There’s an abundance of literature that’s been written on interview preparation, far too much to discuss in any great detail in blog format, but it’s always helpful to bear in mind to prepare for the role that you’re being interviewed for and to not, inadvertently, interview for a role at the next level of the structure which can so easily happen when talking, for example, about progression prospects.
A big part of my role as a specialist legal recruiter is to ensure candidates are prepped within an inch of their life prior to an interview. This involves quite a bit of role play but what I’ve found is that there are two key themes that continuously crop up, regardless of the seniority of the candidate or role and regardless of the legal discipline in which the candidate specialises in; these being building a rapport and interviewing for the role you’ve applied for, not the one you eventually want to be in.
If you’ve been called to an interview you’re doing really well. An employer has seen something in your CV that shows that can you add value to the firm and that you can fulfil the job specifications. What your CV doesn’t highlight is your personality, your philosophy and how well you’ll interact with your future peers and clients.
What’s important at the interview stage is building a rapport and asking the right questions. Employers will know in an instant whether you can back up what’s on your CV. If you can’t , then you’ll know yourself that the process is at an end although this very rarely happens. Generally, what employers want to do is find out about what you’re like behind the lawyers’ uniform. They want to get to know your personality, find out how you’ll interact with your prospective colleagues and, crucially, that you can be trusted to interact with clients and gain their trust in order to build an effective business relationship.
It’s not just technical ability that gets you a new role, it’s how you’ll fit into a firms culture and its philosophy. To that end, it’s not just the small talk at the outset that will win the interviewer over. It’s the questions that you pose to them to show how keen you are on the role and also that the momentum gained after the initial introductions can be maintained. Awkward silences aren’t good in interviews, and neither are they goo when liaising with clients!
My advice to candidates at all levels is to build a rapport with the interview and to question them about the day-to-day duties. Having conducted interviews myself when in private practice, it was a delight to be asked “what case management system do you use and how does it highlight critical dates for complying with Court Directions?” rather than “how often is pay reviewed and when will I be promoted?”. To my mind this demonstrated that a candidate is already thinking about the day to day job and getting stuck into the role and with that attitude, candidates generally progress through the structure in any event. In terms of strategy, asking about training and supervision in the role your applying for leads very nicely onto to a discussion about progression prospects without the question being asked direct.
The more an interview flows the easier it is to form a rapport and showcase your personality and how you’d fit in with the existing team and it’s this somewhat innocuous factor that plays a big part on your level of success.