By Legal Futures Associate Flex Legal
A job interview is seen in profile. Two people, an interviewer and interviewee, appear before the Flex Legal branding
Facing a job interview for your first law position is a scary thing – especially when you’re still a student. Alongside your usual student worries about covering the rent, getting the best grades you can, and (let’s be honest) figuring out where in town does the best deals on pints, now you’ve got a serious interview to contend with.
Whether it’s for an internship, a paralegal role, a training position, or anything else, landing an interview can be both exciting and scary in equal measure. You’re trying to present the very best version of yourself and will be up against other equally impressive people trying to do the same. Your interviewer will be looking for any sign that you’re either fit or not fit for the role. Fortunately, we’re here to tell you everything you need to stand out from the crowd.
Here’s our essential tips on navigating your job interview.
Before the interview
Research the organisation
This one goes without saying. Everyone who has ever attended a serious interview has Googled the organisation they’re interviewing for. Your interview will be the same – so make yourself stand out from the rest of the interviewees by looking up info that isn’t the first search result on Google. Try reading up on big cases they’ve been involved in, researching key people within the organisation on LinkedIn, or look up their competitors based on geographical area. If it’s a small of local firm, who is their demographic? What can you learn about them?
Practice your answers
There’s no way you can know every interview question you’re going to be asked in advance. However, you can polish your answers for the obvious questions you’re always going to be asked. Whether it’s about your education, qualifications, or ambitions, make sure you have prepared some interesting and impressive answers. Remember, the interviewers have already read your CV. They already know your qualifications and work history. What they don’t know is that you’d be a great person to work with. Use your pre-prepared answers to get this across to them.
Refer to the job description
Here’s a little secret nobody usually mentions: job interviewers already have an “ideal person” in mind before they start interviewing. Even if you can’t meet every requirement in the job description, you want to demonstrate that you fit the bill for that “ideal person”. The best way to do this is to find the key points in the job description, and tailor your answers to hit those key points at least once.
Check your social media
Most law firms will do a background check on you at some stage of the recruitment process. The first thing they’ll try to find is your social media. If the first thing they see is pictures of you having a rather jolly time at a party, or making inflammatory public remarks on Twitter about Love Island contestants, it’s not going to do you any favours. The best thing you can do, honestly, is to change your privacy settings to make sure nothing is publicly visible. Failing that, at least have a good tidy up and get rid of anything that could backfire on you.
Re-read your CV
This might sound a bit obvious, but make sure your pre-prepared answers match what’s on your CV. Even small contradictions or discrepancies can be looked down on by interviewers. You can save yourself that embarrassment by having a thorough read through your CV and making sure you know it inside and out.
Buy a suit
There’s a special and little known trick for deciding what to wear to a job interview. You should aim to dress “one step above” the expected dress code for the role you’re interviewing for. For legal roles, this does mean you’ll absolutely have to wear a suit. It’s the first and foremost sign to the interviewer that you’re taking the interview seriously. First impressions are everything, so consider charming your parents into lending you some new suit money, or alternatively have a look around for one in your size on Depop or eBay.
On the day
Again, first impressions are everything. Right from the get-go, you want to show the interviewers that you’re serious and enthusiastic about the role. Showing up early an easy first way to make yourself look eager. If you’re interviewing in person, aim to arrive 10 minutes before the interview was due to start. If you’re interviewing online, make sure the interviewers know you’re ready to go at least 5 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start.
Even if you’re feeling nervous, it’s time to put on a borderline Oscar-worthy performance. You’re not interviewing as a student, you’re interviewing as a professional they should hire. Enter the interview with a warm and enthusiastic smile. If they offer hands, shake them firmly and confidently. If they don’t, crack a joke about not shaking hands during Covid. Sit up straight, speak clearly, and try to avoid nervous mannerisms if you can. Body language says a lot in job interviews, so do your best to control yours.
You know that you want this job. It’s time to show your interviewers just how much want it. If you’ve been invited to attend an interview, your interviewers already think you are a potential candidate for the job. All you have to do is be confident in your own abilities, and come across as the sort of person they would want to work with. Just be careful not to come across as over-bearing or arrogant. It’s a hard line to walk sometimes, but you can and will do it.
Legal professionals need a huge range of “soft” skills that cannot be taught in university. There is a genuine knack to being able to talk to people in a professional but friendly way, and if you can evidence this in the way you answer questions you will stand out. Try thinking about fictional lawyers you know and how they hold themselves. Chances are that they are dynamic and confident communicators, with good analytical skills and a keen attention to detail. These are all characteristics you can prove in the way you answer questions.
At the end of the interview
Every interview ever conducted has finished with the interviewer flipping the script. When they ask you if you have any questions for them, you should have some ready. As long as you’re not asking banal questions you could easily look up online, this is your chance to turn things around and get them to sell the organisation back to you. You could always try asking the interviewers about the company culture, or ask them more about their roles, or ask how specific recent changes in the law might affect the organisation. Asking the right questions can transform a good interview into a great one.
Offer a copy of your CV
If your interviewers don’t already have a physical copy of your CV to hand, offer them a one! Taking the time to print out a copy for their reference can demonstrate how prepared and professional you are. It’s a small gesture that goes a surprisingly long way!
The way you leave an interview is just as important as the way you enter it. Its only human to want to exit your interview by saying “peace out, suckers” and dropping a mic. Unfortunately, job interviews are not an acceptable place to do this. Even if things could have gone better, thank the interviewers for their time, encourage them to contact you if they have any further questions, and leave the best impression you can.
Now that the interview is over, take it easy! You’ve done everything you can, so it’s time to put your feet up. Job interviews are incredibly exhausting, so get some food, or grab a drink, or do whatever it is you do to unwind. It’s natural to worry afterwards and think about everything you could have said differently, but try your best to put these things out of your mind. Even by attending a nerve-wracking interview you’ve done something huge and should be proud!