By David Flint @dfscot
I have been asked to express some view and provide some hints and tips for would be trainees heading towards their interviews.
Firstly I have to include a disclaimer; these are personal thoughts, others may disagree (I may disagree myself!); so if you take my views on board, don’t blame me if you don’t get a traineeship offer.
a) Every firm is different; they have different requirements and processes. Make sure that you follow them exactly. If the firm has a specific application form, use it – don’t make up your own. Consistency is the only way that firms can evaluate the hundreds of applicants;
b) Do your research thoroughly before writing for jobs. if you want to be a criminal court practitioner, don’t apply to a commercial only firm. Seems common sense but you’d be amazed how may people I see at interview who express an interest in that area of law.
c) Speak to the trainees who are already there. Do you have a friend who is a trainee? Does anyone you know? Find out about what is likely to be required by those who have done it before and you won’t waste your time (or mine!)
d) Be presentable at interview; again some research into the firm will assist. You are not expected to have a Gordon Gekko $2000 suit; you are expected to be smart so perhaps a haircut / wash / shave might not go amiss.
e) First impressions matter (don’t believe any stories to the contrary), so if you arrive with a bolt through your nose wearing torn denims and a lumberjack shirt, don’t be surprised if that is all the interviewer can remember about you. We do see large number of applicants and therefore we remember first impressions.
f) You only get ONE chance to make a good first impression. Use it wisely.
g) We want to know about you to see if you will fit in / be an asset to the firm. The interview is a means of finding out about you. It shouldn’t be like drawing teeth!
h) Do your research about the firm if you are offered an interview; what do they do; where do they have offices; how many partners etc. In the last few years I have interviewed candidates whose knowledge ranged from every fact on our website, partner specialities etc to the “I know you do some type of commercial law but that’s all”. Here’s a tip – if you are coming to see me, expressing a burning interest in criminal legal aid or welfare law is unlikely to impress. Others do that, we don’t. Don’t waste my time or yours!
i) Be yourself – unless you are a psychopath, in which case don’t (and don’t apply to me please). We want to see you not who you think we want to see.
j) Don’t be afraid to ask questions – particularly if relevant and which show an understanding of the firm. What do you do? is not a good question!
l) Try to enjoy the experience. Difficult to say, but learn from the interview process (you may have more than one). What did you do well? Where do you think you could improve for next time?
I wish you all well. It is not an easy time for applicants and we do understand your pain – after all we all have done the same process in some form or another in the past.
If you don’t succeed first time, try again. We will get some 350 applications for 10 places (my estimates). Less than 50 will be interviewed and 10 employed. That doesn’t mean that the other 340 (or 40) are without merit; it is a very difficult choice for the interviewers.
Everyone hopes they get it right; sometimes we do; sometimes we don’t. If you are not offered a place perhaps that is because of our failings not hour’s.
Stay positive; most graduates who want traineeships get them – there is more to life than working for a corporate behemoth; try the country firms – you may enjoy the more relaxed lifestyle.
Capella, 60 York Street, Glasgow G2 8JX, Scotland