You may be attending your first ever legal interview, or you may have already attended multiple. Whatever your situation, it’s completely normal to feel nervous about an interview, especially in this ultra-competitive legal market. However, the key to tackling interview nerves and to secure a paralegal role is to prepare as comprehensively as you can. All interviews are different and it is impossible to know exactly what you will be asked. However, I have put together some useful tips that should help you in your preparation and in turn progress your legal career.
• Research the firm
One question that you’re almost guaranteed to be asked in your interview is ‘what do you know about the firm?’ You therefore need to do some detailed research. Websites are a good starting point, but you should also gain information from other sources. For example, read legal articles and relevant news updates to really get ‘behind the scenes’ and impress your interviewers. You should also find out who will be conducting your interview and look them up on LinkedIn or Google and the firm’s website.
• Get to grips with the job specification
It’s really important that you know exactly what the role entails and what skills are needed for the position. You should read the job description through several times. An interviewer will be looking to establish whether you have the skills necessary to carry out the job and these are usually listed on the job specification. You should give specific examples that demonstrate your skills and strengths that are required for the role. Also, if you know someone who has a similar role, you should talk to them and try to get a real understanding of what the role involves on a day to day basis.
• Know the interview format
You should make sure you know the format of your interview before attending. Interview formats can be very different. For example, you may have to undertake a psychometric test or you may be asked competency based questions. Some interviews test you on points of law specific to the job role (e.g. with a case study) so obviously this would require different preparation. You may be asked to complete a test before or after your interview. It is essential that you put 100% effort into these tests and really try your best – we’ve had a number of candidates who have slipped up on this as they did not treat it as part of their interview.
• Ensure you know your CV very well
You must be prepared to be questioned on anything on your CV so make sure you know it well. You might be asked to expand on things such as reasons for leaving previous position, but try not to be negative here.
• Consider how you’d answer the more common interview questions
Obviously, it isn’t wise to try and prepare answers to repeat word by word in your interview. However, it is a good idea to consider how you’d answer some of the more typical interview questions. These may include: “tell me about yourself”, “what do you think your strengths/ weaknesses are?”. You may also be asked “why do you want this [paralegal] role?”. It’s really important not to emphasise that the paralegal role is just a “stop gap” until you secure a training contract. Remember, firms want to see a passion and commitment for that particular role!
• Be punctual
We generally advise candidates to arrive about 5-10 minutes before the interview. It is essential you know exactly where the office is so you don’t get delayed looking for it. If driving consider your parking options in advance of the day. You shouldn’t arrive too early either as this could be an inconvenience for the firm.
• Ask questions
At the end of most interviews, you will be asked: “have you got any questions?” Never say “no” as this will make it look like you are not interested. We usually advise candidates to prepare about six questions that you might want to ask. But, make sure you don’t ask something that has already been covered in the interview.
• What NOT to do
So now I have covered the key points that will help you excel in your interview. However, not all have managed this unfortunately. After chatting with my colleagues, I have listed some interview fails that we have faced over the years to highlight exactly what NOT to do in an interview…
o Turning up to one of the interviewers’ own home rather than the office, meaning that the somewhat surprised interviewer’s husband had to drive the candidate to the office. Who knows how they found this address! Remember – you should properly read your interview confirmation and know exactly where the interview is going to take place. Some law firms have two offices even in one town.
o Turning up at an interview on the wrong day/ an hour later from when it was scheduled. Again, that doesn’t look brilliant! Obviously you need to know exactly when the interview is going to be held.
o Interviewing for a role that involves managerial tasks and letting the interviewers know you have absolutely no managerial aspirations. Remember, you should know exactly what the role entails and you must demonstrate your passion for the role in the interview.
o Turning up at an interview dressed as though you’re ready for a night out on the town. Your interview is a chance to impress and you should dress smartly.
o Chewing gum throughout the course of an interview and also answering a mobile phone whilst in the interview. Remember, you must be professional.
Your interview is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd and really sell yourself. So ensure you do your preparation and leave a lasting impression.
If you need any help in preparing for your paralegal interview, please contact Emily Lonsdale on 0117 917 1868 or firstname.lastname@example.org.