How to prepare for job interviews so you know what to expect.
Purpose of an interview
This is your chance to bring your CV and cover letter to life and impress the organisation in person. This is about them meeting you and finding out if you’re the right person for their job.
The interview has a few purposes. For the employer, they want to assess if you meet their requirements and obtain evidence of your skills and suitability. For you, you get to make a good impression on the firm, persuade the firm that you meet their requirements but equally important, to find out more about the job and employer and ensure that they are the right fit for you! This list is not a comprehensive list of the potential interviews that you might need to do. Responsibility lies with you to ensure that you know what to expect out of any interview.
- 2 pages maximum.
- Presentation counts. Your CV should have a clear layout and be easy to navigate.
- Make sure there are no spelling mistakes, and that punctuation and grammar are used correctly.
- Explain any gaps in your CV.
- Build skills and achievements into your previous experience.
- Most firms and organisations will have tips their application process on their website, make sure you look at these before you apply.
- Tailor your CV to the opportunity that you are applying for.
- Make sure that you use the careers service at your university to ensure you get all the support available for everything to do with your career.
The interview will usually have 2 types of questions; discussion based/personal experience questions and behavioural based questions.
Discussion based questions – These questions will focus on you. Examples include (but are certainly not limited to);
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What makes you want to work for us?
- What makes you think you’ll make a good lawyer in our firm?
- Why should we hire you over all the other people we’re interviewing today?
Behavioural questions – These will focus on your previous experience and often start with ‘tell me about a time you…’. You need to know your CV inside out and draw upon your most relevant and recent examples from your previous work, achievements at university and your extracurricular activities.
Behavioural questions are often when students start rambling. Take a moment to think about what you want to say (silence is OK) and answer the question concisely and completely.
A Google search of interview questions will give you plenty of questions to think about and practice but remember that the interview should feel like a professional conversation without sounding rehearsed. This is a chance for you to build rapport.
Make sure that you have questions for them. These questions should be genuine questions that you have about the firm, the work they do and the people that work there. Asking the interviewers about what they like about their jobs, their area of expertise, previous cases they have worked on or the culture of the firm are just some of the things you might consider asking.
Types of Interviews
Often the first interview will be over the phone. This is usually part of the initial screening process. During recruitment season, make sure you’re answering your phone!
- If you are unable to answer the phone, make sure that your voicemail is active and return their call as soon as possible.
- When you answer the call, make sure you listen carefully to the name of the person calling and the organisation that they are from.
- Make sure that you are in a space where you can hear them and can think clearly. If it’s noisy, tell them and call them back in a quiet space.
- Treat this like any other interview, answer clearly, professionally and honestly.
Face to face interviews:
The next step will be a formal face-to-face interview.
- Do your research! Both on the industry and the organisation. The organisation’s website will have plenty of information for you to read in advance of the interview. Think about what makes you want to work for them. If you have been given the name of the people who will be interviewing you, ensure that you look them up and know about what they do in the organisation and what their specialities are.
- Dress for success. Corporate attire that is clean, pressed and paired with a smart pair of shoes. No gum.
- Arrive early but not too early. If you are too early, find a café nearby and wait. You should be in reception no earlier than 10 mins before your interview time, unless explicitly told otherwise. If you need to do a trial run to the firm’s offices, make sure that you do. If you are running late, ensure that you have a way to contact the organisation to let them know.
- Make sure you have a good handshake, practice on others if necessary.
- Keep your body language positive, make sure you make eye contact and project confidence.
- Relax, be honest and concise with your answers and show enthusiasm for the firm.
Online / Video interviews:
Job interviews done by video, for example, using Skype or Zoom, are becoming more common.
Plan where you’ll do your interview
- Choose a quiet place with no distractions and use a computer or laptop with a webcam and good internet connection.
- Have a plain background that won’t distract the interviewer.
- Dress like you would for a ‘normal’ interview.
Practice talking to someone using a computer
- Practice talking to the webcam, not the people on-screen, so you’re more likely to be looking your interviewer in the eye.
- Try using a headset as it will help you to hear and speak more clearly.
- Your interviewer won’t be able to see any notes you stick around the edge of your screen, or on a wall.
- A note could remind you to smile or talk more slowly, or, be a question you want to task at the end of the interview.
Group Activities/Assessment Centres:
The use of group activities and assessment centres is more prevalent in some industries more than others. The content of the group exercise or assessment centre is individual to the firm and vary greatly from one to the other.
The most important general things to think about are to be confident and friendly to all the other participants. Be professional at all times to everyone. Make sure that you are listening as well as talking to everyone, don’t be overly competitive. Make sure your body language is positive and don’t dismiss anyone or their ideas.
Try and enjoy it, treat it as a challenge to solve. You may even have some fun.
Ways to prepare for an interview, NxtStep,
How to nail a video interview, Career Development and Employability Services (CDES),
Tips for answering interview questions, Careers New Zealand,
The STAR method: The secret to acing your next job interview, The Muse,