerve under pressure. With more candidates flooding the market place and competition for roles fierce, candidates prepared for competency based questions will be better placed to secure their next position. Ask any partner or human resources professional what qualities are key in a future employee and you will find the following competencies transcend practice areas and levels of PQE.
Commercial acumen and reasoning skills are considered to be one of the most important qualities to future employers. Be prepared to give examples of a time you have made a commercial decision, of a time you have acted commercialially to achieve a goal or target, or a time you have demonstrated that you have understood your client’s business needs and acted accordingly. Long gone are the days when a lawyer’s role was to solely provide advice. The expectation is that you are plugged into your client’s business and for you to have a knowledge of the challenges facing their sector.
Progressive law firms endeavour to provide joined up legal services by having departments with strong teams of experts across all practice areas. The ability to work as part of a collective is ever more appealing to firms who seek to cross sell their services and will expect their legal staff to be competent team players. Be prepared to give examples of a time you have worked in an effective team, what was your role? What makes a strong team player? When have you sacrificed something for the benefit of a team? What qualities do you look for in other team players? What tough decisions have you made? How have you persuaded other team members to come around to your way of thinking?
Demonstrating you understand what quality looks like and how you go about achieving it is a popular interview question. You will be expected to be able to explain what good service and bad service looks like and be able to convey that you are able to deliver a service against a target with quality in mind. Many private practice law firms operate in a target environment so prepare yourself to answer questions on targets vs outcomes – when have you achieved results? When have you given good service? How did you measure success?
The ability to persuade a colleague or a client around to your way of thinking is a trait that is highly sought after by law firms. Overcoming objections is a daily part of business life and candidates who can distil information and come up with a solution and then convey their message to those around them will be valued greatly. When did you last deal with a difficult situation? How did you overcome an objection? When have you managed to persuade someone else around to your way of thinking?
Always read a job description thoroughly before attending an interview and have a conversation with your recruitment consultant about the role and what the client is looking for. A good recruitment consultant should add value to your interview process by guiding you to understand what personality traits and experiences are sought after to ensure you can attend the interview and demonstrate your strengths in those areas.