Interviews / Job market

Training contract interview checklist

Your first invitation to a training contract interview arrives and no doubt you’re feeling pretty upbeat. You’ve made it past the application stage, which is no mean feat. But don’t allow complacency – or panic – to set in and sabotage your chances.  Get yourself in the right frame of mind by following our interview checklist…

  1. Review your application form thoroughly to remind yourself of what you said and the examples you used. This is not the time to take a chance and ‘wing it’. You don’t want to feel exposed during the interview, so try to minimise the risk of any nasty surprises.
  2. The four main areas to focus on are: you, the firm, the legal sector and the world.  Cross check your evidence with the skills firms are looking for, and try to include a range of examples from your studies, work experience, extra-curricular activities, volunteering and paid employment. Check the firm’s website and use online resources such as Chambers and Partners Student Guide and Inside Buzz to dig a little deeper. Business databases available online can also help with this research. Register with LawCareers to get regular updates on the legal market as well as looking at Lawyer2B and The Law Gazette. To stay in touch with business issues globally read news feeds  (Google alerts are a good way to manage your information flow) by sector and look at websites such as The Gateway.
  3. If you know who your interviewers are, try to find out a little more about them. The more information you can glean about every aspect of the interview, the better.  ‘Personalising’ your interviewers can also make the process seem less daunting and help you build rapport on the day.  LinkedIn is a good place to start, so if you haven’t signed up now’s the time to do so. Law firms are increasingly using the power of social media to connect with students and prospective trainees; if you’re still doubtful about the benefits then you might be persuaded by this post: How to get a training contract, featured in the Law Society Gazette.
  4. Book a mock interview. Although we’re not offering a scheduled programme of mock interviews during the summer vacation, you can still arrange an interview – phone or Skype – by appointment. Check our legal sector page for handouts on interview preparation and assessment centres.
  5. Make sure you’ve got all the logistical arrangements in hand and try to pre-empt any problems that might interfere with your travel arrangements. Interviewers are not generally tolerant of lateness, unless there is a very good reason. Try to give yourself time to arrive calm and composed rather than rushed and anxious.
  6. First impressions count, so plan your outfit accordingly. Smart conservative suits or jackets work well (black, blue or grey are the safest colours). Wear comfortable shoes in case there is a tour of the office and avoid open toes or cartoon ties. An interview with a law firm is not the occasion to highlight sartorial eccentricities. Keep those firmly under wraps. You are trying to project a professional image, so one false move with hair, clothing or accessories and the interview is as good as lost.
  7. On the day give yourself a pep talk reminding yourself that you’ve already scaled a big hurdle – getting to interview. They like you and want to know more – that’s why they’ve invited you to interview.   You’ve already made a positive impression at the application stage, so this is a golden opportunity to demonstrate your potential. Follow the interview golden rule: be nice to everyone you meet in the building (and on the day) as they might all be asked for feedback.
  8. Pace yourself during the day and take time away from others if necessary. Don’t allow your fellow candidates to unsettle you; when people resort to silly mind games to acquire the upper hand, it says more about their insecurities than it does their ability. Keep the focus inwards, and only think about your performance.
  9. Firms often consider if they could introduce you to the managing partner so be professional but also natural.  They’re looking for bright, capable candidates with a professional attitude, but avoid sounding too robotic.
  10. Before going into the interview itself use any relaxation techniques that work for you. Nerves are entirely natural, and can help sharpen your focus. There is, however, a tipping point, so if you feel your stomach knotting at the mere prospect of an interview, have a look at our recent blog post on handling interview nerves.

And don’t just take our word for any of the above – have a look at this short film clip from Angus MacGregor, HR Director at Eversheds LLP:

After the interview reflect on what went well and what you would do differently next time, just in case you’re unsuccessful. If you have any concerns about your interview performance or technique, then book an appointment with one of our careers consultants to discuss in more detail. It might just be a case of a few minor changes which could spell the difference between success and failure next time round!

* This post is an updated version of one that appeared on our Law Blog last year, written by Anna Preston. Please note the Law Blog has now been closed and law related posts will feature here instead.

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