CVs and interviews
Asking the right Qs during an interview
Interviews are a two-way street. Preparing and asking your own questions is necessary for two things: building rapport and vetting a prospective employer.
How can you choose if you don't know the answers to critical (decision-making) questions?
In order to build rapport with your interviewers you need to treat the experience as a conversation: interject as the interview progresses rather than saving all your questions until the end, but be careful not to interrupt the flow of the interview. Make sure your questions are timely; also revealing your ability to partake in a balanced conversation.
A lot of lawyer candidates feel that interviewers hold all the power but in a candidate-driven market it’s as much about a law firm or company impressing you as you impressing them. This is especially so if you end up with more than one job offer on the table: how do you choose if you don’t know the answers to critical (decision-making) questions?
Always ask questions you genuinely want to know the answers to. Don't be tempted to ask questions just for the sake of demonstrating the research you’ve done, or to look smart. An interviewer will see right through a thinly veiled attempt to look clever for clever’s sake.
Vetting a potential employer
Everyone has varying wants and needs in relation to their career and because of this, a potential employer might skip certain information as they might not feel it’s relevant. This information could be crucial to your decision-making, so the only way to find out if a job and employer is right for you, is to ask questions.
Before you gather these, get clear on what you really want. Think about your future: do you want training, progression, or the opportunity to grow within the law firm or business? From this, ask specific questions around a law firm or company’s training, the routes for progression and where the business is headed.
However, don't ask more questions than the interviewer - you don't want to come across as though you're 'grilling' them. It's also OK to ask questions at other times during the recruitment process (pre- and post-interview) - whether it's direct or through a recruitment agency. If you've got a list of questions, scatter these pre, post and during the interview.
Need some inspiration? Here's a start...
- What would be the scope of my work? (Particularly important if you feel you want a broader caseload or you want to hone your skills in one specific area)
- What’s your policy on flexible working and in reality, how much uptake is there?
- What would you expect the progression path to look like over the next five years for someone at my level who's performing well in the role?
- How would you describe the firm's culture?
- What do you feel makes this team unique from the equivalent teams at firms X, Y and Z?
- What’s the size and structure of the team?
- How is work allocated and whom would I report to?
- Does the team face any challenges?
- How's the team measured?
- What's the management team like?
- Is the business well established?
- Are there necessary tools in place in order for you to succeed?
- How will I be supported in this role?
- How are others performing in the current or similar role?
- Do you have any reservations about me as a potential candidate for this position? (Give yourself the opportunity to address any concerns they may have at the interview. It will be too late afterwards)
You'll receive answers to these questions that'll have a massive influence on your decision. It’s a good idea to write your questions down beforehand to take in with you, taking note of the answers.
It’s understandable and OK if the important questions have passed you by in the past, but make an effort to avoid this at your next interview. Take the time to prepare and get clear on what's important to you in order to feed your questions.
One last tip
When you’re asking the right questions, don’t drag the interview out unnecessarily (always be mindful of the interviewer's time).