Interview preparation is essential no matter what your level of experience and greatly enhances your chances of performing well. This interview guide aims to assist in all aspects of an initial and subsequent interviews with the firm or organisation.

First, ensure you have a detailed understanding of the role, the team in which it sits and the employer organisation – ask your consultant questions, research on the web and use your own contacts. Google is a wonderful thing -look up annual reports, media releases and even blogs to help understand its reputation as an employer, financial situation, products/services, size, locations, and expansion opportunities. When in the interview, follow the interviewers leads initially but early on try to get the interviewer to describe the role and duties to refine your understanding of the role.

Review your resume/experience and matter list, paying particular attention to items of relevance to the role, the organisation and position description. Your ability to present a detailed understanding of these elements in an interview, in both an answer and discussion format will be critical to demonstrating your capability to do the job.

Refresh your memory regarding details of present and past employers, matters worked on and reporting lines. You will be expected to know a lot about a company or firm for whom you have previously worked and even the people you have worked with. Be careful though to walk a fine line between discussing a company or supervisor’ positive traits and being drawn into negative gossip even if you are prompted. This can be a standard interviewing technique to evaluate your discretion.

Confidence is key. Be prepared to communicate why this role appeals to you and why the employer should consider you for it and what you can offer. You’ll need to be able to sell yourself and be confident in your abilities to do the role and to up-skill if required.

Prepare questions to ask during the interview. This is how you’ll be able to determine whether the organisation will give you the opportunity for the growth and development you’re looking for, just as they are trying to determine whether you are the right person for the role.

Never ask about pay, holidays, bonuses etc. Either wait for this to be brought up by the interviewer or wait until the offer stage. This is ideally a matter for your consultant to handle and is certainly not something for you to raise at a first interview.

Finally, this is elementary, but make sure you know the exact time and place of the interview, the interviewer’ full name, correct pronunciation, and his/her title. And never ever be late -Plan to arrive 10 minutes early.

First Impressions

Dress sharp. People will always see you before they get a chance to hear you, an interview starts the moment you enter the room.

Ask yourself, does your dress style support or sabotage your talents? Are you wearing your best shirt, suit, dress etc? Are your shoes polished? Is your collar pressed? If your shirt is a little old, go buy a new one. Your presence is never neutral. If you’re a male, wear a tie. Our advice is don’t go open necked to the first interview. Always take the conservative approach – it’ all about presenting you as not only the smart option but also the safe option. You can always lose the tie for the second interview if the interviewer doesn’t have one for the first.

When greeting, it’s extremely important to have a firm handshake, give solid eye contact and greet with a smile to get an interview off to a good start.

If you’re shown into a room, never take the seat closest to the door with your back to whoever enters. If the interviewer comes in after you, stand-up to greet them when they enter and shake their hand. If other interviewers come in later do like wise. Never greet whilst seated.

In the Interview

Competency or behavioural-based interviews are one of the most common styles of interviewing. These require you to draw on your past experience in particular matters or situations in order demonstrate areas of competency.

The most effective way of structuring your answers to behavioural-based questions and indeed many questions that you will get throughout the interview process is by using the “MTR” technique:

Matter: Briefly describe the background to the matter you were advising on or situation you were in.

Task: Specifically describe the responsibility you had in that matter and detail what actions you took and tasks you completed in that matter/situation.

Result: Describe the outcome of your actions. Try to always have a positive result.

Here is an excellent answer to a competency-based question that is testing your client relationship, problem solving, commerciality and teamwork skills.

Question: “Describe a difficult matter that you worked on”

Answer: “In one instance, when I was working on secondment at Infrastructure Company X, the sales team were putting together a bid for a large piece of work and the in-house lawyer that normally helps them was on leave. I offered to help them and worked intensively with the bid team over three weeks to ensure the tender complied with the companies risk matrix. The Sales Director was being quite difficult and didn’t fully understand the risk associated with some elements of the bid and I ended up sitting down with him over a intensive 24 hour period and taking him through the companies potential exposure in clear detail and worked out another solution whereby we could still achieve the organisations commercial objectives but within an acceptable risk profile. From a shaky start the Sales Director was enormously complimentary of my work and I was quite proud of my ability to contribute commercially as well as legally to the bid and be a facilitator. As it turned out we won the bid and my secondment was extended. A letter of commendation was also sent to my supervising Partner.”

