I have blogged on this subject before, but it’s worth reiterating some of this advice as we come into interview and assessment centre season. Despite all the advancements in the legal and technological worlds, some basic tenets of how to prepare for a two-way assessment process remain largely unchanged. So I make no apologies for playing this on repeat……
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 because you know you have done your preparation.
Think about what skills and qualities you can demonstrate
Everyone knows 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.
Book a mock interview
If you can be really organised and book in with a member of the Careers Team for a mock interview a few weeks before your actual interview, you’ll thank yourself that you did! This gives you a chance to voice your responses out loud, one after the other (simulating a real interview setting) and to get feedback on your individual responses as well as about your general interview technique, whilst allowing a few weeks for you to go and address any weaker areas and do further research and thinking if required. I’ve conducted many a mock interview over the years and I can honestly say that for the majority of students I have worked with, the material coming out of a mock interview seems to be the richest source of information about someone’s preparedness (or not!) for the real thing. There seems to be a real buzz after a mock interview; either giving that student confidence or clearly identifying ways that they could improve.
Even if you miss the opportunity for a formal mock interview, you can still practice voicing your responses 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. You need to be sure that you are answering the question asked, and also that you can fit your response into the time allocated (sometimes this can be as little as one minute!)
Prepare answers to difficult 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 – when we want to come across as at our most impressive! However, it’s worth looking at any areas of your application form that you could be asked to explain (weaker grades for example) before the interview, so that you can practice ahead of time how to deal with them.
Have an idea of legal news and current affairs
This can feel quite overwhelming in the run up to an interview. That’s why it’s a good idea to regularly keep up with the news and any key legal and business developments. You don’t have to know any of it in detail. But what is important is that you know enough about some key issues to be able to hold a conversation about something of interest to you. Try to think about why that news or development interests you and why you think it might be relevant to the firm you are applying to. In the interview itself, it is good to show some knowledge of a current news story and if applicable, an awareness of both sides of the argument. You may be asked for your opinion on a particular subject so have a think about how you would respond beforehand.
So, as with many worthwhile things in life, the key is in the preparation. And as a wise person once said “opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”
Wishing you all good prep!
Rachel Vacalopoulos, Senior Careers Consultant.