NQ Interviews – The Secret to Success.
You thought getting a training contract was the hard part and then it seemed like getting an NQ interview was impossible.
Now you have an interview for that much sought after NQ job how do you make sure you make the best impression.
Firstly talk to your recruitment consultant and taken on board what they say to you. We will have spoken to the firm about your interview and will have been advised on the format and what they are looking for you to demonstrate. It is also likely that we know candidates who have met your interviewers previously (if we have not met them ourselves).
In general at NQ level the focus of the interview is 50/50 split between personal and technical. Every year we have candidates who are perfect technically but that do not secure the job because another candidate demonstrates better personal characteristics.
All firms are seeking candidates who are ambitious, hardworking, professional, interested in improving technically and have strong communication skills. If you do not demonstrate these characteristics at interview then you will not secure the position – regardless of how much black letter law you know. It is important, therefore, to make sure you think about why you are interested in the firm and area of work prior to the interview. Interviewers may also want to talk about your outside interests, reasons for becoming a solicitor and what you enjoyed on your training contract. With a little forethought these topics represent a fantastic way to demonstrate your personality, ambitions and determination to succeed.
The first part of most interviews will be the recruiting Partner’s opportunity to tell you a little about the firm, role and person they are looking for. An attentive candidate can pick up clues about which parts of their experience to push. This part of the interview is also designed to put you “the candidate” at ease. They appreciate that you are nervous but want you to relax and make sure you give a good account of yourself. Most firm’s want to recruit the best person for the job, not just the least nervous.
The bulk of the interview is likely to revolve around your CV, make sure you can talk about it. Research yourself and make sure you can talk about all elements of your relevant experience (you are unlikely to be asked about your family law seat in a commercial property interview). Again your interviewer understands you may only have a six month seat, so your experience is limited. They are not expecting you to be a superstar just yet. What they do want to know is what you have done. Not generally but specifically. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your communication skills by describing complex information in a concise manner.
For example rather than say that you helped draft employment contracts for a client, be prepared to describe your role in discussing issues with the client, how you produced the first re drafts before discussing them with your supervisor. Then how you implemented your supervisors suggestions before going back to the client with the finished document and so on and so forth. The recruiting Partner wants to understand exactly what tasks they can allocate to you if you are in their team and so the intimate details of the daily tasks you have undertaken are of the utmost importance.
Many NQ interviews will involve some form of technical assessment. Again the aim of this is not to uncover someone with the skills of a 10 year PQE Associate but to ensure you have the basic technical skill. If researching an obscure piece of case law means you run out of time to swot up on basic issues, you are likely to leave a question mark over your knowledge in the interview. Conversly covering all the basics thoroughly ensures that the recuiting Partner has faith that you can undertake tasks and have a solid base that they can train you from. In interviews where there is no techincal testing they will be assessing your technical skills/ knowledge based on the work examples listed in your CV and your ability to describe them taking us back to the importance of making sure you can discuss your CV.
It is often suggested that professionalism is assumed at all times. This is absolutely correct. However, take your lead from the interviewers. A Partner who is relaxed and informal is unlikely to feel the ultra professional candidate who never smiles is going to be a good fit for their team. Equally take the opportunity to build rapport, do not be afraid to talk about common interests and for the interview to go a little off track if the interviewer leads you that way. It is likely they are testing your relationship building skills with a view to networking opportunities.
Remember, no one element will get you or loose you a job. A wrong answer or percieved mis-step will often seem much bigger to you than the interviewer. Do not panic. Many interviewers will deliberately put you under pressure at points to see how you react. A candidate that panics, will be judged to be unable to cope with a pressurised environment.
Finally remember that you are being assessed during your whole time in the building. It is not uncommon for reception, secretarial, HR or catering staff to be asked about their impression of the candidate.