Not interviewed since your training contract or not getting invited back after first interviews? My 6 Top Interviewing Skills for Lawyers are for you!
Interviewing can be a puzzling, if not daunting, process particularly if you’re not clear on how to come across or what to ask. Most lawyers are unlikely to have had any kind of interview skills training and even if you have, it will have been generic and not tailored to you or your style.
You may think that it’s all about getting the employer to want to hire you, but that will only happen if everything else in your interview is aligned. Lawyers often ask me how to create a positive impression at interviews and, while this is undoubtedly important, it’s also key that you realise you’re interviewing them too!
So, rather than thinking you need interviewing skills training, read my top 6 tips to help you land your next role.
Tip #1: Make a strong start
The key to getting an interviewer onside quickly is to plan how you open the interview. The primacy and recency effect means that we tend to remember the first and last thing we hear so a strong start is essential in creating the favourable initial impression.
Whether you’re meeting in person or interviewing remotely, make sure you show your hands early on. Research has shown that by showing our hands we transmit unconsciously that we’re not a threat.
Then be clear how you want to answer the first question which will be some version of “Why are you sitting here talking to us today?”
I recommend three parts to your answer:
Tip #2: Remember, you’re the only one who really knows your story
One of the biggest worries lawyers have about interviewing is that they don’t know how to talk about themselves in a compelling way. They either don’t know what makes them different from others, or they’ve had a knock-back and they’re not sure how to talk about that without it reflecting badly on them.
First up, please remember you’re being interviewed because the hiring manager or partner is interested in meeting you – they see potential in your application. Let’s face it, they’re all busy and interviewing is a time expense rather than profit (at least in the short term). They’re not likely to want to waste their time meeting someone who, on the face of it, doesn’t look like a promising candidate. So, the door is already ajar.
Now, it’s up to you to tell your story in a way that feels authentic to you and highlights the benefits to the organisation of hiring you.
No one needs to know you were made redundant or that you left your last job because of a toxic work environment. Or maybe you don’t know how to explain you’re moving because there are no promotion prospects with your current employer without it sounding like you aren’t good enough.
Let me reassure you: there’s always a way to tell your story to focus on what you’ve learned and the value you bring.
Tip #3: Create a personal connection with the organisation you’re interviewing with
It’s part of our human wiring that we like people who like the same things we do. It’s the ‘similar-to-me’ cognitive bias. So if you show that you have a personal connection with the organisation, you may sway the interviewers in your favour.
For example, you may have an example of how you have supported a good cause in a similar way to this employer. Or you have worked in one of the organisation’s main markets and can talk about the business culture there.
When your interviewers tell you about the role and their culture, add to the discussions with your own experience of something similar.
Tip #4: Don’t dive straight into answering a question – signpost the points you’re making
Many candidates slavishly follow the STAR structure (Situation – Task – Action – Result) which can sound stilted and awkward. I’m not against using this technique, but I find that candidates who make it easy for their interviewers to follow their answers are definitely at an advantage.
Give a one line summary of what you’re going to talk about so that the interviewers follow the narrative of your answer more easily.
For example, if you’re answering a question which tests your client handling skills, you might start out by saying, “I preserved the trusted advisor relationship with a major client when they fell out with one of their contractors which could have lost them an important contract.” You can then go on by talking through STAR and the interviewer will know where your answer is headed even if you go a bit off-track.
Tip #5: Ask questions that uncover what’s important to the interviewer
You may have read that it’s a good idea to leave the interview having addressed any concerns the interviewer may have. Asking questions like, “Do you have any concerns about my fit for this role?” or “Is there any experience that you’d want the successful candidate to have that you don’t see on my CV?” is not the way to go. The last thing you want is to have the interviewer think up reasons they don’t want to offer you the role just before the end of the interview!
However, I understand why a candidate might ask questions like these – they want to ensure they’ve covered off any doubts in the mind of the interviewer. But there’s a much better way to do this.
Ask the interviewer what they consider to be the key skills and qualities of the successful candidate. If you can do this as you go through the interview, so much the better - it will feel conversational. But don’t worry if you only get to ask questions at the end.
This, in my experience, is a killer question: “If you imagine looking back over the first year that the successful person has been in position, what will they have done that shows you appointed the right person for the role?”
Tip #6: Have a strong ending
We’ve already talked about the importance of starting strong. Because of the primacy and recency effect, it’s equally important to have a strong ending. Confirm your interest in the position and the reason why.
“Thanks for meeting me today. It’s been really interesting hearing about your vision for this role, especially [add a couple of the aspects that have impressed you]. Speaking with you has definitely confirmed my interest in working with you, particularly since it would offer me the chance to bring my experience of X while developing my skills in Y.”
If your interviewers haven’t talked about next steps, then make sure you ask. There’s nothing worse than being excited about a role and then being left hanging waiting for news.
These 6 top interviewing tips will help to set you apart from other candidates, and remember that if you feel you’d benefit from interview coaching for lawyers, then you may be interested in my “Ace Your Interview” short course coaching.
If you're looking to transform your legal career for the long term, then check out my Lawyers Career Mastermind® , a high-touch, holistic career development programme.
Categories: Interviewing skills