8 key legal interview tips

how to succeed in a legal interview

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking and daunting but if you follow our top tips you won’t go far wrong.

Your CV will form the basis of the interview discussion so it’s important you can talk at length about everything you’ve done. In particular, expect to talk about each individual transaction – so if you say you have worked on an acquisition of a property or asset valued at several million pounds, expect the interviewer to go into minute detail about it.

Research the business

Before you go to the interview, spend several hours thoroughly researching the business. Don’t leave this until the night before as you may not be able to get the information you need first time round.

You should know about recent financial updates and the basic country/office count, which you should be able to get direct from the company website. But you should also read recent press articles, legal journals and the company’s own social media output to add some depth to your knowledge. You may also be able to pick up some ideas for questions at the end of the meeting. 

For in-house jobs, employers will want you to know exactly what the business does and how it operates so make sure you have done your research.

Be positive

Be positive about everything that you discuss in the interview, even if it’s an old boss you didn’t like. If you spend your interview complaining about your previous employers, the company will – legitimately – wonder what you will be like if they were to employ you. Employers want someone who is upbeat and willing to meet challenges head on.

It’s all in the timing

Don’t turn up for your interview too early or you may end up sitting in the reception area with little to do but get nervous. But don’t leave it too late. Aim to arrive around 10 or 15 minutes before the interview as it may take some time to get signed in and/or past security.  The interview room may also be some distance from reception. 

If you’re travelling from afar or you’re not sure how long it will take to get there, find a nearby coffee shop that you can install yourself in while you do some last minute reading through your notes. 

Leave salary negotiations to your recruiter

Don’t raise the issue of your salary at an interview unless you are asked. You should have an idea of how much the job will pay from the advertisement.  If you’re worried that your new employer may not be able to match the compensation package you have in mind, you can raise that if you’re offered the job.  Even if you’re asked, don’t give too much away as it may work against you when it comes to negotiations further down the line.

Mirror the mood of the interviewer

Line managers want someone who ‘fits’ in and is able to represent them professionally both internally and externally. With cultures varying significantly from one business to another, mirroring the mood of the interviewer is normally your safest bet. However, don’t allow yourself to be anything other than professional at all times and make sure you come across as enthusiastic about the job.

Dress appropriately

Although dressing appropriately may sound obvious, some people still get it wrong. For in-house jobs, this may vary according to industry.

However, a smart suit and trouser/skirt suit or dress and jacket if you’re a woman will be a safe bet. If you are in any doubt about what’s required, speak to your recruiter – he or she will know their client well.

Work on your key message 

Think about why you should be given the job (which isn’t the same as why you want the job) and write down three sentences that sum this up. Include some of the words or phrases used in the job description but don’t shoehorn them in unnaturally.

Aim to get your key message into at least one of your answers, but if all else fails and you’ve not been able to, do this at the end of the interview by thanking the interviewer for the chance to be considered for the job and delivering your three killer sentences. 

Preparing confident answers to common interview questions will give you the edge. Read our advice on answering interview questions.

Alternatively download our Interview Guide app (for iPhone and iPad) which featured in the Telegraph’s top 500 ‘must-have’ apps guide.


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