The last few weeks have seen a flurry of requests for help preparing for interviews. So when I was thinking what to write about for the law blog this month, I realised that you had used your collective voice to tell me! So, here are my top five most frequently advised tips when preparing for interview:
There’s no getting away from this one. But just how much research is enough? I can only say that it’s a bit like the x-factor. You can’t really put a number or description on it, but when you see someone who has done thorough research, you just know! They have this quality about them. And it’s not even so much in what they say but more in how they say it, how they carry themselves and how they come across. If I had to give only one piece of advice for the rest of my (careers consultant) days it would be to do thorough research prior to any job interview you go for. You get two things for the price of one; lots to talk about in the interview plus an air of confidence in yourself because you know you have done your preparation.
- Focus on skills
Everyone knows that it’s important to think about ways in which you can answer skills questions at interview. Of course, it’s obvious if you get asked about a particular skill directly. I’m really talking about breaking down your experiences to see what other skills you can demonstrate from the example. For instance, it might be, when thinking about a team-work experience, you realise that you actually had to take charge at a certain point, or perhaps you had to resolve a conflict using tact and persuasive language. You could either bring these other skills into your answer about team-work, or you might want to use them when talking about yourself, your fit for the firm, or why you would be a good lawyer.
- Practice saying your answers OUT LOUD
Speaking from my own experience, as well as conducting many mock interviews in my time, it’s surprising how often we think we know how we would respond to a particular question but when we come to voice it out loud, it doesn’t flow well or is not as convincing when spoken. So one thing I would definitely advise you to do is to practice voicing your response. It doesn’t have to be in a formal mock interview setting (although that always helps!); it can be in front of a mirror, a friend or family member, or even videoing yourself on your phone so that you can watch it back afterwards. Particularly with the rise in popularity of the video interview – with many firms now using this method as an early assessment of candidates – you need to be sure that you are answering the question asked, and also that you can fit your response into the time allocated (as many of you are aware, sometimes this can be as little as one minute!)
- Prepare answers to tricky questions
You know the type: “What’s your biggest weakness?” or “Tell me about a time you have failed at something?” It’s always difficult to address potentially negative things about ourselves at interview – the one place we want to come across as most impressive! However, it’s worth looking at any areas of your application form that might be picked up on or that you could be asked to explain further (such as weaker grades for example) in advance of the interview, so that you can practice (see Tip 3!) how to deal with them.
- If something goes wrong….
I’m cheating a bit here. This is really a tip for when you are in the interview but as it’s something that comes up in pretty much every conversation about interview prep, I had to mention it here. My main advice is to try not to panic! How you deal with something in the face of adversity is often just as important as what you say. Remember firms are looking to see how you would respond if a similar situation occurred with a client. Would you be able to handle it calmly and professionally? If you do, you are more likely to get some credit. And how you recover and move on in the interview can also be very telling. A recruiter is much more likely to be impressed if you can try not to let one poor response affect the rest of the interview. Don’t give up! I have been witness to, and heard about, many an interview where someone thought they had answered something really badly. Actually, more than that, some of them had! But they still got offered the position anyway, or at least had a chance to have another go at that particular part of the assessment process due to the strength of the rest of the interview.