Guide to a Stand-Out Interview with a Law Firm

You’ve made it through the application stage, and you’ve just been informed that you are invited in for an interview. The nerves slowly kick in as reality hits that you will need to impress senior members of a firm and convince them, that out of all the other candidates, YOU are the PERFECT fit. There is obviously a lot of pressure….but no amount of pressure or anxiety should stop you from ACING that interview, and below is an extensive guide to help you succeed in all interviews that come your way.

PRE-INTERVIEW

 

 Tone:

You’ve got the call/email inviting you in for an interview. It is probably not essential, but it is a bonus if you can show some personality and excitement from this call. Saying things like ‘Thank you so much for the opportunity, I’m really looking forward to meeting with you’ is not over-doing it, it’s showing interest and excitement… it is unlikely that an employer would be interested in someone who does not appear enthusiastic about working and meeting with them. Your tone is EVERYTHING because the first impression your employer forms of you begins with their very FIRST interaction with you, and that could be over the phone or through an email.

Preparation:

Don’t go into the firm blind and praying for the best. Be prepared. Practice in front of the mirror or get friends/family to do a mock-interview with you. You should invest time in researching the company, but don’t spend hours doing this. It is highly unlikely that they will ask you who the founder of their firm was in 1967. Knowing the general gist of the company, what they specialise in, what their motto is and what they try and promote is good enough. One important factor is to avoid PRE-PREPARING ANSWERS. Perhaps you may have a general idea of how you will answer certain questions, but don’t memorise responses to questions or try to perfect an answer. This is essential considering it is obvious to an interviewer when an interviewee has pre-prepared responses. Someone who has memorised an answer spends more time thinking about their rehearsed reply more than being in the moment. The most important thing in an interview is to come off natural, the employer wants to know the real you, not the rehearsed-preprepared you. It’s important that you are showing your most genuine self to the employer, and the only way you can do this, as cheesy as it sounds, is by being yourself. You need to make the interviewer comfortable, and the only way to achieve this is by acting honest and true to who you are, and by showing them that you are taking time to think about the question they have asked you. All in all, you should still prepare, but don’t sit for hours in your room attempting to perfect an upcoming interview because it will result in you being more stressed out and anxious about forgetting a pre-prepared response, as opposed to worrying about the actual interview.

The Night Before:

You should definitely try to rest up the night before the interview. It is normal to be nervous and a little anxious, however, you should not let these emotions prevent you from getting sleep and having a clear mind. This is easier said than done. Just keep in mind that stressing about something that has not happened yet is a waste of energy, energy better spent perfecting the interview when the time comes. It’s okay to feel nervous, but don’t let it stop you from feeling good about yourself. JUST REMEMBERyou made it to the interview stage, which means your application already placed you ahead of a lot of the competition, which also means that the employer already considers you a potential candidate. Your job is to simply prove to them why their impression of you is RIGHT. 

Getting to the interview: 

Common sense, but it is important to be on time to the interview. Usually, 10-15 minutes prior is ideal.  It is unpredictable what may happen on the day of your interview, so you must take into account PT delays and traffic. Unfortunately, most employers won’t care for your excuse nor remember it, but they will remember that you were late! So make sure you have prepared how you’re getting to the interview, when you’ll get there and prepare an alternative route for the possibility that Plan A may not work out!

Now, let’s say after doing all of this, you STILL end up late. It is essential that you do not freak out, and think that your chances are over. The best thing you can do in this situation is to kindly explain to your interviewer the reason you were late, and emphasise that you are sorry, and then spend the rest of your interview proving to them that your lateness is not a reflection of your character. It may also help to call the employer ahead of time if you know you’ll be late in order to give them a heads up. 

Presentation: 

Perhaps this is another obvious point, but just remember that your presentation matters a lot. As humans, the first thing we notice about another individual is their presentation. For instance, how they look, dress, and carry themselves. Your inner and outer appearance influence each other because if you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, then you tend to dress neatly.

