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8 ways to prepare for a legal job interview

Though the legal industry is currently one of the strongest sectors for recruitment growth, job interviews can be a daunting process wherever you are in your career. Take the worry out of your next interview by following these quick and easy tips from our industry experts…

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an experienced lawyer with many successful years behind you, having strong interview skills is essential to making the right moves in your career. 

We asked some of our legal industry experts for their insight to help you in your next interview…

Highlight your successes

A candidate’s CV is their chance to sell themselves to their potential employer so it’s important they make the most of it, says Lindy Ho, legal & corporate secretarial manager at Robert Walters’ Kuala Lumpur office.

“If you’re a senior candidate with years of experience you should include a couple of career success stories in your CV with some key points about each one,” she says. “Not only will this highlight your work experience and qualifications, but it will also help build your personal brand and show hiring managers that you are someone they want to work with.”

Be knowledgeable about what you’ve done

Cindy Tran, senior consultant, legal and corporate governance at Robert Walters’ Vietnam office agrees with Lindy, but advises candidates to also take the time and effort into making it concise yet informative. “Summarise your experience across different practice areas, such as corporate mergers and acquisitions (M&A), real estate, or banking and finance, highlighting those that are particularly relevant to the job,” advises Cindy.

“Instead of simply listing the job scope and responsibilities of your previous roles, choose to instead highlight key achievements, unique projects and any leadership opportunities you’ve undertaken over your career,” she adds.

Frame your experience for the role

Before your interview, you want to think about how you can position your experience in a way that is relevant to the role you are applying for. "It starts with understanding and defining the key requirements and focus of the role. Look at the job description and consult with your HR contact or recruitment consultant if necessary,” Cindy shares.

“Then, list down the experiences that are relevant to the role. You also want to think about how you can use your other skill sets, such as the ability to manage teams or projects, to bring additional value to the role through your past experiences.”

Know what’s going on

Before heading into an interview, Lindy advises her candidates to research all the latest market developments within the legal industry that might be relevant to the prospective employer.

“Join as many online forums and conversations as possible to make sure your knowledge stays topical and up-to-date,” Lindy suggests. “This will help demonstrate your expertise to potential employers and widen your professional network.”

Cindy agrees. “If you know someone in the same company or industry, leverage these connections and catch up with them. Even if they aren’t in the legal team, they may be able to tell you more about company news or market trends, which would aid in your understanding of the business.”

Sell your soft skills

“It’s extremely important for candidates to strike the right balance between hard and soft skills,” explains Lindy. “It’s not all about technical skills and knowledge these days — legal candidates need to demonstrate their ability to handle different stakeholders.”

This is particularly important for in-house legal counsel roles, she adds: “Effective legal counsels will not only need to demonstrate their legal expertise, but also strong commercial acumen and an ability to partner with multiple teams across the company to help the business develop.”

Prepare your questions

Asking the right questions in an interview can help you demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role, while also improving your understanding of the role. “Hiring managers appreciate questions related to the key focus of the role, both within the short and long-term,” says Cindy. “Another area to ask about is regarding the hiring manager’s expectations for the person taking on the role. This is particularly important for first time private practice lawyers moving in-house as it will help you visualise key priorities and deliverables within the first year.”

Dress to impress

“When you’re going to an interview for a legal position, the first impression always matters,” says Lindy, who advises her candidates to dress professionally and appropriately to let hiring managers know they are serious about the position.

Cindy adds: "While it’s good to leave an impression, you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons so it’s best to dress professionally.”

Relax and be yourself

Cindy encourages candidates to stay calm as it will allow their personality to shine through. “Remain composed and do not get intimidated even if you’re being interviewed by a senior person from the firm. Being comfortable with hierarchy and seniority will reflect your stakeholder management and business partnership skills, which employers will appreciate,” says Cindy. “Build rapport by being open-minded and conversational, and treat the interviewer as an equal who’s keen in learning more about you.”

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