You flogged through the application form, you’ve waited to hear and at last comes the news that you’ve got an interview. Great! Now you just have to prepare carefully for the big day. Everyone tells you to do that, but what exactly do they mean? What do you need to do to maximise your chances of success?
1. Read your application
Precisely what did you put? If you’ve been applying to lots of employers, make sure that you know exactly what you said to the particular one which is interviewing you. There are two simple reasons why this is important. One, you need to be able to back up and support everything you said if you’re asked about it / challenged on it. Two, you’ll want to be able to draw on some additional examples in interview and not slavishly repeat everything you’ve already said.
One Magic Circle recruitment manager told me that during one interview a candidate had actually asked to have a look at his/her application form before answering a question. That was an automatic “No thanks” from the firm in question.
2. Read the news
Now ideally you’re not going to start doing this immediately before an interview, but I am forever surprised by students’ difficulty in telling me what is happening in the world. Sure, Trump’s activities are big news but other things are happening! Get into the habit of checking the news every day. My routine is to read The Guardian and BBC news over breakfast. If I’m sufficiently awake I listen to the Today programme on my way to work and I look at Twitter feeds during the day. If you don’t have a regular “news routine” you need to set one up and choose a few stories to get to grips with in detail. Delve into the history of your chosen stories and make sure they have some relevance to your job applications. Talking about Legal Aid at a City law firm isn’t necessarily showing that your interests align with the firm’s core business!
3. Be aware of your sector
It isn’t enough just to know what’s going on nationally and internationally. You need to be up to date on what’s happening in your chosen sector too. Look for relevant journals, blogs, websites and Twitter feeds.
4. Prepare for answers you expect
Why do you want to work here? Why do you want this sort of role? Why should we pick you? Competency based questions, strength’s based questions, there’s no excuse for not being prepared. Look at posts on this blog and posts on the Warwick Careers blog (there’s a good search engine on it – try entering “How to answer…”). For Law jobs look at the advice from employers and students successful in securing training contracts on the YouTube channel.
Try not to write out all your answers, practise them aloud, this is not an exam! You need to be fluent and to sound authentic. I like to find a quiet place and just speak answers aloud. Others prefer to record answers or even to look in the mirror while answering. Do what works for you, but try to get someone to give you a mock interview too and listen to the feedback!
5. Know your employer
Go back to the employer’s website and comb through it. Be familiar with all the content on the recruitment pages. Is there some kind of person specification explaining what they’re looking for? Make sure you can explain how you are that person. Look at the “About us” pages and the newsfeeds. You might want to follow up news stories by googling to see what the press has said about them. As you do this, start to think about your end of interview questions. Is there something which intrigues you, something which isn’t quite explained? Hone in on this and plan a question, but make sure you get the right question for the right interview. If it’s a law job you want, don’t expect HR to know about the intricacies of the latest transaction!
So, who’s interviewing you? Can you find out? Get researching. Find out what you can about the background and interests of your interviewer.
6. Use your contacts
Do you know people who work in the organisation or who have offers of jobs there? Get in touch. They might be able to share insights into the interview process, or inform your answers on why you want to work at this particular place.
7. Plan the interview day
Sort out the basics! Where is the interview? Check the instructions – don’t make assumptions! How are you getting there? Do you need to stay overnight? Will the employer meet expenses? Do you have appropriate clothes that will enhance your confidence? Do you have any special requirements? Do you need extra time for reading? Do you have dietary requirement? Do you need help accessing the premises? Tell the employer in advance don’t leave it to chance on the day.
Got all this sorted? Then go and smile and smash the process.