How To Prepare For Interviews & Control Your Nerves

Interview PreparationSo you’ve landed yourself an interview for a training contract, vacation scheme or paralegal role – well done!

However, you may have found that the initial elation has now turned to panic.

Trust me, you are not alone.

The important thing to remember, however, is that its completely normal to be feeling like a bundle of nerves as the big day approaches.

Your Essential Guide To Interview Prep

Here is a quick guide to ensure you stay calm enough before, and during, the interview so that you land the job.

Before the interview

Remember the positives…

Before you start preparing, give yourself a pat on the back.

You’ve beaten off many other applicants to be in this position.

Mentally prepare

Don’t lose focus of your goal.

You need to prove to the firm that you are their perfect trainee – and you only have a short time to do so.

  • Do a thorough review of your application form or CV and covering letter (you did keep a copy didn’t you?).
  • Consider what key skills the firm is looking for in a trainee by reading over the job description and doing thorough research of their website and their listings on all the law career websites.
  • Be thinking of examples of how you have demonstrated the key skills your research has unearthed.
  • Think about the key questions the firm will be interested in such as:
    • Why law?
    • Why a solicitor?
    • Why this firm?
    • Why you?
  • Brainstorm what you can say to these questions so as to be as convincing as possible.
  • Do NOT script your answers – instead come up with bullet points that can provide guidance to your answers or help if a conversation develops around these subjects. Scripted answers rarely impress a recruiter sufficiently.
  • Predict questions specific to you: if your CV is lacking in a certain area or your grades aren’t consistent be prepared for the interviewer to pick up on this.

Research the firm

This is vital to show the firm why you want to work for them.

  • Look at their website: particularly pay attention to any news or latest updates and what competencies they are looking for in their trainees.
  • Legal directories: search websites and publications such as Legal500 and Chambers & Partners to gain an insight into the work of the firm.
  • Legal research tools: use a tool such as LexisNexis to run a search across the firm’s name and find some of their key cases.
  • Research law career websites such as Lawcareers.net and Chambers Student to find out about the firm’s training contract and what its like to train there.

Rehearse

Try to go through a mock interview with someone to get an idea of what to expect.

  • Ums/Ahs: it’s very easy to slip these in when trying to think of an answer. Try taking a sip of water or a deep breath instead.
  • Eye contact and body language: maintain eye contact to keep the interviewer engaged and be conscious of posture and fiddly hands.
  • Check your speed – there is a tendency to speak quickly when nervous. Be conscious of this and try to slow down – it will make you appear more confident.

Plan your journey

Don’t stress about turning up late.

  • Check your journey: make sure you know exactly how you are going to get to the venue. Do a trial run at the same time on another day if you can.
  • Print a map: as a back up to that navigation app on your smartphone, in case you lose network.

Physically prepare

Remember first impressions count – you have to show them you can look like a lawyer.

  • Never leave it until the last minute to prepare your outfit.
  • Make sure your clothes are cleaned, ironed and ready the night before.
  • Dress smartly and appropriately: keep it smart, conservative and comfortable. Casual shoes, sky-high heels and mini-skirts are a no-no.

Relax

Just before you sleep, try the following.

  • Hot drink and relaxing bath: proven to relax your muscles and will help you to sleep better. Avoid alcohol or, at the most, have only one drink.
  • Distract yourself: read a few pages of a book or listen to some calming music. You won’t be able to sleep with thoughts of the interview running through your head. Avoid using your laptop or mobile phone before bed, as these are known to affect your sleep.

At the interview

If you’ve prepared well you will arrive at the office looking smart and prepared, with a few minutes to spare.

These minutes are crucial – don’t get yourself worked up. Make sure you use the bathroom if you need to and stay calm.

  • Smile: this shows that you are confident and will help you to ease yourself into the questions.
  • Don’t be scared: most interviewers want you to do well and are not trying to trip you up.
  • Deep breaths and water: remember to take your time when speaking. If you get stuck or feel your mouth going dry, take a minute to have a sip of water or a deep breath and compose yourself.
  • Questions for them: do ask questions that you genuinely want to know the answers to but make sure the answers to these questions are not already available on the firm’s website or elsewhere. Avoid asking about the salary.
  • At the end of the interview shake hands, make eye contact, say thank you, and smile.

After the interview

It’s all over and whatever happened you will have survived.

Remember, you have done your best – now it is up to the interviewer to make up their mind.

Do not dwell on your answers and what you could have done better.

Write some notes on the questions asked, your answers and where you thought you did well or you struggled.

You can refer to these in future if you need to.

If you do not get offered the training contract, always request feedback and think of how you can improve next time.

Good luck!

Image: Alex France

Assessment Centre Advice

If you’re facing an Assessment Centre as part of the interview process you must know what to expect and have practiced some of the tests and exercises you may be given. For everything you need to know to succeed at law firm Assessment Centres check out our blog post series: TSS Assessment Centre Clinic.

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