in Careers Advice, Interviews, Job Applications

Top 5 Tips for getting the most out of Interviews

Top 5 Tips for making sure you get the most out of interviews.

These tips apply as much to senior members of staff and managers as they do for junior staff. They are designed so that you get the most out of the recruitment process when you apply for jobs with a law firm.

1. Make sure that you have the questions ready that you need to know answers for at interview and before you start a new job.

This might seem fairly obvious. After all you telephoned the agency and they said that the firm need a conveyancer to work full time in their Chipping Camden office and this is what you are going to be interviewed for.

However, do you know what time the firm start work in the morning at 9.30am and what time they expect everyone to stop? Do you need to ask about work at other branch offices? What time do they close at lunchtime? Do they make pension contributions each year of 3% of salary, offer a bonus structure of 20% of salary over 3 x salary and shut down between Christmas and the New Year? Have you indicated that you would really like to do part time work if available?

Think about preparing a list of questions before attending – it can save time in the long run if you clear these questions up at a first meeting.

2. Ensure that your CV is complete and up to date.

I have to admit that sometimes, and only sometimes, we send out CVs that lack the full information they ought to have. Not necessarily our fault – quite often it is because candidates have decided not to tell us everything we would like to know.

Take a CV for a conveyancing solicitor for example, applying for a permanent job. Chances are that an employer would like to see some or all of the following:

1. Current salary levels.
2. Salary levels required.
3. Notice period.
4. Confirmation of exactly how much experience the candidate has in terms of years.
5. Types of conveyancing undertaken – eg have they covered new build, development work, staircasing, right to buy, shared ownership, freehold, leasehold, unregistered, agricultural, high value.
6. Number of conveyancing files open at any one time.
7. Billing targets and levels.
8. An indication of what they are looking for in a new role – ie career progression, partnership, reduced or increased hours, etc..

As well as all this just about everyone wants to see all the qualifications leading up to being admitted to the Roll or becoming a fully fledged legal executive. This includes A levels, degree, postgraduate courses and professional qualifications. So many people inexplicably leave some or all of this off their CV when it makes a real difference to the overall impression.

3. Do not mess employers about.

A real bugbear for us. If you commit to attending an interview, attend it. If you cannot attend the interview and have a genuine reason for this, make sure you tell the firm or the agency at the first available opportunity.

Do not turn up late for interview – firms almost instantly reject you for this. After all, if you cannot even get to an interview on time, what are you going to be like when actually working? If you are going to be late, call the firm directly as soon as you know this is likely to happen. It is unavoidable sometimes, but the way you deal with it can make a big difference to your chances.

We see a lot of paralegals and support staff behaving particularly unprofessionally when it comes to interviews and it is important to try and avoid this wherever possible. You never know when you will meet someone from the firm again – the legal profession can be a very small world to operate in.

4. At interview try to steer conversations.

So many law firm interviews consist of the interviewer talking at the interviewee and not actually asking them any questions. Partners seem to think it is important to explain their ethos, where they see the firm going and their own plans for global domination. Interviewees really do not care. All they want is the chance to impress.

Make sure that when you are being interviewed you let the interviewer speak, but try to control their input. After all the interview should be about you, the interviewee. Offer to outline your current caseload. Ask if they have a file you can review for them and demonstrate how you would deal with a particular case. Offer to answer a few technical questions.

Try to show how you would react in a stressful situation and similarly try to get the interviewers to show their behaviour. I recall an interview many years ago where I asked a partner what he did when he lost his temper. He instantly got cross. I didn’t join the firm…

5. Produce a presentation/plan for the interview

It is standard practice in some industries, although not common in the legal profession, for the employer to request that the interviewee brings some sort of plan with them to the interview and present it. For senior lawyers this can be a new business plan, a plan to increase productivity in the firm, a plan to save costs for the firm. For more junior staff it can be a personal development plan – where do they see themselves in say 5-10 years time?

This can be a useful exercise for you and the employer – partly because it makes you think about your own reasons for taking a new role but also for the firm who then think you have presented yourself in a very business-like way and dont t just think about yourself.

For senior candidates try to explain where you expect your business to come from and where it has originated from in your last role. Has someone else generated leads that you have been responsible for servicing? Have you been expected to go out and get work? What is your preference? I can think of plenty of candidates who are quite happy servicing work and others who would prefer to go out and get it themselves. If you want to generate some of your own work it is often better to discuss incentives for doing this from the outset.

Be careful not to give too much away – some firms have been known to expect a detailed business plan and then been surprised when a candidate has decided not to attend the interview… Similarly do not agree to hand over a copy of the plan at the end of the interview – why should you?

About the Author

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment – you can contact him at cv@ten-percent.co.uk. This article is a mirrored copy of another article written for employers on how to get the most out of candidates at interview – may be worth reading from both angles!

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk