Week 5 – Interview technique
Getting an apprenticeship with a law firm can seem daunting and so we are sharing some useful tips to help you kick start your legal career. So far we have looked at:
- Week 1: How to identify the right role and register for vacancies.
- Week 2: CVs and covering letters.
- Week 3: Work Experience.
- Week 4: Preparing for an Interview
This week we are looking at interview technique.
Before we start though, key points to remember:
- An apprenticeship is not a course; it is a job with training.
- To be an apprentice you need to get a job.
- A specialist legal apprenticeship provider can help, but can never guarantee, to get you a suitable job role.
- Apprenticeships in popular sectors such as law and accountancy are over-subscribed, making competition fierce.
- There is no apprenticeship funding for graduates and so if you are a graduate an apprenticeship is unlikely to be for you.
- Almost all law firms are looking for good GCSEs (at least 5 A* to Cs) and many look for good A levels as well.
Think about a backup plan if you are not successful. This can make you feel less stressed and actually help you during the application process; particularly during the interview stage.
If you have followed our tips for previous weeks then hopefully you will have been able to secure at least one interview with a law firm. It may be for a clearly defined, advertised job vacancy or a response to your request for some work experience. The preparation you have already done should give you a great chance at interview. However, good grades, strong work experience and well-structured answers may not be enough if your interview technique is not up to scratch.
You should attend all interviews in smart business wear and never dress down. Think about your appearance generally – in a sector that is generally quite traditional it is best to keep jewellery, earrings etc. quite discreet. Ensure too that you have all the relevant information with you. This should be brought in a smart folder in an appropriate bag and include:
- Photo Identification (usually Passport or Driving Licence)
- National Insurance Number
- Your interview invitation
- A copy of your CV
- A copy of the job description for the role you are applying for (if applicable)
- Anything extra your interviewer has requested you bring (normally detailed within the interview invitation)
Check your travel arrangements well in advance and leave plenty of time to get there. You should aim to arrive a few minutes early (10 minutes or so). More than that and it’s best to go for a short walk first!
You will usually have a few minutes to wait before the interviewer is free. This is a good opportunity to do some final preparation. Most firms will advertise any awards they have won, there will be copies of recent press releases and there may also be leaflets about the firm. Make good use of this information, there might be something that you can mention during the interview that will help to show your interest in and knowledge of the firm.
The most important thing to remember for any interview is that an interview is a sales process – you need to sell yourself to the firm and, even though it may not feel like it, they are selling themselves to you. A few tips:
- As with all sales, listening well is critical. The better you listen, the better you can tailor what you say to fit.
- Be polite, friendly and enthusiastic but also ensure that you remain business like and professional.
- An interviewer will expect some nerves but try to be confident – after all, the firm has chosen to see you, so you have done well so far.
- Good body language. Start with a handshake and smile then keep eye contact during the interview and don’t slouch.
- Have faith in your interview preparation but if you’re not sure what is being asked don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to explain what he or she means. If you’re not sure whether your answer is full enough ask if the interviewer would like some more details or an additional example.
- If you are asked a question that you understand but can’t answer, say so. If you try to “blag” an answer and get caught out your chance of getting the job may well disappear.
- Your interview preparation will mean that you already have answers to most questions, but don’t just regurgitate what you have practiced. Listen to the question and adapt your response as appropriate.
- At the end of the interview you will be usually asked if you have any further questions. Use this opportunity to ask about anything you are unsure about. But also use it as an extra opportunity to reinforce your determination and motivation by asking, for example: what are the next steps? How can I progress my application further? Is there anything further you require from me?
Although these hints apply to all interviews there are some alternative formats to think about:
- Multiple Interviewers.
- Keep track of who is who. You will be introduced to everyone at the beginning – remember their names and who they are.
- Direct your answers towards the questioner. But also try to make eye contact and include the other interviewers during your answer.
- Although being interviewed by a group can seem intimidating it is also an opportunity. There is more chance that there will be someone who really likes you, so try to build a bit of a rapport with all of them.
- Group interviews/assessment sessions
- Some employers, either due to the nature of their work or because of time limitations, may assess several candidates as a group. In part this will be to see how you work in a team.
- Always take an active role within any group exercises but don’t be bossy or too dominating. Include all the other candidates within an exercise and bear in mind that here, as in the workplace, everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses.
- Don’t just contribute for the sake of it. Time your contributions so they are relevant and ensure that what you say is useful and not just to be noticed.
- Treat the candidates as though they are the interviewer(s) themselves. Be polite and friendly but professional. Showing you know how to address colleagues is important.
- If a firm uses this format it is to ascertain how you would behave in the workplace! So treat it as though you are in the job you are applying for.
If you are unsuccessful do not lose confidence. You may have performed really well but someone else on the day just edged it. Always ask for feedback from the firm if you are unsuccessful. This will help you for next time and it also helps to maintain the relationship. You never know, their first choice candidate may not work out and they could then pick up the phone and call you!
Next week – Becoming an apprentice if you already have a job in the legal sector.