Close

Incompatible Browser


Your browser is supported.

Note: At minimum, we recommend Microsoft Internet Explorer 9

Download updates using the links below:

Microsoft Internet Explorer
Mozilla Firefox
Google Chrome
Netscape Navigator


© 2017 Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia Limited ABN 64 058 914 668. All rights reserved.
Close

Login for registered users

Forgot your password?

Close

Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia Limited and its Australian related bodies corporate (TR) respect the privacy of individuals about whom we collect personal information. The personal information TR collects from you on this form is collected for the purposes of enabling you to set up a candidate profile, to apply for roles advertised, to tell you about other products and services of TR that may be of interest to you and for the other related purposes set out in our privacy policy at http://www.thomsonreuters.com.au/terms/privacy-policy.aspx. Your personal information is only used or disclosed for the purpose contemplated by you or the organisation that has disclosed that information to enable us to provide the service sought and to send you information about TR's products and services that may be of interest to you. This information may be stored on our web servers, but will only be accessed by us to provide technical support or to carry out other functions reasonably necessary to provide the service and to communicate with you about related services or relevant information. This information will not be disclosed in any other way without your express authorisation.

If you do not provide this information, TR may not be able to provide technical support or to carry out other functions reasonably necessary to provide the service or assist you with your enquiries. You acknowledge that the information you provide will be collected by or on behalf of TR and may be disclosed to TR's related bodies corporate and third parties for the purposes outlined above or as required by law. Such third parties may include information technology suppliers, communications suppliers and other third party suppliers and business partners of TR or the organisation to which you submit your application. Some of these parties may be located outside of Australia.

TR's Privacy Policy, available at http://www.thomsonreuters.com.au/terms/privacy-policy.aspx, explains how we collect, use and disclose personal information and how you may access and correct the personal information that we hold about you. It also tells you how you may contact us to complain about a breach of the Privacy Act, and how we will deal with such a complaint. If you have any queries or would like further information about our privacy policies or practices, please contact our Privacy Officer at Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia Limited, 19 Harris Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009 or by email at LTA.Privacy@thomsonreuters.com. In providing your personal details to us, you consent to the collection, use, storage and disclosure of that information as described in our Privacy Policy.

Interview Techniques

  • Introduction
  • Preparation
  • Presentation
  • The Interview
  • Common Questions
  • After the Interview
  • Success or Failure
  • Display All

Introduction

To secure an interview is a major achievement. Your potential employer has formed the view, based on your resume, that you may have the skills and experience they are seeking. You are part of the way there. The interview is now your opportunity to convince them of the two things which will actually secure you the position:

  1. that you do have the skills and experience they are seeking, and, most importantly...

  2. that you are the person for the job.

An interview is not merely a meeting, it is a marketing opportunity - and you are the product. Don't forget, however, that your potential employer also needs to market to you - to convince you that this is the job you actually want.

Attending an interview can be a nerve-racking experience. The secret to keeping nerves under control is preparation. Here then are some hints to help you through the process.

Preparation

What you know about them

As a starting point, a firm or company will want to see you demonstrate an interest in their organisation and in being part of it. It is important to do some research on the firm or the corporation (or even the individuals who comprise it such as the partners or the directors) before the interview. How big is it? Principal business areas? Recent business developments?

Some firms will have a firm brochure and corporations may have an annual report. For the technology proficient applicant, the firm or company may also have a web-site which you may like to visit.

Of course, to the extent possible, you should know about the position you are interviewing for - the nature of the work, the clients and the skills required - and the names and titles of the people who will be interviewing you.

What you know about you

A common reason for lack of success at interview comes from failure by candidates to convey their relevant experience effectively to their interviewers. While you can never know exactly what you will be asked at interview, you can certainly anticipate the types of questions which will arise.

In preparation, ask yourself: "what will they need to know about me (the experience I have, my personal qualities) in order to give me the job". Refresh your memory by thinking through any relevant legal experience you have, and any other work experience and activities which may be of interest to them.

Before the interview you should re-read your resume and be familiar with its contents. You may be questioned on particular aspects of it. Taking a copy of your resume with you to the interview will also be very useful and you should have original academic results and any written references or diplomas/degrees with you also.

