Your resume has impressed and you now have a face-to-face job interview. Here Lynne Beggs, Regional Director of Hays Legal, provides her job interview advice.
Preparation is critical to job interview success, so it pays to do your homework! You should research the organisation concerned by visiting their website.
The "About Us" or "Media" sections, as well as professional bodies, annual reports and your recruitment consultant, can provide a wealth of information about the company or firm that allows you to gain a better understanding of their business and how your experience and skills match.
If you are interviewing for a firm, make sure you understand the practice areas, position in the market and proposition to their clients. This will give you an insight into the culture of the firm, the type of work that you will be involved in and the firm's core values. It is also vital that you research the partner profiles on the firm's website so you understand their experience and client base.
It is important to look professional, act professionally and dress professionally for your job interview. As a rule, you should expect the environment to be conservative and corporate, so dress conservatively rather than casually or radically.
First impressions are critical. Arrive at least ten minutes early, walk tall and offer a smile and firm handshake when being introduced to the interviewer. Maintain good eye contact throughout the interview.
Treat the interview as a two-way discussion and answer questions honestly, directly and keep to the point. Everyone present will be focusing their attention on you, so clouding your answer with jargon or evading the issue will be more obvious than you think. If you are not certain about a particular question, do not be afraid to ask if it can be rephrased. Listen, never interrupt and answer only what is asked.
Some of the common subject areas that are likely to come up during the interview include:
General background: Often the first question is a request for a summary of your background. People applying for their first job should focus on extracurricular activities, education, and qualifications. It is acceptable to repeat main points you have outlined in your resume or letter of application.
Qualifications: A specific question often asked is "Why do you think you are qualified for this position?" Qualifications, in this context, mean all qualifications which could make you suitable for the position including educational, employment-related and personal.
Experience: Here is where your research pays off. Your answer should include details about relevant employment, community or educational experience and how this relates to the nature of the organisation or firm and the position itself.
Reasons for applying: If you are applying for your first job, or one of your first jobs, your answer should describe what you find appealing about the position, how you prepared yourself for a career in the organisation or firm and how you believe your present job equips you for the position in question.
Career objectives: Be ready to discuss your long-term aspirations. Your best approach is one that indicates you have thought about your career in these terms and have taken some action towards realising your ambitions.
Technical questions: Firms often ask junior lawyers technical questions relating to the areas of law studied.
Legal news: Firms are also interested in assessing your commercial acumen and your knowledge of current legal issues. Questions may focus on topical legal news, big cases or big transactions currently in the press.
Towards the end of the interview, you will usually be asked if you have any questions of your own. Be confident when asking your questions and use them as another way to impress.