The do's and don'ts at interview

Interviews can be intimidating, especially when you are interviewing with a panel of partners at a top city law firm. Whilst this can be viewed as an awkward professional situation, like anything else, it is a skill that can be practised and perfected. The more carefully you prepare, the better you will do on the day.

What Makes an Interview Successful

The first step in nailing an interview is to simply understand what a successful interview looks like. Here are four key aspects to keep in mind:

1.       It’s Social: You should demonstrate that you’d be a pleasure to work with.

2.       It’s Professional: Your presentation must be sharp, efficient, and diplomatic.

3.       It’s Human: You need to present yourself as genuine and earnest.

4.       The Details Matter: From your outfit to your posture, everything is information.


What partners are looking for at an Interview

Enthusiasm for the firm – Do your research, whether its reading partner bio’s or looking at recent deals the team has worked on, know the type of work the firm you are applying for does and have questions prepared that will showcase your knowledge of the team.

Knowledge – Any deal listed on your CV is fair game for a partner to discuss, and generally if you sound vague on any transaction on your CV the partners will likely dig deeper with their line of questioning to ascertain your exact experience. Our tip here is to never try and bluff an answer, If you don’t know try and move the conversation on to a transaction you feel more confident in discussing.

Team fit – You want to convey to the interview panel that you are a polite, friendly and approachable lawyer who will easily slot into any team.

Professionalism – Try and be direct with your answers and manage questions as if you are dealing with a client. Partners are looking for well rounded, capable lawyers who will interact well with their clients showing a degree of professionalism and maturity.

Unflustered and Coherent – Answer questions in a direct and logical manner..if you get stuck on a certain point try and keep the meeting flowing, move the topic over to another subject or if you don’t know something, be honest and say you don’t know the answer. Clear and concise is our tip here.

Good body language – We realise this is a basic point, but eye contact, confident body language is important throughout your interview. The fact is you only get one shot at an interview and first impressions are key to your success.

Genuine – Be yourself, the fact that you have been shortlisted for an interview shows that the firm is interested in your background or they wouldn’t waste your time or there’s – explain to the interview panel your experience to date and what makes you a great lawyer.



  • Do quiz yourself in advance with practice questions.
  • Do dress smartly and meticulously.
  • Do sit up straight and speak with confidence.
  • Do make eye contact. But don’t overdo it to the point where you make the interviewer uncomfortable.
  • Do take some time to consider your answers and respond thoughtfully. You shouldn’t feel pressured to answer each question in rapid fire.
  • Do take time for pleasantries and a bit of casual social banter.
  • Do your research about the firm beforehand.
  • Do set up Google alerts to keep you abreast of the latest legal developments at the firm.
  • Do spend time researching the market and the forces that are influencing the industry.
  • Do ensure that your most recent posts on your social media accounts show something positive and professional.
  • Do use language that is appropriate for the job environment and demonstrate your experience by using a bit of well-placed jargon.
  • Do be yourself. You want to project an authentic and genuine demeanour.
  • Do understand that interviews are as much an opportunity to show the employer that you would be a pleasant person to work with as they are to demonstrate skills and experience, this is a social opportunity.
  • Do consider your career goals and clearly define your reasons for wanting the job.
  • Do practice your interview skills with a friend or colleague.
  • Do speak to your recruiter and prepare answers to common interview questions.
  • Do eat a healthy and energising breakfast before going in.
  • Do breath deeply, relax the muscles of your face, and take the time to pause before the interview.
  • Do exercise regularly in the week leading up to the interview.



  • Don’t stress yourself out by dwelling on negative possibilities.
  • Don’t slip into the non-professional language.
  • Don’t simply recap your CV. An interview is a chance to demonstrate all the qualities your CV cannot.
  • Don’t be brusque with the administrative staff. You need to impress every person you encounter at the law firm.
  • Don’t forget to smile and introduce some appropriate levity into the interview.
  • Don’t fail to use the interview process as a networking opportunity.
  • Don’t get flustered if you slip up on a question.
  • Don’t be late because you get lost along the way or encounter some unexpected circumstance. Plan for delays.
  • Don’t forget that this is a fundamentally social situation. Be friendly
  • Don’t allow your answers to go off on tangents. Keep the focus on your best qualities.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know the answer to a question. It’s better than faking it.
  • Don’t speak ill of former coworkers, partners or colleagues.
  • Don’t reveal unnecessary personal information or make unprofessional remarks.
  • Don’t let your tact lapse. You need to demonstrate the diplomatic behaviour.
  • Don’t apologise unnecessarily.
  • Don’t mention your shortcomings or make excuses.
  • Don’t let nerves paralyse you. Relax and act naturally.
  • Don’t forget to highlight your biggest strengths.
  • Don’t panic! You’ll do great.


While this may seem like an insurmountable amount of information to take in and remember, it is also important not to overthink things. Prepare ahead of time, present yourself with confidence, and you can’t go wrong.

For more information on interview technique please contact any of the team at HIA Legal, we offer confidential and friendly advice which will help you secure your next role in the legal sector.

Thursday Apr 5, 2018