Presentation

It is worth remembering that first impressions are important. While it is your experience and ability which are most important, presentation counts!

If you are applying to work in a professional environment, you will generally be required to be neatly and professionally attired. This means wearing a suit and, for males, a tie. This does not mean you need to present like a clone. Individual touches such scarves or interesting ties are fine and will help to reflect your personality too. Naturally, if you are seeking a position in a more relaxed industry, this may not be necessary but, as a rule, professional environments are conservative and require this type of dress.

The Interview

Arriving

Probably the most important starting point here is to be punctual - arrive on time. You should certainly never be late. You should therefore know where you are going, how to get there and allow a (generous) estimate of the travel time. If you are unavoidably detained, always telephone (if at all possible) to advise your interviewers what has occurred and your estimated arrival time.

Being punctual does not mean arriving early. This can be as inconvenient and unprofessional as a late arrival. If you are running early, do not announce your arrival. Have a coffee or walk around the block until the allotted time.

Meeting your interviewers

When approached by the interviewers or introduced to them, step forward and offer your hand. (This goes equally for men and women). Your hand-shake should be firm but not overwhelming. Think about making your right hand available (and perspiration free) for this purpose as your interviewers approach you to avoid the embarrassing pause as you swap your resume/briefcase/ umbrella from your right to left hand as you are introduced! A smile also goes a long way.

Try to remember the names of the people you are introduced to so you can use them during the interview. If you are offered a refreshment, accept if you want or need it, decline if you don't. It is not a test. Water is a good option if nerves make your throat dry.

Body Language

You make an impression not just with your words but with your body language. Appearing relaxed but professional and maintaining eye-contact throughout the interview are the key points. Practice interviews with friends or family can help you detect behaviours to avoid: fidgeting, folding your arms, slumping in your chair, or looking at the floor, your hands or out the window rather than at the people to whom you are speaking.

Eye contact is fundamentally important and will help to convey your interest, confidence and credibility. Where there is more than one interviewer, you should try to make eye-contact with all of the interviewers, even if one person seems to be doing all the talking. Occasional eye contact with the other interviewers will allow you to establish a connection with them and will involve them in the interview, even if you are not answering their questions.

If you are aware that you have a tendency to fiddle when you're nervous, holding your hands together in your lap may assist. Being aware that you might do it is sometimes half the battle. Again, smiling and responding positively to your interviewers is part of making a good impression.

Listening and Talking

An ability to listen is important in any job and you will demonstrate your listening skills in how you handle the interview. Listen to the question being asked and answer the question fully. One word answers can make for a very short interview and should be avoided, even if the question can strictly be answered with a yes or no. Detailed answers in which you explain yourself demonstrate that you can fully articulate your ideas. This should not translate into saying everything at once or repeating yourself (such as saying the same thing in three different ways). There is a fine line between detail and talking too much. Use your judgement.

What are you trying to achieve?

Remember that an interview is an employer's opportunity to assess your suitability for a role, both professionally and personally.

It is also your opportunity to judge whether the position on offer is what you are looking for and whether you will be happy in the firm or company and its culture.

There are a number of things that an employer will be looking for:

Experience: The firm will be looking for relevant experience or other life experience which may be useful, such as experience in research or dealing with people. Try to convey what you have done in your life that will make you suitable for the role.

Listening skills: The ability to listen to the question and get to the point

Communication skills: The ability to express yourself orally in a complete yet succinct way. Being verbose may mean your written communications will be wordy, so how you communicate orally will be important in many ways.

People skills: Your ability to develop a rapport with the interviewers will be important as this will be seen as a reflection on your ability to deal with colleagues and clients alike. This doesn't necessarily mean telling jokes at the interview but it is important to be personable, communicative and to establish a rapport.

Confidence: While it is hard to be confident when you are nervous, it is important to be as relaxed as possible so that you impress as being reasonably self-assured. Again, employers are looking for people who will be able to deal with their clients and represent the organisation, so confidence is important. This does not mean being over-confident or arrogant. Over-compensating is not a great idea as you may be perceived as a person who is not a team player. Your ability to work with others is an important quality for most.

Common Questions

One of the keys to being successful at interview is to anticipate the questions your interviewers may ask.

