The recruitment program for law students concluded recently, and all of your efforts moved you past the first hurdle — you got your marks, ensured that your letter conveyed the uniqueness of your application, and you may have secured a top-notch reference or two that caught the law firm’s attention. You got called back by the firm of your choice for an interview and found yourself struggling to prepare for this part of the process. With the next step of articling recruitment on the horizon, how can you prepare differently this time?
In my experience, it was best to conceptualize the interview process as having three distinct parts:
Proper preparation for each point in the process is crucial in securing that coveted position. Here are a few tips and considerations to surpass a prospective employer’s expectations.
Did you know most of the heavy lifting happens before your first interview? It is necessary to undertake a holistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your application and prepare to explain these. For example, if you have devoted a significant amount of time to volunteering or have a unique employment history, be prepared to answer questions about this. These unique aspects of your application are what set you apart from the pool of talented applicants and should be given their due attention during your preparation. If you feel the interview is nearing its conclusion and you haven’t had an opportunity to discuss it, perhaps find a way to casually integrate these aspects of your application into the conversation.
While bringing attention to the strong aspects of your application is crucial, not shying away from the less-than-stellar aspects is just as important. Perhaps you had a tough first year of undergraduate studies, or maybe even a few courses early on in law school that you prefer would just slip off your transcript.
Look at the interview as an opportunity to explain this. This is a type of topic that you must anticipate ahead of being in the interview room, and how you respond to this question could seal the deal, one way or another. You must not let your interviewers leave the interview with lingering questions about potentially negative parts of your application.
It’s game time, and you’re about to finally collect on your preparation. Stay calm. The best way to do this is to anticipate the questions. You know you will be asked to speak about yourself. You will be more comfortable doing this by the time of the interview. Practice your responses. For example, if you are from out of town, you can assume that you will be asked about your attachment to the new city where the employer is located.
It is also important to have a good meal and stay hydrated before the interview. The last thing you want to happen is to stumble into the interview and to have your brain redirect its attention to your growling stomach. A bit of caffeine might not hurt, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to risk getting jittery or upsetting your stomach.
Finally, appearance is important. During my in-person interviews, I thought it was a good idea to ditch the beige suit and play it safe with the dark blue or black suits. I also made sure my tie wasn’t the loudest one in the interview room. The motto when it comes to attire: play it safe.
The interview process doesn’t end with the formal interview’s conclusion. Email your interviewers and thank them for their time. If your interview was in person and you were provided a tour of the firm, be sure to email the individual who took you on this tour. On your way out of the firm, send your best to the person at the front desk, and follow-up with ‘thank you’ email to anyone you had a meaningful conversation with throughout the process. You may spend your night sending emails, but this courtesy in the recruitment process can’t be overlooked!
Remember, nobody knows you better than yourself. Acknowledge this expertise and speak confidently. While the interview may be more formal, a follow-up interview may take the form of a chat at a coffee shop or a more social setting with many of the firm’s lawyers. These latter interviews are much more about your personality than your resume or marks. In this respect, the most important tip is to be yourself. Your skills and personality have already got you this far.
Omar Chahbar is an articling student at Harrison Pensa. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in political science from Western University, and attended the University of Ottawa for law. He has a keen interest in local and international politics, and has previously worked as a legislative page with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Omar can be reached by email.