Application Advice: "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail"

The above quotation from Benjamin Franklin may seem to set quite a strong tone for this blog particularly when it is about interview preparation tips.  However, the message we hope you get out of this blog is that there is no reason to panic at the prospect of a formal interview, particularly if one prepares properly.

First of all we’ll cover some basics about the interview itself. 

The thing to remember is that an interview is not an exam, nor is it about trying to trip you up.  Rather it is an opportunity for the firm to get to know you. That means getting to know the real you rather than ‘the you that you think they want to see’ – it’s possible to not be yourself for an interview but harder for two weeks on a vac scheme and nigh on impossible to hide your true self throughout a two year training contract and beyond!

There are things that everyone can do that can get any interview off to a good start. Dressing well (keep it smart and simple) and being positive – a genuine smile and enthusiasm are your biggest allies. No one is expecting you to be the finished article capable of running transactions or arguing points of law like a pro, but showing you are keen to learn these skills is crucial.

Mr Franklin at this point would be yelling that we have started this (hopefully) informative diatribe at the end. Interview success or failure can be pretty much guaranteed by good preparation or a lack thereof. This can take many forms but some that I would advocate as being particularly helpful are:

1. Know what the interviewer is looking for

You wouldn’t start revising for an exam without knowing what was on the syllabus, yet many interviewees prepare for an interview without looking at the criteria they are to be assessed against. Like most firms, Pinsent Masons publishes this information in order to help you prepare. Look through the competencies on the website (under ‘what are we looking for’) and ensure you are able to demonstrate the skills with examples where appropriate.This will take a lot of uncertainty out of the process and you will be better equipped to direct your answers appropriately. If you can find out who will be interviewing you in advance of the interview so much the better.

2. Try to undertake a mock interview

Anybody will do as long as you keep it serious and receive honest feedback. Knowing your stuff and being able to communicate it effectively are distinct skills and you will need both in order to be successful. Plus it may reveal traits that you are unaware of, such as, playing with jewellery or hair, clicking pen lids, not making eye contact when asked a question – often these are things you never knew you did.

3. Know the firm well

This does not mean knowing every word of the website, but it does mean knowing what areas of law the firm practices, the locations and the market within which the firm works. If you are applying to a multi-site firm make sure you know what specialisms the office you are applying to offers.

4. Know your application well

Its contents are often the only source of information that the interviewer has about you.  Not knowing your own application form is arguably the biggest faux pas one can make…bar getting the name of the firm wrong (that last mishap happens more often than you might think). Look back over the examples you used and think about what you might add if you were probed about them further.

5. Logistics

Don’t get caught out on the day of the interview, especially at this time of year when the weather can cause havoc with public transport. Make sure you have planned your route (why not print off a map to take with you); left extra time in case of delays and; you have made a note of the contact details for the person organising the event in case you are running late.

We appreciate that this was a very quick canter through some hints and tips, but we do hope you found it helpful and would welcome any comments you may have.

Good luck!

Tom Clough & Louise Norbury.