About your experience

The most obvious question is naturally: "Tell me about your work experience to date" or "What kind of matters did you handle when you were a paralegal with ABC Firm?". This is your opportunity to discuss openly and fully the areas of law in which you have had experience and your level of responsibility, set out in a logical sequence. If you have prepared thoroughly, the answers should roll off the tongue.

In some interviews, you may be faced with specific legal questions. For example, "What are the principles in Donoghue v. Stephenson?" or "If you had to draft a Sale of Business agreement, what sorts of provisions might you want to include in the contract?". These interviews are harder to prepare for. If you know the area of the law to which the position relates, you may wish to research the area or recent developments.

Public sector interviews often include questions about particular areas of law and can be quite gruelling. You should remember to look at the selection criteria for public sector positions as they will usually be specifically addressed in the interview.

Remember, most people don't know all the answers. If you can't answer it, admit it, but emphasise the skills you have (eg research, related knowledge) if appropriate. Don't ever try to "fudge it".

About you

Other typical questions include:

Why are you interested in this firm? - some research on the firm will help here.

What are your long term career goals? - this is not a trick question, but giving an answer consistent with what you can expect from that employer is probably best. As a graduate, you are not expected to know what you want to do forever.

What fields of law interest you? - be honest and explain your answer, ensuring, of course, that your interests are consistent with the position you have applied for and the areas in which the firm practices. Try not to fall into the trap of focusing on the "sexy" areas of law - telecommunications, information technology, intellectual property - unless you have a genuine interest.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? The most common answer to this question is, "Oh, I hate that question....I don't know really." This response does not answer the question except to the extent that it shows a weaknesses - your lack of self-awareness and inability to self-evaluate.

This is a question which you really must be prepared for. It is quite possible to respond honestly without sounding arrogant. You should know what you are good at and should know yourself well enough to give an answer which is self-analytical. Try to be honest but also a little original if you can. Any discussion of weaknesses should be coupled with how you have applied yourself to improve them. Being able to answer these questions without discomfort will be a big part of displaying the self-confidence discussed above.

Why did you leave your last job or why are you looking for a new position?If there have been difficulties, such as a personality clash, you may wish to explain this. However, under no circumstances should you deride your previous employer. It makes a very bad impression and is very unprofessional.

Why did you do poorly at university in your last year? You may have had good reasons for any academic failures; for example illness or full time work, so feel free to explain these issues.

What do you think you have to offer us? Again a question requiring you to show self-confidence and the ability to assess your own capabilities. This is your chance to sell yourself.

Do you have any questions about us? This is a common question and one many people find difficult. As a general rule, ask questions to which you genuinely want to know the answer - rather than ones which you think will impress. This is your opportunity to learn things about the firm or company which are not necessarily evident from brochures or home pages. Questions about working hours, whether further study is encouraged or even funded, what career path is offered, what the work environment is like, what will happen after the interview and when you are likely to have an answer are some common ones. Try to avoid asking about salary at the first interview unless it is raised by the interviewers. It is very useful to have at least some questions prepared but others may occur to you during the course of the interview.

After the Interview

If you are interested in the job, don't be afraid to say so at the conclusion of the interview. Leaving with a comment such as, "Thank you for your time. I think the position sounds really interesting and I do hope to hear from you favourably" will be seen as a positive expression of your interest and not as pushiness.

Sometimes a quick follow up letter to the interviewers to the same effect is a good idea and shows that you are following through on the interview.

If you do not hear from the firm within the time frame given to you at the interview (if given one), or if you don't hear after two weeks, you may wish to follow up with either a letter or telephone call. It is only fair that you should know the outcome of your interview.

Success or Failure

Hopefully, armed with the above information and a positive attitude, you will have interview success.

Unfortunately, not every interview will result in a job offer. You do need to be a little resilient when it comes to rejections. Try not to take them to heart, but see each interview as an experience from which you have learnt something, even if it is only interview technique.

If you have been unsuccessful a few times and wonder if your interview technique is the problem, you could try calling the interviewers (especially if they are in human resources) and asking for constructive feedback. This can be a little confronting, and not everyone will want to answer your question honestly, but if you are concerned about interview technique it may be worth a try.

