Law Firm Interview Tips
Interviews are always a tricky business.
How does one put across five years of hard work, diligent planning and personal growth through two pieces of paper and a ten minute interaction with a complete stranger?
Especially if you are trying to get into the corporate legal industry, where your career depends on how well you express yourself in those ten minutes, it gets even more difficult.
Understanding this fact is the first step towards a successful interview.
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Fact: It is practically impossible to communicate what you have done, and what you are capable of in such a short span of time.
Hence, you need to improvise. You need to put only your face cards on the table right away.
For starters, the way you dress makes a significant difference on how your interview is going to be. Imagine you are watching a motion picture. The script is excellent, the story is beautiful, but the camera work is really shoddy.
The end result? You get a headache from a meaningless deluge of images.
That’s exactly what an interviewer would feel if you present yourself in an unprofessional manner.
It need not be over the top, with you wearing an overtly expensive suit and flashing your newly bought Rolex. But it is imperative that you go into the interview room looking smart and presentable. A well-dressed person will always be taken seriously at first sight.
Now that you have overcome the first hurdle, it’s time for the interviewer to look into your resume. What you need to understand is that this is neither the first nor the last resume that he/she is going to look into.
He/she is impatient, trying to fill a vacancy in his/her organisation as soon as possible. Thus, it is imperative that your resume needs to look presentable. It should be completely devoid of all formatting errors.
Even if your resume does not list down internships in the most illustrious firms, it is important it is properly drafted.
The easiest way to do this is to take the hard copy of your resume and ask someone else to proof read it for you.
As you are too engrossed in the substantive part of the document, there are high chances that these little things would skip your mind.
The most important feature of a resume is what can be referred to as “The Flow Of Experience”.
A firm or a company shall be willing to hire you only if you are suitable for the job description that you have applied for. Thus, the nature of work you have done in your internships or your previous jobs has to be in sync with the nature of work you are supposed to do as an employee or an associate in the present organisation.
When a prospective recruiter looks into your resume, he/she is looking for experience in a specific area of practice, for which the vacancy is available in his/her organisation.
For example, if Firm A’s predominant area of practice is insurance law, the interviewer would be looking for your work experience in various internships and previous jobs in the same area of law.
Thus, it is advisable to shape and structure you resume in tandem with the place where you have applied.
If you are applying in a corporate law firm whose predominant area of practice is in the securities market, then it is advisable to highlight the work that you have done in securities law in the past.
If you have an internship with a securities law firm, make sure you focus on it so that the interviewer notices it. Thus the Flow of Experience in your resume from your first internship to your last one, up to your previous job should indicate that you have sufficient (if not considerable) amount of work experience in securities law.
The next step is the trickiest one- the interview itself. There are two types of questions that an interviewer is going to ask you in the ten minutes that is going to make or break your life.
First, are the technical questions. Typically, they are asked from what has been stated in the resume, alongwith basic questions of law relating to the nature of work you would be expected to do.
For example, if you are applying to a tax consultancy firm, expect questions to be asked from your resume, as well questions relating to fundamental taxation principles such as definition of ‘income’ under the Income Tax Act.
Hence, it is advisable to be thorough in everything that you are mentioning in your resume. For example, if someone has worked in the field of arbitration, the applicant should be thorough with the relevant sections of the Arbitration Act, which he has worked on.
The other types of questions that are asked are HR questions.
They are more personal in nature, as the interviewer is trying to test how well one is going to adjust in the work atmosphere of his/her organisation. It is a clear case in which the body language makes all the difference.
There is a common misconception that being aggressive in an HR interview works out for the applicant.
However, there is a very thin line of difference between being assertive and being confrontational. A pushy demeanour may completely put the interviewer off, while a confident, yet respectful approach works wonders.
There are some uncomfortable questions that may arise in your HR interview. The most common one is in relation to your previous workplace. It is advisable not to indulge in bad mouthing your previous bosses as it can send the wrong signals.
For freshers, the most difficult question is predominantly a very simple one: “Why should we hire you?”
The fresher has practically no real life work experience and it would seem that there is no manner in which he/she can answer this question in a perfect way. In such situations, it is advisable for him to carry out some background research about the organisation, its philosophy and needs.
This little piece of groundwork shall leave a very good impression with the recruiter.
All in all, for a successful interview, the following rules need to be followed:
- Dressing oneself in a presentable manner.
- The resume should be properly drafted and formatted, devoid of any anomalies.
- The resume should be drafted in such a manner that the relevant sections of work experience are highlighted upon.
- One should be thorough with all the information that is been mentioned in the resume.
- One should know the fundamentals of the law on which his/her job profile is going to be.
- Body language and little bit of background research on the organisation is the key to successfully tackle all HR questions.
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