Congratulations, you got the job!
That’s the result we all want after an interview. So, how do you get there?
In my 13+ years as a legal recruitment consultant, I have mentored and guided the lawyers I work with to prepare them for every interview, whether it’s a casual coffee meeting or a more formal conversation. Legal recruitment is a fast-paced industry and I’ve set up thousands of lawyers interviews and heard all kinds of feedback from Partners, Directors of Professional Development and Recruitment, CEO’s and General Counsel afterwards. Some good….others not so good!
Here are my top 7 interview tips based on what I have seen:
1. Strive to create an authentic connection
Its pretty basic advice. Get to know the company or law firm ahead of time: research their website, the interviewer’s bios and the news sections; google current articles in the legal press (Canadian Lawyer, Lexpert, the Legal Post etc) to find out what’s new for them. Focus on learning about the people you are meeting:
- What’s their specialty and who are their clients?
- What deals are they currently on?
- Any recent awards, notable cases or big transactions?
- Review them on LinkedIn: where did they practise previously, were they recently promoted, do you know people in common? Could you ask those people for advice on how best to connect with the interviewer?
- What insights can your legal recruiter share about them?
- Check social media to see their interests; who do they follow, read their recent posts and comments on articles that interested them.
- Review their website bios especially the personal piece at the end which often starts “outside of work you can find me…” Do you share a sporting interest? Both have 6 kids? Love mountain biking?
All this research helps you find common ground that you can build on to create rapport and establish a connection with that person.
2. Be curious and engaged
Ask questions about the role designed to take the conversation beyond the basics in the job description:
- What are the real challenges of this role?
- What size are your deal teams?
- How is work allocated?
- What are your expectations in terms of performance?
- What sort of growth do you foresee for the company in the next 5 years?
- What could I prioritize in the first 6 months that would help ease current workload?
- What kind of support does your firm offer for marketing and client development opportunities?
- What does the path to partnership look like?
3. Show your technical ability, with appropriate confidence
Always prepare for a technical interview. No-one wants to hear a rambling trip through your career history, its about being able to pull out defining moments which highlight your positive influence and the resulting successful outcomes. Identify three “success stories” from the past 12-18 months which best illustrate your expertise, skills and knowledge
- Select carefully, you only want matters which are relevant to the role you are being interviewed for.
- Go into detail and answer questions directly. The ease with which you can do this demonstrates a good depth of technical knowledge in your practise area.
- Discuss relevant recent developments or big deals in your practise are, this shows how current your technical knowledge is.
Ideally these success stories will also highlight soft skills; such as how you handled a difficult client, or perhaps your effective cross-cultural communication minimized conflict, or your adaptability to new information allowed the team to re-prioritize and go in a different direction.
The goal here is to offer good evidence of your best achievements. If you’ve done your preparation properly, you will feel appropriately confident and it will show. This confidence is one of the hallmarks of a star candidate.
4. Communicate your Leadership style
For roles with a leadership component, think about how to best convey your own management style:
- How do you motivate people?
- How do you provide direction?
Be ready to describe a situation where you created and implemented a strategic plan with successful results. Go into detail on the positive results you achieved.
5. Show this is a good cultural fit
Engage your emotional intelligence to show genuine interest, empathy and enthusiasm for their culture. Ask open questions to encourage the interviewer to expand on their people, work environment and atmosphere
- What’s the environment like?
- How would you describe the approach to work here? Is it collaborative or hierarchical?
- How does the organization foster the culture you’ve just described?
Most importantly, don’t interrupt, give them the floor. Listen attentively, be curious and take opportunities to identify parallels and show how you could be positively contributing to their culture.
6. Let others highlight your worth
Be ready to provide positive comment from partners, clients or co-workers on their experiences of you.
Refer to recent performance reviews or appraisals. Interviewers put great stock in hearing strong supportive references from peers. It gives comfort to learn that respected legal professionals have enjoyed working with you and rate your work product highly. This confirms the interviewers growing assessment that you would add value to their team.
Hearing these positive comments from a third party rounds out your credibility and your reputation without making you sound over-confident, conceited or self-important. You want to strike the right note, confident, impressive, yet humble.
7. Showcase how your strengths deliver great results
Interviewers often ask about strengths and weaknesses. Prepare 3 strengths to talk about and support each one with a “you in action” story of how this strength produced a great result. Be relevant i.e.: if you are a Partner interviewing with a firm where you will be taking over key client relationships, you should be highlighting your strong client engagements skills and providing an example of attracting and then retaining a new client or perhaps taking over a rocky relationship and nurturing it successfully.
Keep in mind, employers usually want to hire people who can grow into a more challenging or senior role in the future. Highlight strengths which also demonstrate your potential.
You should also prepare one or two weaknesses to discuss and be ready to share the example as a learning experience for you. Give detail on what you could have done better and how your learning agility in this area has strengthened your capabilities. Add positive comment you have received from others on this improved aspect of you to show how you learned and grew from the experience.