Each new interview is a fresh opportunity. Go into each with the belief that the job will be yours. The right job for you is out there, you just need to find it.

Introduction

To secure an interview is a major achievement. Your potential employer has formed the view, based on your resume, that you may have the skills and experience they are seeking. You are part of the way there. The interview is now your opportunity to convince them of the two things which will actually secure you the position:

  1. that you do have the skills and experience they are seeking, and, most importantly...

  2. that you are the person for the job.

An interview is not merely a meeting, it is a marketing opportunity - and you are the product. Don't forget, however, that your potential employer also needs to market to you - to convince you that this is the job you actually want.

Attending an interview can be a nerve-racking experience. The secret to keeping nerves under control is preparation. Here then are some hints to help you through the process.

Preparation

What you know about them

As a starting point, a firm or company will want to see you demonstrate an interest in their organisation and in being part of it. It is important to do some research on the firm or the corporation (or even the individuals who comprise it such as the partners or the directors) before the interview. How big is it? Principal business areas? Recent business developments?

Some firms will have a firm brochure and corporations may have an annual report. For the technology proficient applicant, the firm or company may also have a web-site which you may like to visit.

Of course, to the extent possible, you should know about the position you are interviewing for - the nature of the work, the clients and the skills required - and the names and titles of the people who will be interviewing you.

What you know about you

A common reason for lack of success at interview comes from failure by candidates to convey their relevant experience effectively to their interviewers. While you can never know exactly what you will be asked at interview, you can certainly anticipate the types of questions which will arise.

In preparation, ask yourself: "what will they need to know about me (the experience I have, my personal qualities) in order to give me the job". Refresh your memory by thinking through any relevant legal experience you have, and any other work experience and activities which may be of interest to them.

Before the interview you should re-read your resume and be familiar with its contents. You may be questioned on particular aspects of it. Taking a copy of your resume with you to the interview will also be very useful and you should have original academic results and any written references or diplomas/degrees with you also.

Presentation

It is worth remembering that first impressions are important. While it is your experience and ability which are most important, presentation counts!

If you are applying to work in a professional environment, you will generally be required to be neatly and professionally attired. This means wearing a suit and, for males, a tie. This does not mean you need to present like a clone. Individual touches such scarves or interesting ties are fine and will help to reflect your personality too. Naturally, if you are seeking a position in a more relaxed industry, this may not be necessary but, as a rule, professional environments are conservative and require this type of dress.

The Interview

Arriving

Probably the most important starting point here is to be punctual - arrive on time. You should certainly never be late. You should therefore know where you are going, how to get there and allow a (generous) estimate of the travel time. If you are unavoidably detained, always telephone (if at all possible) to advise your interviewers what has occurred and your estimated arrival time.

Being punctual does not mean arriving early. This can be as inconvenient and unprofessional as a late arrival. If you are running early, do not announce your arrival. Have a coffee or walk around the block until the allotted time.

Meeting your interviewers

When approached by the interviewers or introduced to them, step forward and offer your hand. (This goes equally for men and women). Your hand-shake should be firm but not overwhelming. Think about making your right hand available (and perspiration free) for this purpose as your interviewers approach you to avoid the embarrassing pause as you swap your resume/briefcase/ umbrella from your right to left hand as you are introduced! A smile also goes a long way.

Try to remember the names of the people you are introduced to so you can use them during the interview. If you are offered a refreshment, accept if you want or need it, decline if you don't. It is not a test. Water is a good option if nerves make your throat dry.

Body Language

You make an impression not just with your words but with your body language. Appearing relaxed but professional and maintaining eye-contact throughout the interview are the key points. Practice interviews with friends or family can help you detect behaviours to avoid: fidgeting, folding your arms, slumping in your chair, or looking at the floor, your hands or out the window rather than at the people to whom you are speaking.

Eye contact is fundamentally important and will help to convey your interest, confidence and credibility. Where there is more than one interviewer, you should try to make eye-contact with all of the interviewers, even if one person seems to be doing all the talking. Occasional eye contact with the other interviewers will allow you to establish a connection with them and will involve them in the interview, even if you are not answering their questions.

