The secret to making a great impression at an interview is to turn up prepared and feeling as confident as possible. However, there is such a thing as being over-prepared – spending so many hours researching and rehearsing that it leaves you feeling stressed out about all the things you want to say. So, to get the balance right – here is a list of things that you can assume employers expect you to have prepared and are worth investing some time to think about ahead of your interview:
1. Know your CV and remember what you said in your application.
Prior to the interview, make sure you read through your cover letter, CV and any other documentation you provided, so you’re ready to elaborate on what you’ve said about your suitability for the role. If you have been sending off multiple job applications, or if a few weeks have passed since you applied for the job, then you may not have looked at your application for a while, whereas the interviewer has most likely looked at it immediately before your meeting. They may refer to things you’ve mentioned in your application and expect you to know exactly what they are referring to, so best to make sure your application is as fresh for you as it is to them.
2. Know the job you’re applying for and what excites you about the opportunity.
You’re not expected to know as much about the role or the organisation as the interviewer, but you are expected to have read, and thought about, the information you have been provided, as well as any information about the employer that you can easily access online (company websites, LinkedIn pages, media articles etc). The interviewer isn’t just assessing your ability to do the role, but also your enthusiasm and motivations for working with them and their colleagues. You can demonstrate your keen interest by showing you’ve thought about what they are seeking and how you might be a good fit for their needs. You should be able to clearly identify the specific things you’re excited to learn or do if you get this job. For a graduate level role, where your competition will likely have very similar levels of experience and skills to you, this can make all the difference.
3. Know yourself – and be ready to tell the interviewer a little bit about you.
Be prepared for one of the first questions to be something like “Tell me about yourself”. Take some time to prepare a short (4-5 dot-points) summary about you and your qualifications, how you gained the skills and experience relevant to the role and (briefly) touch on your interests or hobbies. Most importantly, DON’T say “well everything you need to know is in my CV”. The interviewer is deliberately asking this question to get a feel for how you handle open-ended questions and what you believe are the most important and relevant things about you. While there’s no right or wrong answer to this question, you should assume that the employer wants to hear clear, succinct and engaging information. When preparing for this question, also think about how you might respond to related questions like “why did you apply for this role?” and “what are your career goals?” As a graduate, you’re not expected to have fully formed or narrow views on what lies ahead in your career, but you’ll be expected to demonstrate interest and willingness to learn more about their organisation and/or area of law, so make sure your answers make this connection.
4. Know how to answer a behavioural-based interview question.
It is highly likely that at some point in your interview you’ll be asked a ‘behavioural-based’ or ‘situational’ interview question. This is when an interviewer asks you to tell them about a specific time when you have had to demonstrate a skill or attribute to achieve an outcome or result.
For example, an employer seeking someone with great organisation and time management skills may ask you to describe a time when you have had to manage multiple tasks at once, or deliver work for different people with different expectations, or cope with a heavy workload… or all of the above! Or, an employer who values digital proficiency may ask you to describe a time when you have had to quickly learn a new system or software tool and how you went about doing that.
The most important thing here is to provide a detailed example of a specific time in your life when you have done this. At the graduate level, employers are usually happy to hear about examples from your studies or employment outside of the legal sector as they are most interested in how you tackle challenges and what you’ve learned. Don’t be tempted to respond with general statements like “well, typically, how I like to manage my time is…” or “usually what I would do in that situation is…..”. This is a time for concrete examples and details.
A great way to make sure you answer these questions thoroughly is to use the STAR technique as this will help you to cover off all the information in your answer that the employer is looking for – Leo Cussen students can find detailed information about using the STAR technique in the “Interview Ready” page of the Careers module in our learning management system.
5. Do you have any questions for the interviewer? Yes, you do!
It is highly likely that at the end of an interview you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions. This is a great opportunity to further demonstrate your interest in the role, the organisation and/or the area of law on offer. In fact, employer surveys frequently report that when a candidate doesn’t ask any questions at the end of an interview they come across as uninterested. So at the end of the interview, you can choose from two types of questions to ask:
- Clarification questions about the job or information that’s been discussed – this is a way to demonstrate you have been paying attention to the discussion and would like to know more. For example, you may ask which of the practice groups in the firm you will be most likely to work with in the first six months? Or, what would a typical day look like once you have been trained up in the role? It’s also helpful to ask about what sort of training and supervision you will be provided as you are learning how to do the role. You can also ask what they would like to see you achieve in the first three months in the role, should you get the job.
- Bigger picture questions – these are the questions that demonstrate you are interested in the organisation more broadly. For example, you may ask one of the panel members how they would describe the culture of the organisation and why they enjoy working there. Or you may ask about what they feel distinguishes them from their competitors.
Go to your interview with a few insightful questions prepared, listen carefully during the interview, and, if some of those questions remain unanswered, you will be ready to go with questions that demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for learning more. If, by chance, all your questions are covered in the interview, then let the interviewer know what you had planned to ask about and acknowledge they’ve answered these during the discussion. Then, you can ask them to elaborate a little further on a topic of interest such as the organisational culture or the expectations for you in the first three months in the role. We recommend holding off asking about salary, hours of work, entitlements or paid leave unless the interviewer raises these topics first. Remember you aren’t obligated to accept an offer of employment just because you have attended an interview, so these type of questions can be addressed if and when you have received an offer and you are deciding whether to accept. You should answer questions from the interviewer about these topics honestly and clearly, but the interview is usually the time for you to show that you are most concerned about learning as much as you can about the opportunity on offer.