Not an easy one and thankfully a lot of the time a hiring manager of a law firm does know what they want but quite often they don’t. When they don’t know, interviews are often used as a vehicle to formulate an idea. A waste of time some might say, but I think not and actually it can be a great opportunity for a candidate to build rapport and demonstrate good commercial acumen.
If you are in an interview and it becomes apparent the precise job spec is not clear, start by asking the interviewer probing questions in order to tease out why they are recruiting. How is this done? It’s not easy and does require you to treat the interview as a business discussion rather than a classic interview scenario (where you will only be expected to talk when spoken to).
In my experience, when the emphasis is on the interviewee to do more of the questioning, the interview doesn’t last long and not necessarily because the two parties didn’t get on. It’s normally because the interviewee was expecting a grilling and didn’t get one, and didn’t know how to adjust their game plan and think on their feet.
The key lies in using open questions. Open questions are a learnt technique and in the above scenario are essential. If you put the wrong information in, you’ll get the wrong information out. The same principle applies to interviews: If you ask the wrong questions you’ll probably get the wrong answer, or at least not quite what you’re hoping for. Asking probing questions is a strategy for finding out more detail and if done well will demonstrate very good communication skills and how you might interact with future colleagues and clients.