Step 8: Preparing for interviews

This Step looks at how you can prepare for interviews to maximise your chances of success, looking at the different question you may be asked and the different styles of questioning used.

Step 8 Resource book

Our resource book aims to provide a comprehensive guide to help you prepare fully for your legal interview, including over one hundred example questions.

 

Step 8 Weblinks

Prospects: www.prospects.ac.uk/interview_tips.htm

Information from the Prospects website on interviews and assessment

Sonru: www.sonru.com
Select Candidate Guide for information about automated online interviewing, from one of the providers of video interviewing technology. See in particular the candidate information sheet.

How to look good in Skype interviews: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQwanxQmFnc
Also applicable to video interviews, this short YouTube video (from the USA) provides useful tips for improving the appearance of your webcam feed.

Step 8 Workshop

Whether you are being interviewed for a training contract, pupillage, paralegal position, work placement or other role within the legal sector, our online workshop provides an introduction to the critical task of preparing.  

You can also read the transcript here.

Step 8 Activities

Central to your interview preparation is knowing about the recruiting organisation: Download our checklist to see what you should already know about the organisations looking to recruiting you.

Download our interview checklist for barristers here 

Download our interview checklist for solicitors here 

Step 8 FAQs

Preparing for interview

I have my first interview - what do I wear?

What should I take to interview?

In a recent unsuccessful interview for a training contract, the recruiter said I was “over prepared,” which I found hard to understand!

I have an interview tomorrow with a large law firm. Where can I find information quickly about the firm?

I have an interview with a small high street firm that does not have a website or brochure. How can I research the firm for interview?

It has been four weeks and I still have not heard back from the law firm following an interview – what shall I do?


Q. I have my first interview - what do I wear?

A. Congratulations… and now is the time to invest in a suit. Remember that the law is a conservative profession overall and it’s best to err on the side of caution for interview, even if your interviewers are hip and trendy media lawyers and keen proponents of dress-down Fridays. 

For women, it’s best to opt for a plain, dark, suit (nothing too ‘Friday night!’), low heels, tidy hair, and nothing too excessive by way of makeup, nail varnish and jewellery.  The same for men: conservative suit, shirt and tie with smart polished shoes. 

Also think about what you’re going to carry with you: have a smart bag and notepad rather than arriving clutching re-used old plastic carrier bags. 

If something totally unforeseen occurs  and you end up for some reason not in interview gear, do apologise and explain the situation to the interviewer.

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Q. What should I take to interview?

A. In a smart bag, remember to take the correspondence you’ve received from the firm inviting you to interview, including the address, phone number and contact name. Obviously you will leave plenty of time to get to the interview in order to arrive 10 minutes early, but you need to be able to contact the employer if something unforeseen occurs. In addition, you should pack:

  • your mobile phone (switch it off before the interview starts)
  • a notepad and a couple of pens, plus a note of any questions you wanted to ask the firm (though do try to remember them, and not refer to your notepad)
  • if you’re wearing a skirt, bare legs are a no-no, so take a spare pair of tights in case of ladders
  • a copy of your application/CV and covering letter, so you can refresh your memory before you go in (obviously don’t get it out while you’re mid-interview).

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Q. In a recent unsuccessful interview for a training contract, the recruiter said I was “over prepared,” which I found hard to understand!

A. Yes, it is difficult to ensure that you’re well prepared for an interview, but not to come across as ‘over rehearsed’ … the firm will be concerned to find and make a judgement call on the ‘real you’ albeit the ‘you, but at your very best’ that you will hoping to portray at interview. In terms of key tips for the future: don’t stop preparing yourself for interview, but on the day:

  • try to relax
  • listen to the actual questions that are being asked, and tailor your answers to those questions (not necessarily the ones you have prepared)
  • show that you are listening and thinking on your feet: perhaps by repeating back part of the question to the interviewer in your answer
  • when asked if you have any questions of your own, try and relate your questions to something the interviewer previously said, for example “I was very interested when you mentioned… how do you see that developing in the future?”

If you are at The University of Law, you can book a mock interview practice session with a member of the Careers team in your centre (if you are at another university, your careers service will probably offer the same.) Remember, you’re doing something right to be being called for interview and the interview practice you’ve had is invaluable experience for honing your technique, ready for the next one. Good luck!

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Q. I have an interview tomorrow with a large law firm. Where can I find information quickly about the firm?

A. If you have accepted a place at The University of Law or you are a current student, look at the Employability Service information on ‘ELITE’ (the student portal) to see if we have any information on the organisation at which you are being interviewed.  In addition, check the firm’s own website  and the materials and weblinks accompanying Step 4 (researching employers) which will provide you with a host of further information.

If you are not yet at the University, a quick ‘check list’ would include: the firm’s own website; firm listings and information in the main client directories (eg www.chambersandpartners.com; recent activity in the legal press (eg The Lawyer’s website www.thelawyer.com or Legal Week’s www.legalweek.com); and an online search of the people interviewing you (if you know their names).

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Q. I have an interview with a small high street firm that does not have a website or brochure. How can I research the firm for interview?

A. Search for the firm in the ‘Find a Solicitor’ section of the Law Society’s website ( www.lawsociety.org.uk) – this will tell you the firm’s areas of work, number of (and names of) partners. Search the archives of The Law Gazette ( www.lawgazette.co.uk) for the firm or for articles relating to the areas of work they undertake. Look for other high street firms in the same area with similar areas of law – their websites may give you and insight into the type of clients that there are in the local community. Be on top of the key issues facing high street firms.

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Q. It has been four weeks and I still have not heard back from the law firm following an interview – what shall I do? 

A. Ring the firm (the graduate recruitment department if the organisation is large enough; the person who interviewed you if not): apologise for bothering them, and ask for an update on the situation.

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Step 8 In brief

Download our in brief summary, which provides the key points you’ll need to consider when it comes to interview preparation.

 

Practice areas

Information on different areas of the law: what it covers, what it's like in practice, current issues, and further information.

Case studies

University staff pass on their experience of what it's like to work as a lawyer in practice.