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Why not to criticise your current firm or competitors during an interview

Why not to criticise your current firm or competitors during an interview

Looking for a new job can be a stressful time. Often you have reasons for leaving your current firm, many of which are negative and have prompted you to look elsewhere. When conducting interviews, lawyers will generally have common interview questions to ask prospective candidates, to understand their legal experience in greater depth, to test their academic ability, to delve into their competencies (including communication, leadership skills and teamwork), and to discuss strengths and weaknesses, aspirations, drive and motivations.

These questions will inevitably lead to a discussion on why you are looking to leave your current firm. It is vitally important to strike a balance of replying honestly but positively – too much negativity towards your current employer can send through bad vibes and cause your prospective new employer to disregard you. Key tips to remember are:

1. Don’t be negative – To criticise your current law firm or supervisor, however bad the experience, is frowned upon. The legal market is small, and you just don’t know how well your interviewer knows the people you currently work with. Not only that, if you badmouth your current employer, the interviewers may question your personality and ability to get on with others, and fear you may do the same about them in the future. Instead, emphasise the positives from your current role – focusing on the quality of work or client base can avoid focusing on a bad situation or relationship with the firm.
2. Tell the truth – Interviewers generally always contact your current employer for references, and may even know your current supervisor personally. If it becomes apparent that you have lied, whether it be about academics, experience or appraisals, this will seriously put your new job into jeopardy. Be upfront in the interview, which will give a chance for an open discussion on the topic.
3. Focus on the future – Analysis shows that employers, including law firms, are most interested in your reasons for wanting to join their company, your attraction to the job you are applying for and excitement about the new opportunity. Instead of dwelling on your last position, emphasise what you are looking forward to in the new role – this will give your interviewers confidence about your commitment to the job and show your interest in staying in the position in the long term.

This guidance can go a long way when interviewing for a new legal position. Remember, be positive and look to the future. The same advice goes if you are asked about competing law firms in the market. Do not criticise competitors too quickly, especially with out good reason. Instead always be prepared to give an analysis of their strengths, which will give off a much better vibe at interview.

For more information or to discuss your legal job search contact Louisa Phillips, Managing Associate - Private Practice Manchester

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