Not many people enjoy being interviewed. But if you are planning to move firms as an NQ or junior solicitor you’ll need to embrace the interview process. Competition for jobs at NQ to 2 PQE is fierce and giving the right impression at interview is obviously critical to your chances.
You could wing it of course, but we wouldn’t advise it. The team at NQSolicitors has placed hundreds of candidates over the years and listened to feedback on thousands of interviews. So, we reckon we have a pretty good idea of what does and doesn’t work during interviews.
Here are our seven top tips for giving a killer interview:
1. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your CV is so stellar that the interview is a mere formality.
You may be rightly proud of your CV and your achievements to date but lots of people have impressive CVs. Your CV and academic record have simply got you through the door. Now it’s down to you. Your goal is to impress the interviewer in person, not on paper.
2. That’s not to say your CV is irrelevant.
Interviewers will look at it closely so be ready to talk about anything you mention, from your three months working in a Cambodian orphanage to your grade 8 in clarinet.
3. Don’t stress if your training hasn’t given you all the experience you think you need for the job.
At NQ stage, law firms are generally thinking much more about what you can do for them in the future rather than your experience to date. They are hiring your potential and know that experience varies dramatically between candidates who have trained in different environments. It’s possible that the six months you spent as a tiny cog in a huge debt restructuring deal at a magic circle firm is of no future practical use. But you will have gained valuable skills. Focus on these. These skills are more important in the long run and of far more interest to your potential new firm.
4. Do lots of research on the firm you are interviewing with and ask plenty of questions.
Employers love enthusiasm. You can even take a notebook into the interview with you, so that you can jot down interesting points. Remember, an interview is a two-way street. You need to decide if the firm is a fit for you as well as the other way round. As long as it doesn’t look like you’re interviewing them, the firm will respect you for trying to assess whether they’re right for you.
5. Be ready to answer the obvious questions
“Why are you moving?”, “What’s the most difficult task you carried out in your training contract and how did you handle it?”. Also be prepared to respond to the demand: “Tell us about yourself”. When replying to this and answering questions, the crucial thing is to be highly specific. Give concrete examples. Tell stories. Make sure the interviewer can picture what you are talking about. This will give you credibility and allow the interviewer to visualise you doing your job and how you go about things.
6. If you make a good first impression, in the vast majority of cases you will be asked to attend a second interview. The temptation at this stage may be to play it safe.
After all, they liked you enough to ask you back, surely more of the same is all that’s required? This is a mistake. Approach the second stage just as you did the first, and go all out to impress. You will most likely be meeting new people at the second stage, and with them you’ll be starting from scratch, so be prepared to wow them all over again.
7. Make an emotional investment.
I’ve lost count of the times I have broken it to a candidate that they haven’t got a job only to be told that they “weren’t sure about it anyway” or “didn’t really want it”. If you want the job, put your heart into it. “Faint heart never won fair lady” is as true in job hunting as it is in love. If you want the position, make sure the firm is in no doubt about it. They’re keen to employ people who are excited to work for them.
Last of all, good luck!