January 2021 marked seven years since I embarked upon my career in legal recruitment. A career which has seen highs and lows, great accomplishments, and humbling losses, but a career that is still in its infancy nevertheless, and I am reminded every day of how much I have yet to learn. Before I was a legal recruiter I worked in corporate sales, I was a broker, I have been a barman and for a very short period of time I managed to make enough money to cover two month’s rent as a “professional” musician. What is the point in all of this? Well, every step I took that led me to where I am today came with challenges, came with opportunities to learn, but before all of that there was an interview.
Interviews are sometimes awkward, sometimes feel unnatural, and can be nerve-wracking. Perhaps even more so now in the days of Zoom and Microsoft Teams! Interviews can also be thoroughly enjoyable, relaxed, and conversational. Questions can be formulaic, in some cases just outright irritating, and others may leave you scratching your head for a suitable answer that doesn’t appear to come from the textbook. Questions can also allow you to really talk about important matters, factors for change, inspirations etc.
As a specialist legal recruiter, I spend a great amount of my time guiding and coaching both aspiring and experienced lawyers through interviews with private practice law firms. While they largely follow similar formats, no two are ever the same. Now, I could launch into a cavalcade of interview hints, tips, and advice all of which would be entirely professional to the point of course, but instead allow me to tell you about my five favourite questions that are often considered annoying.
- “Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?”
What exactly are they looking for?! Do they want me to say I am a diligent, hard-working, enthusiastic, and caring person suitably qualified for the role? Of course they do, but what else? Be honest; consider your flaws and the mistakes you may have made, and how they have tempered you into the person they see before them. Talk about what drives you, what frustrates you, and how you conduct yourself personally and professionally.
- “What do you do in your spare time?”
This is one of my favourites! I can talk all day long about my band, my music, my other hobbies, my family etc. but I have learned to be succinct in doing so. The point of this question is to find out whether or not you will be like-minded with your prospective colleagues. That is not to say that you all have to sing from the same hymn sheet, but having an appreciation for a person’s passions allows you to build rapport.
- “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Honestly, nobody got this question right in 2015! All joking aside, this is a really difficult question to answer sincerely. The real answer depends on where you are now and will vary greatly between NQs and Senior Associates, Commercial Litigation Lawyers and Real Estate Lawyers, so on and so forth. One can assume that the interviewer is looking for ambition, but ambition has to match reality. So, be honest, but be aware that the situation might change based on things entirely outside of your control. Do you want to have progressed, achieved promotions, made history, started a family? There is no right answer other than to be honest. If you don’t know, say you don’t know, but that with the right opportunity your ambitions might become a lot clearer.
- “Are you a team player?”
True story, I once had a candidate who answered no. Had I been in the room my heart might have stopped! Who wants to work with someone that doesn’t play well with others? Well, to this individual’s credit they offered more than a monosyllabic retort and went on to explain how they have always been somewhat socially awkward, struggled in group tasks during education, and find that they would always be competing to stand out. They further explained that they work well alone, follow procedures to the letter and take great pride in the quality of their work but appreciate that they cannot always be a lone wolf, and so in the right environment can learn to be a team player.
- “How would your friends describe you?”
Whenever I have faced this question I have started to sweat. My friends are brilliant, but like me they all have a tendency towards humour and would not pass up an opportunity to be flippant in their response to this, even if only for a moment. So, what would my friends say about me? Well, they would probably tell you that I am the clumsiest man alive. They would probably also tell you that I am a bit of a prankster and cannot be trusted with the simplest of tasks because I am so easily distracted. They might also go on to say that I am loyal, supportive, generous, and various other superlatives that make me shine. If you are faced with this question in an interview you have no choice but to be brutally honest but bring it back to your qualities of course.
No matter where you are in your legal career; entering as an NQ or seeking a new challenge as an experienced lawyer, at some point you will have to face one or more interviews to take that next step. I hope I have offered some useful guidance around how to face interviews as a chance to show your best qualities, and of course my colleagues and I are on hand to help you and guide you through that process from start to finish should you need.
Just for fun, here is the most bizarre interview question I have ever faced: “What is the stupidest thing you have ever done?” I’ll give you the answer in my next blog.
Associate Director – Think Legal Recruitment
07720 694 701