Men, of course, a suit is most suitable for an interview. Women, you have a wide range of options:- dresses, skirts, suits etc. Heels are optional, but if you don’t like heels then black boots or flats also work!

Big NO for Men and Women:

  • Jeans;
  • Runners;
  • Excessive jewellery (keep it simple); and
  • Facial piercings.

The whole point of your presentation is just to look tidy rather than distracting. Your hair should be tidy, your clothes should be ironed…and if you’re wondering why appearance matters so much, it’s because whether you like it or not, it’s the first thing an employer will notice about you. If you show up all messy, dressed carelessly, and looking like you have put no effort into your appearance, then the employer will have the impression that this is how you will treat your job — regardless of whether it’s true or not. Needless to say, personal hygiene and taking a mint (avoid gum) is advised.

THE INTERVIEW

Greeting:

Every interview experience is different, but one thing that’s similar is the greeting. It is important that you stand up and shake the hand of your interviewer(s). If you remain sitting and rather wait for them to approach you then it may not show initiative from your end. A display of confidence begins as soon as you greet your interviewer(s). So, stand up, shake their hand and introduce yourself. Have a firm handshake, but don’t be too firm to the point that you’re hurting someone (some people don’t think firm handshakes are as important, guess it’s up to you). 

The Interview:

Questions: 

As noted above, every interview is conducted differently, usually the interviewer will give you a brief overview of the role, then proceed to introduce the firm and who they are, and finally, they will begin asking questions about you. People tend to freak out about the questions, but just remember, there’s no wrong answer because they’re asking about you as a person, and getting to know you, and if there’s one thing we know the correct answer to is questions about ourselves. So keep calm, and just remember that whatever they ask you, you have the answer to, and it’s okay to take a moment to yourself to think of a response! With this being said, make sure you are not lying in your interview, this can be a huge deal breaker if you are caught out. I definitely understand at times exaggerating a scenario to make it seem more interesting, however, do not lie in relation to anything which may influence your ability to perform the role they are looking to hire you for. According to The Harris Poll, who surveyed 1,014 hiring managers and HR professionals, 71% responded that the top deal breaker in a job interview is a candidate caught lying (Career Builder, 2018).

  • Important Tip: Don’t talk negatively about your previous employers, because it may reflect poorly on you. In two separate surveys, 48% and 62% of employers believed this to be a negative trait in interviewees (Career Builder, 2018; Workopolis, 2015). When you continuously highlight unattractive features about your previous job(s) then the employer may get the impression that you are difficult to work with or too critical. Therefore, while you are absolutely free to comment on what you did not like about a previous employer, just make sure to keep it to a minimum and only really mention it if they ask you.

If you happen to come across a difficult question that you cannot possibly think of a response for, then DON’T freak out. While it is recommended to respond to every question, in the case that you can’t respond you can kindly ask to move onto a different question, or request to come back to it at the end of the interview. Just remember, do not panic because at the end of the day the interviewers WILL NOT (mostly) REMEMBER THE ANSWERS YOU GAVE.  Let’s expand on this a little more…

Employers don’t usually leave the interview room and start briefing in detail about your responses, but what they will do is ask themselves or the other interviewers, ‘so, what do we/I think?’.  How you present and carry yourself in an interview is what will capture the interviewer’s attention above anything else. Now, of course, your responses are essential in determining if this role is suitable to their needs, but it’s really and truly all about the vibe.  The employer wants someone they know they can WORK with, and they certainly know they can’t work with someone who is nervous, interruptive, abrupt, lacks self-awareness and so on. However, they certainly can picture themselves working with an individual who is collected, presentable and able to respond confidently and with assurance to a question. This is the reason why throughout this blog there is an emphasis on presentation and personality, as opposed to the actual questions themselves.

