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How to Succeed at Interview - Interview Tips

How to Succeed at Interview  - Interview Tips

As a Senior Associate in the Private Practice team in Birmingham, I have over 12 years experience in legal recruitment and am therefore well qualified to offer interview advice having prepped 100’s of candidates for interview (as well as attending a couple myself!)

The current economic climate means competition for each role is fierce and you should feel confident in being selected for interview. Sparking the prospective employer’s interest in your experience/background through your CV is the first hurdle successfully overcome. Now for the first interview! These normally last around one hour and generally comprise a competency based interview however they could also involve a test. Always best to ask the question so you can be fully prepared.

It goes without saying to allow plenty of time for the journey to the interview. Ensure you know exactly how to get there and always check travelling time. Always best to arrive early and grab a coffee somewhere and be able to go over your notes and relax than be late or to arrive so stressed your performance is compromised from the start. Your appearance should also be high on your list of priorities. Wear your smartest suit, get that overdue haircut and polish those shoes! Think of your interview starting as soon as you walk through the office doors, before you even get to reception. Walk confidently, be polite and most important of all, SMILE! You never get a second chance at making a first impression.

Research the interviewers prior to the interview and familiarise yourself with all the key profiles so as to be able to build a rapport from the start. Reading the firm’s own website is a great starting point as well as trade press such as The Lawyer, The Law Society Gazette, Legal Week etc for recent articles which may provide information on recent deals etc. Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners web sites will tell you about specialist areas of law, recommended individuals at the firm and the percentage split of work across the practice. You can also read about their competitors and recent updates. Re-read your CV! This is so important and often gets forgotten. Be prepared to answer any questions on anything - particularly if relevant to the role. Ensure you are fully conversant with any particular deals or areas of law you have included in your CV and your level of responsibility.

With regards to interview questions, remember to make sure your answers are relevant and to the point. The questions will be deliberately open so give them as much relevant information as possible without rambling. Typical questions include:

• What do you know about us?
• What do you know about the role/team?
• Why are you interested?
• What are your strengths / weaknesses
• What do you enjoy about your current role / what do you not enjoy about your current role
• Provide examples of team work / best practice / particular cases / successes and how they were achieved
• What are your reasons for wanting to leave? (Do not overly criticise).
• Goals for next 5 years
• Business development/marketing/networking experience (commerciality is key in this economic climate…the bottom line is profitability and how you can add to this)
• How good are you at time recording / dealing with targets / prioritizing / delegating
• Billing target v actual billings
• What difficulties have you encountered in your job and how have you overcome them?
• What contacts have you introduced to the firm? Do you have a following?
• IT literacy?
• Outside interests

Always support answers with relevant examples. Once the interviewers have gone through their questions, you will be given the opportunity to ask questions. Prepare these in advance but also think about what has been said during the course of the interview. Good questions to ask include:

• How has this position become available - growth or replacement?
• What is the structure of the team / firm / who would you report to?
• How much training will there be?
• What are the future plans of the business/department?
• Main competitors?
• What is the interview process?
• Who have they worked for before and how long have they worked in their current role?
• What IT systems do they have in place currently?
• How many files on average will you be expected to handle?
• How much business development will you be expected to be involved in?
• Does the firm encourage marketing, development of client relations?
• Will you have responsibility for any junior members of the team?
• How many chargeable hours are staff expected to bill per month?
• What is the ratio of support staff to fee earner?
• Timescale for feedback/decision

One of the best questions I know is “is there anything more you would like to know in terms of my experience or background?”.

There are of course very obvious do’s and dont’s that we recruitment consultants cringe about when discussing interview feedback:

• Mobile phone turned off and never to be answered
• Don’t fidget or look bored
• Maintain eye contact with all interviewers not just the one asking the questions
• Be professional right until you’re off the premises
• Don’t ramble or answer with yes or no!
• Don’t mention any concerns or reservations at this stage – these may not be relevant by the end of the interview or can be more easily dealt with by speaking to the recruitment consultant
• Avoid discussing salary particularly if you do not know the specific salary on offer as you risk pricing yourself out of contention or underselling yourself. Leave this to the Recruitment Consultant as they are best placed to negotiate on your behalf

Please contact Joanne Lack at BCL Legal, a Senior Associate in the private practice team in Birmingham on 0121 230 1841 for a confidential discussion regarding your career or to discuss suitable roles in and around the East and West Midlands or email

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