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Acing a Legal Job Interview

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One of the biggest obstacles to landing a job is being able to confidently represent yourself, your skills and experience in a job interview. Cobalt’s Principal Legal Consultant, Anand Ranchhod, gives a rundown on key essentials to equip you for all aspects of an interview. 

How would you recommend candidates best prepare for a legal job interview?

It’s important to research the practice and person(s) you're interviewing with to understand what they're about and their point of difference in the market. 

When preparing, think about what skills and experience you have that align with the role then look at your CV from an employer’s perspective and think about where there are gaps that you might be asked to speak on. Have a couple of specific examples of your relevant work that you can speak to and always present yourself in the most professional manner.

What kind of detail can you expect the interviewer to go into for a legal role?

Employers will generally ask competency-based questions and questions that help them better understand how you operate in your current or previous role. You may also get behavioural questions, depending on how formal and rigorous the interview process is.

 An employer is likely to ask about:

  •  Your work experience;

  • Specific examples of the more complex work you've done and your involvement/contribution to the matter (pick relevant examples for the role you're interviewing for);

  • Why the role and practice is of interest to you; and

  • Previous positions that look left field or where you've worked in a role for a short space of time.

What is commonly a tricky question or area that the legal candidates tend to stumble on in an interview situation?

Aside from behavioural questions which are typically tricky, candidates can fail to properly explain previous moves in their career, especially roles that are left field, where there are career gaps, relocations or changing roles in a short period of time. This can sometimes lead an employer to believe a candidate doesn't have the right motivations for applying for the particular position. Explain your motivations clearly and be upfront and transparent about topics relevant to the interview. 

What is some of the best feedback you’ve heard back from a client who interviewed one of your candidates?

I once received excellent feedback on a candidate for a corporate role despite the candidate's background not being an obvious fit for the position. The candidate was intelligent and had some good experience for the position but hadn't worked in all areas required.

The candidate calmly responded to tough questions in the interview and in an honest manner. They gave relevant examples of their previous experience and, where they lacked certain experience, they demonstrated their interest in the work the firm did as well as highlighted their transferable skills.

The candidate was able to build a good rapport with all interviewers and their mature approach won them all over.

What are some of the strangest questions you have had an interviewer/client ask a candidate?

One that comes to mind is "Do you eat meat?" Just as well the candidate wasn't vegetarian or a vegan as I believe the employer was hoping for a meat eater to join the team.

What are some key skills that you think someone should have if they are wanting to have a successful career in the legal field and what are the best ways to demonstrate or show you have those key skills in a job interview?

Key skills that tend to apply across various practice areas include:

  • Attention to detail

  • Legal research

  • Writing and drafting skills

  • Communication skills

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Adaptability

Giving specific examples of how you've displayed these skills in your current role or previous role demonstrate to the interviewer that you have them or have developed the skill.

How should a candidate address a question on salary expectations in an interview?

There are a few different ways in which you can tackle a salary related question.

1) If you're on an above market salary, I recommend letting the employer know what you're currently on so they know that they'd need to match or better the salary in proceeding further with you. If the employer is unable to meet the level you're currently on, then it will at least open up the discussion. Likewise, if you're on an average market salary and comfortable disclosing what you're on that will provide an employer with a point of reference to work from.

2) Another option is providing a salary range to the employer (e.g. a $10k range) that you would consider. That way you can initially gauge if you and the employer are in the same ballpark around salary and gain control over this process.

3) If you're not sure about where you'd sit in terms of salary and are genuinely open to suggestion, you can say that you don't have a fixed view on salary and that you're happy to take an employer's lead on this. This can work in your favour but it may also leave you disappointed if you are subsequently offered a role on a salary that's not in the ballpark that you, in fact, had in mind.

As a legal recruiter, we deal with salaries on a daily basis and can provide market remuneration and advice on the best approach for your particular situation.

What are the most important interview skills that you advise candidates to work on and how can these be implemented?

Overall, the most fundamental interview skills I advise candidates to focus on are:

  1. Finding common ground and building a rapport with the interviewer(s);

  2. Answering questions clearly and articulating your thoughts well; and

  3. To research the role and practice, communicating what relevant skills and experience you have for the position.

Article written by Anand Rachhod, Principal Legal Consultant at Cobalt Recruitment. 

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