  • Note: There is however one key question that is potentially essential to the outcome of your interview.  This is when and if the employer asks you ‘what makes you interested in [their] area of law.’ Let’s say you interviewed at an employment law firm and the prospective employer asked you, ‘why are you interested in employment law? Do you see yourself practising in this area in the future?’. Your response here matters because most law students and graduates are an investment for the firm, and so they would want someone who is interested in working long-term with them. Usually answering that you’re unsure what area you want to practice in, or saying that you just want experience and are not bothered by the area of law does not leave a good impression. This is unfortunate for young ones who are still trying to figure out what they want to do, however for the purpose of the interview you should express some interest in the work the firm does. This is not just for them, but it is for YOU as well. The last thing you want is to do work that you’re not enjoying.

Physical Presentation: 

Remain conscious of your physical presentation. For instance, make sure you are not crossing your arms, leaning on the chair, playing with your hair, or anything of that sort. Keeping your hands on your lap, being crossed leg, are all acceptable. Again, try and avoid distracting the interviewer, humans are drawn to movement, and if they see you fiddling, shaking your leg or playing with your jewellery, then that will divert their focus off of you, which is something you want to avoid! More so, these actions may portray a nervous disposition, and if the interviewer senses you’re overly anxious then they will begin to feel that energy as well.

You need to show your interviewer that you are calm, relaxed and comfortable in the interview. To do this, you must make regular eye contact and simply smiling can show the employer you’re happy and comfortable in the interview. Career Builder (2018) reported that the biggest body language mistakes include lack of eye contact (68%), failing to smile (38%), and playing with something on the table (32%).

ASK a Question:

The majority, if not all interviews, end with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. This is an important stage in the interview, and you should have one or two questions prepared. Coming up with the question isn’t difficult, just browse their website, and if you find something interesting or ambiguous then don’t be afraid to question them about it. Other questions can be regarding company culture or how you are expected to manage your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis… for instance, are there schedules? Deadlines? Someone you report to?… These are all good and effective questions.

Exiting an Interview:

Of course, shake the interviewer’s hand again, and thank them for the opportunity and their time.

Here are some extra information that were given by employers who were asked ‘When interviewing candidates for creative roles, which of the following do you consider to be a deal breaker (something a candidate says or does that will likely cause you to immediately discount that person from consideration)?’ (Workopolis, 2015): 

    1. Checking or answering the phone during the interview: 77%
    2. Showing up late without acknowledging it: 70%
    3. Not bringing items that were requested (e.g., resume, portfolio,  references): 70%
    4. Wearing improper interview attire: 69%
    5. Speaking poorly of a past job or employer: 62%

POST-INTERVIEW (CRITICAL)

This is brief but very IMPORTANT and many of us forget to do this final part. Once you get home, open up your laptop and send an email to the employer thanking them for their time, and saying something along the lines of ‘I look forward to hearing from you’. Sending this email may not seem vital, but it is because it shows that following the interview you have remained interested and excited about hearing back from them. It also shows gratitude and enthusiasm for the whole process. Finally, it also keeps you in the mind of the interviewer.

Following Up: Now, this is probably the worst part of the whole process. The waiting game. It’s important to remain patient because it’s not a particularly quick process to pick a candidate and officially hire them. So you need to give the employer some time. DO NOT message, email and call them every day asking for an update. What is recommended is waiting for about a week before you follow up. Or, if they said they’ll get back to you by Wednesday, and it’s Thursday, then it’s also okay to follow up. So checking in is definitely acceptable, but just don’t over-do it, and keep it minimal. If they say we will contact you in about a week, then give them that amount of time before you contact them next.

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This is an extensive guide that was designed to answer all and any pressing questions people may have heading into an interview. Hopefully, this provided you with a general idea of what to expect and how to handle an upcoming interview you may have. One thing to keep in mind is that every interview experience is different and some of the above may not apply. However, it is important to remain conscious of your presentation and personality, as they form the most crucial ingredients for having a stand-out interview.

If there is something that was missed in this blog, or you have any questions, then please feel free to leave your comments below. 

Best of luck with your interviews, and remember to be your truest self when it’s time! 

References:

Employment, Interview

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