CVs and interviews

Top tips for nailing NQ interviews

There are basic interview principles that apply to all PQE levels, but you’re relatively new to the game, and it’s likely your last interview was as an LPC graduate to secure your training contract.

Obtaining as much information about the process ahead is paramount to your success: fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

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Consider its purpose

An interview is an exercise in establishing common ground. Treat the interview as a two-way process and have relevant questions prepared. Not only will this reassure the firm or business that you’ve thought about the process, but it also allows you to gain in-depth information to assist your decision about whether the firm is the right fit for you!

There may be a panel of interviewers but more often, especially in first interviews, there’ll only be one or two interviewers present. Most interviews last around one hour. Overall, be yourself and enjoy the meeting.

Want to practise your interview skills? All BCL Legal consultants can advise you on best presentation at interview. Don’t hesitate to contact us for some guidance. This is our bread and butter.

Research

You can never undertake too much research. Check the job title and the full names of the interviewers before your meeting. Visit the firm or company’s website to grasp their values. In doing so, think about experiences and values that you may share with the firm.

Practical steps

If possible, undertake the commute in advance. If not, then make sure you allow some extra travel time – a 15-minute margin at the least. It’s always better to be early rather than late. Always note the telephone number of your recruiter, as well as the firm you’re interviewing at (just in case you get lost). When you arrive, always befriend reception staff.

Discussing your CV

Remember, your CV forms the basis of any interview so always include and emphasise areas you feel comfortable talking about. This way you’re in a better position to predict the questions you’ll be asked. Read your CV before the meeting and feel free to take a copy with you. If you can, use the interests and hobbies section to develop rapport with your interviewer.

You

It sounds obvious but aim to make a great first impression. Take extra care to look your best, wear your smartest suit and polish your shoes (even if you’re attending an interview on a ‘dress down Friday’).

Carry any bags or files in your left hand so that your right hand is free to give a firm handshake.

Use positive body language. E.g. avoid arm crossing as this can make you look unapproachable when you want to come across as open and receptive. You could concentrate on making sure you sit with your hands open on the table or on your lap. Don’t slouch!

Make eye contact

Ensure you maintain eye contact with all the interviewers and show confidence and enthusiasm for the role and what you know about the business. It might seem difficult when you’re nervous, but it’s off putting when someone you’re engaging with looks everywhere around the room apart from at you!

Reveal some personality

Although interviews are formal meetings, try and remain as relaxed as possible and allow some of your personality to shine through. This is your chance to sell yourself, and the interviewers will look for signs that you’re going to get on with their other employees.

End the interview with impact

Always prepare questions to ask. Some example topics include, areas where the firm hopes to develop, how any legal reforms have affected the firm and opportunities for progression; as well as more detailed questions about the role you’re applying for.

It’s also OK to politely ask about the next stage of the recruitment process and when you’re likely to hear. An interviewer will sometimes forget to share this information, and it’s really important for you to know.

Lastly, prior to leaving the interview, make sure it’s clear to those that interviewed you that you absolutely want the role!

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Aptitude and personality testing

As this article mentions, generally, the interview will include a discussion about your CV. But it's also common for firms to run some form of technical legal test. Understandably, the content of these tests is closely guarded by our clients. However, we can advise on preparation.

Haven't had an interview since before your training contract and don't know what to expect?

At BCL Legal, we work hard to ensure we get as much information about the interview process as possible. We advise on the format, what to expect and how to prepare.

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