John Clayton Lawyer, Paralegal, Partner...
Starting off a job search can be stressful; who do I contact? Where do I start? Should I use an agent? Is my CV up to date? These are just a few of many questions that run through your mind at the start of your job search, heaven knows what happens when it comes to the interview stage. Everyone deals with stress and interview nerves differently; with time the interview process can become less daunting but even senior professionals would be wise to prepare adequately.
Preparing for an interview
You are stuck in a room, with people you have never met, to talk about yourself both personally and professionally with the goal of convincing a potential employer that you are the one for the job. Daunting? The following may help…
Preparation is the most vital part of any interview process. There are two very important points to note when discussing preparation with a candidate.
The first: know your CV back to front; a potential employer will look to understand more about your background and the sort of experience you’ve gained based on the content of your CV. Know the content of your CV before the interview and familiarise yourself with your experience to date. You never want to be caught off guard about something you may have worked on 15 years ago, but it’s in your CV. It is reasonable to assume your interviewer can ask you anything.
The second: do your research. Know your interviewer’s correct title and pronunciation of their name, read their profile on LinkedIn or the firm’s website. It is always important to understand the firm you might be joining, the sort of work they handle and how your experience is relevant. Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer, whether it be about a specific transaction they have worked on, where they see you fitting in, or the culture of the firm. You need to determine whether working for this specific firm is for you.
The day before your interview
The day before your interview, double-check the location of your interview and ensure you have enough time to get there. I usually advise my candidates to arrive slightly early so that they have a few moments to find where they need to go and settle into the environment. It never helps to be rushed!
If you have any questions regarding the interview process, speak to your recruiter - they are usually able to answer any queries or address any concerns you may have.
I usually speak with candidates a day or two before an interview to go over some pointers and questions that always seem to come up. These include;
1. Your background – education, job moves, roles e.t.c
2. Your experience – responsibility on matters, deals/cases handled e.t.c
3. Lines in the sand - The most important pointer I give candidates is to never ‘draw a line in the sand’. Don’t commit to anything you might not be able to stick to; rather appear to be flexible if they ask you hard questions. For example, if an employer says, “We want you to start in 30 days, would you be happy to start then?” and you know you have a 2-month notice period, don’t say, “No, I have a 2-month notice period that would be impossible.” Rather appear flexible in this regard and say something along the lines of; “I would be eager to start with the firm as soon as possible, I have a 2-month notice period which I am sure I can negotiate down but I would have to speak with my Director first to determine whether that is possible.” This shows flexibly; you can adopt this principle to almost any question
4. Remuneration - Last but certainly not least – never speak about salary, this is usually something your recruiter would handle. You certainly don’t want to under sell yourself with a low figure or scare off an employer if the figure is too high. I always suggest candidates revert to me on this point. If questions on salary expectations in an interview setting, something along the lines of “If things progress it will be something I will discuss with my agent, but I would be open depending on the level you are looking to bring me in at” would typically suffice. This way your recruiter can negotiate a salary you are happy with at a later stage.
Ending an interview
At the end of every interview ensure you have discovered all you want to know about the employer, role or firm itself. Ask your interviewer if they have any other questions for you and then thank them for their time.
Call or email your recruiter straight after the interview for a debrief, let them know how things went and the sort of questions they asked you. This is usually a good time to raise any questions or queries that might not have been addressed in the interview; your recruiter can then speak with the firm to get feedback and raise those points with them.
If you remember these few simple pointers, the experience of being stuck in a room with strangers asking you questions can certainly be less daunting!
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