The best way to think about interviews is to know that when answering questions from your potential employers there are no right or wrong answers, only good or bad answers.
Before I applied for my vacation scheme, I had done exactly two job interviews. Both were for jobs in the charity sector, and each of the interviews had been really friendly and relaxed, so I didn’t have much of an idea as to what a law interview would be like. I did a lot of googling of ‘interview tips’ in the lead up to my actual interview, but all the blogs and interview sites I read kept saying ‘practice your answers with a friend or family member’ but it absolutely cannot just be me who gets the giggles anytime I try to do interview practice with someone I know well.
In light of this, my number one recommendation for interview is to prepare. Whether that is preparing you answers talking in front of a friend or just writing them down and rehearsing them on your own do what works for you!
Your first point of call for interviews should be to research and learn as much about the firm as you can. Don’t just regurgitate what you find on their website though – law firms are looking for people who can apply information. So make it your own. Tell them about that award you found out they won and why this is relevant to your career aspirations. An interview is about showing how well you understand what the role you are applying for is, and how well you would do this role.
There are three main questions I suggest thinking about when preparing for an interview.
1. What does this law firm do and what is special about it?
Having a clear understanding of law firms, what they do for clients, where their role is within the business world and what makes them unique is key to being able to answer their questions at interview well.
You will almost 100% be asked why you have chosen that firm, and you absolutely cannot come out with something generic. This is your chance to display what you have learned about the firm, what they are particularly good at, and why you want to be part of that. Law firms are making an investment in you so they want to see that you are committed to them for the long term. Most grad pages now discuss the firms ‘culture’ or ‘values’ which is another topic you need to know about, as these are very likely to form the basis of some of the questions you get asked.
2. What do you bring to the firm?
You are going to be asked questions about how you can demonstrate that you possess a certain skill, or what is unique about you that will make you an asset to the firm. Skills questions often relate to things a lawyer is expected to have or be able to do, or they relate to the firms cultures and values. The best way to prepare for these is to think about events or situations in which you have shown different skills.
Some of the important skills you need to be able to talk about are:
⁃ Ability to work under pressure
⁃ Interpersonal skills
⁃ Rising to challenges
⁃ Problem solving
Think about how you put across your story too. You want to come across as coherent and concise, hence why it’s important to think about and write down your stories beforehand and look over them a few times. Again the STAR structure I mentioned in a previous post is perfect for these (situation, task, action, result), and helps stop you rambling on with no end (I’m guilty of rambling if I don’t have the appropriate system in place!).
3. Why [commercial] law?
Ok, for this one I can tell you what not to say. Horror stories spring to mind of panicked vac scheme applicants talking about how they ‘like the idea of a job where they can travel’ or a ‘big pay check’ or purely that ‘they are passionate about law’. It’s important to think about what your personal motivations for going into law are, and why you have chosen the type of law you did. They want to see you have an idea of the bigger picture and what this means to you. Again, this type of question involves an understanding of what your chosen law firm does, so I would say research, prepare and you can’t go wrong.
And on the day — take a deep breath. Focus on talking slowly, making eye contact, giving the odd smile so you don’t look super depressed to be there. Keep telling yourself ‘I got this’. Confidence, calmness and body language also make up a large part of your interviewer’s first impressions so focus on these too. Keep your arms unfolded, sit up straight, and if you feel yourself getting anxious focus on letting your shoulders relax and taking deep breaths.
Make sure to believe in yourself and know that just getting to interview is an achievement in itself.