WHAT ARE THE RIGHT ANSWERS?
There is no ‘right’ answer per se and sometimes the best answer is something completely outside the box, something that nobody else will consider. An employer will choose criteria that you must fulfil and the interview is the chance to prove that you possess qualifications, skills and experience to meet the criteria. Such criteria will be different for each firm/organisation, but examples include:
- Drive and initiative
- Influencing skills
- Personal qualities
- Analytical skills
- Technical skills
- Organisational skills
- How your extra-curricular skills/hobbies have made you a team player, organised, reliable etc.
NB - You should back up your answers with one or two examples from your life.
ANSWERING COMPETENCY QUESTIONS
How well do you work under pressure? You should emphasise that you work as well under pressure as you do at any other time but that you prioritise tasks so that your workload is manageable. Point out your ability to leave work at the office and find time and ways to relax.
Are you applying to other companies? You need to show that you have not just been applying indiscriminately, so only mention firms/organisations with similar attributes to the one you are at an interview for. You should also demonstrate a particular interest in and commitment to that firm/organisation.
Tell me about yourself… Be prepared for open-ended questions, the interviewer not only wants to hear your answer but how you answer. This is a test of your verbal communication skills. Do not waffle or tell them your life story. Concentrate on a brief summary, recent experiences and major relevant achievements. You can then ask if they would like you to expand on any area.
What is your greatest weakness? A good approach is to admit a real weakness that does not impact on the job, then describe how you overcome it by using strengths which are relevant to the job. For example, overcoming nervousness at public speaking by extensive preparation and organisation. Be prepared for the possibility that they may ask for several weaknesses, so have several answers prepared. Rather than bring negativity to your interview consider 'allowable weaknesses'.
How would you go about generating business for the firm? The key issue when answering this question is your ability to network and have a social life outside the firm. Another issue to consider is the quality of service you provide when you secure a client, to make sure they return in the future.
Why do you want to work for us? This is something you should have thought about in your preparation. It could be the excellence of the firm/organisation, their size, their training, or their specialisation.
Try to find a fit between your strengths, values and interests and those of the firm/organisation. Try to emphasise what you can do for them, not just what they can do for you.
OTHER POINTS AN EMPLOYER MAY CONSIDER
- Your appearance - be business-like
- Whether you are a serious, committed candidate
- Whether your interest in law is genuine
- The sort of temperament/personality you reveal
- Whether you are articulate and able to think on your feet
- How you will get on with the rest of their staff
- Whether you would fit in to their particular organisational structure and culture
- Whether your responses correspond or conflict with those on your CV or application form
- Whether you use your initiative
- Whether you display intellectual, analytical and reasoning ability
- Your attitude to working alone or under supervision
- How you seem able to cope with pressure and deadlines
- Whether you are organised and able to manage your time
- How self-aware you are
- Whether you have a sense of humour
These may sound obvious but reading over five minutes before your interview may help you make the cut. A smile could be the difference between you and another candidate getting the position!
- Dress smart
- Make eye contact with your interviewer(s)
- Offer a firm handshake
- Sit upright with your arms unfolded
- Do not let your eyes wander around the room to avoid appearing uninterested and disrespectful
- Silence is ok! Do not attempt to fill silences while the interviewer is looking at your CV or a list of questions in front of them
- Listen carefully to the questions you are asked in their entirety and answer them precisely
- If you do not understand something you are asked or told, ask your interviewer(s) to explain
- Thank your interviewer(s) for seeing you, shake hands and smile. Remember to say goodbye
Remember, the firm must also use this opportunity to sell their business to you. They must ensure that you will want to work for them and not their competitor and if you have a good interview they will not want to lose you to a competitor.
At the end of the interview, the interviewer will commonly ask if you have any questions. One golden tip that we have is to ALWAYS ask a few questions. There have been instances whereby the employer could not choose between two great candidates and it came down to who asked the most genuine questions.
Things to note when preparing your questions:
- Avoid asking questions that have been answered for you in the course of the interview
- Do not ask anything you should already know from details they have sent you in the job description
- Do no ask about the salary / holidays etc
- Do not ask generic boring questions that everyone else has probably asked – again, think outside the box! What do you actually want to know about the firm?
Good topics to ask about are:
- The organisation - strategic goals, challenges they are facing, why do the interviewer(s) enjoy working there, most significant recent developments in the firm/organisation
- The working conditions - opportunities, career development, how is performance evaluated etc
- The process - what happens next, how many people are being interviewed, do they fill open positions from within the firm/organisation first
- Do they have a social committee
- How much do they promote networking / business development