You may be required to provide between one and three real-life examples to validate one particular competence.

Be prepared with answers and supporting examples to standard questions such as:

  • What interests you about our product/service/firm?
  • What do you know of our organisation?
  • What are your career aspirations/plans for the future?
  • Why do you want to work for our firm/company?
  • Why are you looking to leave your current role?
  • Of your previous roles/jobs/matters worked on, which did you enjoy most and why? (Make it relevant to the role you are interviewing for)
  • How have you managed conflict in the past? Again be careful not to be drawn into personality issues you had with past supervisors, or anything that wasn’t successfully managed. Don’t give the car crash version. Have answers prepared for conflicts with clients, opponents and internally, all of course resolved through your excellent use of diplomacy…
  • Give examples of difficult matters acted upon, complex pieces of advice given
  • Describe what you have done in a matter or situation that shows your initiative
  • What are your weaknesses? Your strengths? Prepare for this one. Everyone knows it’s coming but surprisingly few people prepare for it. Please don’t use ‘I work too hard’ or any of the other cliché answers. Try and be refreshing and keep your interviewer engaged. Think of something honest but something that could double as a strength or that you are working on to demonstrate your self awareness
  • What style of management gets the best from you?
  • What have been your major achievements to date?
  • What matters would you like to bring to their attention?

Remember that you are being interviewed because the interviewer wants to hire somebody -it’ not a cross-examination where they are trying to trip you up. Try and give as much information as possible to any questions and be clear and honest. Lawyers can too easily fall into the trap of second guessing where the interviewer is going – try not to think about it too much and treat it as an open conversation. Don’t be monosyllabic. Give the interviewer some material to work with.

Always present as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing and where appropriate never close the door on an opportunity. It is better to be in the position where you can choose from a number of jobs rather than only one.

If you get the impression that the interview is not going well and that you have already been rejected don’t show discouragement. Once in a while an interviewer who is generally interested in your possibilities may seek to discourage you in order to test your reaction or elicit a counter point from you.

Your Questions

It is critical to also ask questions during the interview. Not only to assist you in determining whether the company will give you the opportunity for the growth and development you’re looking for, but to demonstrate your interest in the role and your knowledge of the organisation. Having said this, try and leave any ‘harder’ questions for the second interview. Here the interview psychology is a little different and you’re likely to get more detailed responses from the employer. Given you are in a second interview, you have already impressed them in the first interview and they are more likely to receive and respond to your questions candidly.

Here’ some examples of questions you might like to ask:

  • Why is the position available?
  • What are you looking for in applicants?
  • What would a normal day in this role look like – what would my workflows/matter lists be like daily or over the month and what are my target billables?
  • What administrative support is available? – Be careful how you respond to the answer with this – sometimes in-house administrative support can be minimal
  • How would you describe your organisational culture and your group culture?
  • What sorts of people have done well in this team/organisation? What qualities did they have?
  • What are the reporting lines and group structure?
  • How is the company positioned against its competitors – what are your challenges at the moment with competitors and the market and what is your vision for the future?
  • Are there any plans for growth or expansion?
  • What sort of induction and general training do you offer?
  • How well do you think I match the requirements of the role?

General Tips

  • Smile and maintain eye contact when answering questions
  • Be positive and confident in your delivery
  • Don’t fidget
  • Maintain good posture – don’t cross your arms and sit upright in your chair. Body language is very important. Don’t forget to smile
  • Use the MTR technique to structure your answers in a concise, yet detailed way that will be readily digestible to the interviewer
  • Follow the interviewers’ leads
  • Don’t over-answer questions or make your responses too complicated
  • If you are asked if you are interviewing elsewhere, be honest, however after answering reconfirm your interest in the present role. Never convey that anyone is a ‘back-up’ or number two.

Closing the Interview

If you’re interested in the position, make sure you make this clear to the interviewer and tell them. At the conclusion, thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration of you and feel free to ask what the next steps are.

After the Interview

It is critical that you call the recruitment consultant who referred you to the position as soon as you can after the interview. Describe how the interview went. The consultant will want to talk with you before the interviewer calls so that they are able to clarify any issues that may come up, emphasise any particular points and areas of experience and maintain momentum if you are interested in progressing.


We hope that this interview guide has been of use. If you have any further questions about preparing for an interview, contact us.