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The Job Interview: It’s not that bad if you’re prepared

by on July 14, 2010

Yes, every interview is going to be more or less the same within any particular profession and this is especially true in the legal industry.  However, there are differences in interviewers, each with their own particular style.  The bottom line is that, in one way or another, each interviewer is trying to answer a few basic questions for themselves. Can you do the job based on your level of experience? Do you really want the position or are you perhaps just “seeing what’s out there”? Are you a good fit for the job and the organization?

    Some interviewers may use a more casual style, but most will have a solid format that they follow and they will ask specifically ‘targeted’ questions to get a feel for who you are, what you’ve accomplished and what you can bring to the role in question.  Below are some of the most commonly covered topics and questions, and strategies for giving “good” answers.

    1. Tell me a little bit about yourself

    This is usually used as an opening question and you do need to proceed with caution because this is the perfect opportunity for you to start rambling and cast doubt on your ability to give concise yet  informative response. Depending on your career stage it should take 2-4 minutes and include the “highlights” (and lowlights) and be predominately focused on your professional career although include significant personal events and experiences if they have impacted on your career. You can also start with ‘where would you like me to start?’ so to get an idea of what they are really interested in.

    2. Can you give me an example of your key strengths?

    In almost every interview a question about your key strengths or skills will arise. Whether or not you are in job seeking mode you should know how and why you are different and (preferably) stronger than your contemporaries. This is not where you brag.  It’s simply where you get a chance to present yourself in the best light that you can.

    3. What are some things you are passionate about?

    Do not say “The law.”  Well, if you are applying for pro bono job assisting underprivileged children, then that is a perfectly acceptable response.  But if you are looking for an associate job at a large international firm most Interviewers are going to be a bit skeptical if that’s the first thing you say.  Of course they want someone who is passionate about their job, and you should make the point that you are passionate about work and about being the best you can be, but that you do have a special passion outside work in whatever area this may be.

    4. What would have done differently in your old job?

    This is a chance to outline mistakes you may have made or lost opportunities and often it’s prudent to do so. You can portray your human side but ensure that your observations don’t portray you as negligent or careless. It’s a delicate question and requires a well considered answer but the ability to be humble when the occasion calls for it is an oft underrated quality.

    5.  So, what the reason you left your previous company to go to your current one?

    Employers are looking for new hires that make well-considered logical decisions and career moves can be indicative of one’s broader behavior. They will like the fact that you made a considered move to gain broader skills. Increasingly employers are rejecting candidates who’s motives have been purely financial. If you have a series of quick moves on your resume, you need to be prepared to provide some logical reasons.

    6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

    Saying you want to gain experience so you can then pursue your entrepreneurial dreams is not recommended.  You should simply have a fairly straightforward career plan, but are open to the idea that career plans can change.  You should know what skills you wish to develop and how this translates in terms of job title and company and sector. Having a medium term career plan again reinforces the fact that you are a stable and ‘considered’ individual.

    6.  How do you get along with your boss.

    This is not the time to trash him or her.  If you have legitimate problems with your current boss, one of the best ways to get through this question is to talk about a previous boss that you got along well with and simply compare and contrast their styles, highlighting the fact that the problem is more about management style than personality.  The interview itself will portray much of what the interviewer wants to know about your personal and social skills but you should be able to describe your relationship with your manager and contemporaries and if relevant subordinates. If you do have an issue then you need to provide a balanced rather than a one sided assessment.

    Whichever questions the interviewer asks, they wish to form an impression of you as a capable, ambitious and a likable person. This is true however senior, junior, specialist or generalist the role. In all your responses you need to provide answers that accurately portray yourself in that way. Thinking about the answers you may give prior to your interview will be a valuable investment.

    For more tips on how you can maximize your potential in your job search, please visit us at Law Alliance.

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