Laura Phillips, Recruitment Adviser at Dentons, shares her top ten skills to ensure you nail your interview.
You may think this more of a necessary practice rather than a learnable skill, but believe me, in order to do it well it does take a certain amount of skill and technique to a) research the most relevant areas, b) relay this in an articulate and enthusiastic way and c) stand out from the crowd.
Make sure you tailor your research to the firm that you are interviewing with i.e. if you are interviewing with a firm whose strength is in corporate transactions, don't start reeling off stats about the latest intellectual property case. Make sure you are able to give an overview of the firm but don't recite the website – pick a few topics which are of particular interest to you.
And lastly, make use of the internet! It is unlikely that the only information about the firm will be on their website – Google the firm, the Partners, cases of interest etc. and be ready to relay this information in a passionate and concise manner.
Okay, so you don't have to be Kate Moss, but dressing appropriately for an interview will certainly help you along the way to the stardom of success... Be smart, professional, and wear what you would to any important client meeting i.e. don't wear what you would for a 'dress-down Friday'. That's not to say you need to be boring - it's okay to wear some colour or don some jewellery as it can help to show your personality, just don't go overboard!
I hesitate to refer to this as a skill, as it is so very basic, but being on time is an absolutely essential part of an interview. Of course there are sometimes unavoidable circumstances which will cause delays and are beyond your control, but make sure that if that situation arises you call and let the firm know what has happened. Leave half an hour earlier than you need to, plan your journey the night before and make sure you have some form of map in case you get lost!
4. Keeping calm
Whilst it may seem that nervousness is an uncontrollable emotion which appears only in the worst possible situation, there are techniques you can use to stifle this reaction and portray a seemingly calm and measured disposition to your interviewers.
Try swapping the pre-interview caffeine shots for camomile tea, take some exercise the morning of the interview and whilst in the reception area, try concentrating on your breathing rather than ruffling through your last minute research (which FYI you are extremely unlikely to be able to retain if that's the first time you have looked at it).
5. A firm handshake
You have probably been told this millions of times, read about it in many articles similar to this one and had it drilled into you by your parents when going for your first job. However, for some reason, candidates regularly fail on this simple but imperative task. Stand up straight, smile, shake the interviewer's hand confidently and firmly (don't crush it) and then start exchanging pleasantries.
6. Ability to summarise
Whilst interviewers are interested in your career history and would like to understand your personality, they are unlikely to want to hear about your favourite nightclub at university, how your colleague likes their tea or what your housemates are like.
When they ask you about a certain period or experience in your life, make sure you stick to the relevant points. Expand where you feel the interviewer would benefit knowing more about that subject, and keep other descriptions short and to the point.
We are constantly communicating with different people every day, whether this be in the form of hand signals, gesturing to the grumpy commuters to move down the train, chattering with your friends over the phone or whatsapp, formal talk with colleagues/employees etc, yet communication in the context of an interview can be very difficult to get right.
You want to be seen as confident but not cocky, assertive but not bossy, friendly but professional and trying to get this balance right can seem exhausting and an almost impossible feat. However, the main thing to remember is not to overthink things - focus on answering the questions articulately, building rapport with the interviewers through eye contact, smiling, listening and reacting to their dialogue, and behaving in an appropriate and professional manner.
Hopefully this is a pre-existing skill, but making use of your smile during an interview can work wonders for building rapport and expressing your personality. You don't want to be referred to as the Cheshire cat, but a smile every now and then (at an appropriate time) will instantly make you more likeable and show the interviewers you are a friendly, positive person who is fun to be around.
9. Questions at the end
There is a definite skill in asking the right questions and having the ability to use this section of the interview to convey your passion and interest in the role. Make sure you ask a range of questions which focus on different areas, such as: points you wish to clarify which were touched upon during the interview, topics which haven't been discussed during the interview but which you came across during your research, questions about the background of the interviewers (which you may have seen snippets of when looking at their Linkedin profiles) and opportunities for progression.
Steer clear of salary, benefits, holiday etc. or anything which makes you look like all you want is an easy life!
10. Behaviour at the end of the interview
Remember, the interview doesn't end until you leave the building. Remain professional, calm and friendly and thank the interviewers for their time, leaving on a firm handshake and smile. Then sit back, relax, and wait for the offers to fly in!
To find out more about opportunities at Dentons, check out their profile here.