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When preparing for an interview, particularly for an in-house role, it is important to prepare thoroughly and to be endlessly curious about your potential employer and its business operations. In-house lawyers work for businesses that are very different to a private practice law firm and their responsibilities are also very different. With this in mind, you should never go to any in-house interview without doing background research on the specific company you are interviewing for – this includes a careful reading of the company website, LinkedIn profiles and an extensive online search for recent news articles.
As with any interview process, you should also reflect on your own career objectives, review your CV with the job specification in mind, and prepare to answer specific questions about your skills, experience, cultural fit and suitability for the role. Think about the departments/divisions you will be working with, what demands or challenges you/they may face, what relationships you will have responsibility for etc. For example, sales focused roles often require someone fleet of foot, capable of turning things around quickly, and dealing with challenging stakeholders; whereas clients with complex, high-value or technical products, with long-term service agreements, generally require employees to be detail focused. What suits you best and why?
On the day of the interview you must dress well, in a suit or equivalent, and it is advisable to take a copy of your CV and some pre-prepared questions with you. Arrive 7-10 minutes early and be friendly to the receptionist – some clients will ask the receptionist for their opinion of you – and other people you meet. Ensure to engage in some small talk (if possible) with the person that comes to meet you.
The interview itself could take many formats however the most common are the competency interview and the conventional CV/experience interview. Other interview types include the informal discussion or exploratory chat format and the panel interview. Whatever the interview type, you must prepare well and be capable of talking at-length about your skills, experience, suitability for, and interest in the role. You must be able to talk through your CV and you should ensure your answers have relevance to the job spec/role requirements. You should also clarify the context of your experience – i.e. if you were involved in a large commercial acquisition project, did you lead the project team or were you simply a member of the team. Similarly, if you do not understand a question, or are unsure, you should clarify what the interviewer is asking. Answering the question you thought you heard, rather than what was asked, is a common mistake.
It is important to remember that interviewers are also looking to determine your cultural and personality fit with their business and existing team members/staff. Sometimes the company culture and values, or working ethos, is available on the company website however in many cases your recruitment consultant can advise. However you secure the information, it is advisable to familiarise yourself with the company culture and to think of clear examples from your current experience that demonstrate why you are a good fit. Personality fit is key for in-house roles.
Towards the end of the interview you are likely to be invited to ask questions. Do not pass up this opportunity, as it is your chance to learn more about the company, department, role, culture, other team members etc. More importantly, it is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate some of the knowledge you gained during your research – by asking about recent new articles, acquisitions/divestments, changes in legislation that may impact the company etc. If you use your questions effectively you can leave a very positive impression.
If you are attending an interview arranged by a recruitment consultant, call them as soon as possible after the interview. This allows you both to discuss the interview whilst it is still fresh in your mind, and it helps the consultant to feedback to the client quickly, creating a lasting positive impression.