If you are aware that you have a tendency to fiddle when you're nervous, holding your hands together in your lap may assist. Being aware that you might do it is sometimes half the battle. Again, smiling and responding positively to your interviewers is part of making a good impression.

Listening and Talking

An ability to listen is important in any job and you will demonstrate your listening skills in how you handle the interview. Listen to the question being asked and answer the question fully. One word answers can make for a very short interview and should be avoided, even if the question can strictly be answered with a yes or no. Detailed answers in which you explain yourself demonstrate that you can fully articulate your ideas. This should not translate into saying everything at once or repeating yourself (such as saying the same thing in three different ways). There is a fine line between detail and talking too much. Use your judgement.

What are you trying to achieve?

Remember that an interview is an employer's opportunity to assess your suitability for a role, both professionally and personally.

It is also your opportunity to judge whether the position on offer is what you are looking for and whether you will be happy in the firm or company and its culture.

There are a number of things that an employer will be looking for:

Experience: The firm will be looking for relevant experience or other life experience which may be useful, such as experience in research or dealing with people. Try to convey what you have done in your life that will make you suitable for the role.

Listening skills: The ability to listen to the question and get to the point

Communication skills: The ability to express yourself orally in a complete yet succinct way. Being verbose may mean your written communications will be wordy, so how you communicate orally will be important in many ways.

People skills: Your ability to develop a rapport with the interviewers will be important as this will be seen as a reflection on your ability to deal with colleagues and clients alike. This doesn't necessarily mean telling jokes at the interview but it is important to be personable, communicative and to establish a rapport.

Confidence: While it is hard to be confident when you are nervous, it is important to be as relaxed as possible so that you impress as being reasonably self-assured. Again, employers are looking for people who will be able to deal with their clients and represent the organisation, so confidence is important. This does not mean being over-confident or arrogant. Over-compensating is not a great idea as you may be perceived as a person who is not a team player. Your ability to work with others is an important quality for most.

Common Questions

One of the keys to being successful at interview is to anticipate the questions your interviewers may ask.

About your experience

The most obvious question is naturally: "Tell me about your work experience to date" or "What kind of matters did you handle when you were a paralegal with ABC Firm?". This is your opportunity to discuss openly and fully the areas of law in which you have had experience and your level of responsibility, set out in a logical sequence. If you have prepared thoroughly, the answers should roll off the tongue.

In some interviews, you may be faced with specific legal questions. For example, "What are the principles in Donoghue v. Stephenson?" or "If you had to draft a Sale of Business agreement, what sorts of provisions might you want to include in the contract?". These interviews are harder to prepare for. If you know the area of the law to which the position relates, you may wish to research the area or recent developments.

Public sector interviews often include questions about particular areas of law and can be quite gruelling. You should remember to look at the selection criteria for public sector positions as they will usually be specifically addressed in the interview.

Remember, most people don't know all the answers. If you can't answer it, admit it, but emphasise the skills you have (eg research, related knowledge) if appropriate. Don't ever try to "fudge it".

About you

Other typical questions include:

Why are you interested in this firm? - some research on the firm will help here.

What are your long term career goals? - this is not a trick question, but giving an answer consistent with what you can expect from that employer is probably best. As a graduate, you are not expected to know what you want to do forever.

What fields of law interest you? - be honest and explain your answer, ensuring, of course, that your interests are consistent with the position you have applied for and the areas in which the firm practices. Try not to fall into the trap of focusing on the "sexy" areas of law - telecommunications, information technology, intellectual property - unless you have a genuine interest.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? The most common answer to this question is, "Oh, I hate that question....I don't know really." This response does not answer the question except to the extent that it shows a weaknesses - your lack of self-awareness and inability to self-evaluate.

This is a question which you really must be prepared for. It is quite possible to respond honestly without sounding arrogant. You should know what you are good at and should know yourself well enough to give an answer which is self-analytical. Try to be honest but also a little original if you can. Any discussion of weaknesses should be coupled with how you have applied yourself to improve them. Being able to answer these questions without discomfort will be a big part of displaying the self-confidence discussed above.

Why did you leave your last job or why are you looking for a new position?If there have been difficulties, such as a personality clash, you may wish to explain this. However, under no circumstances should you deride your previous employer. It makes a very bad impression and is very unprofessional.

Why did you do poorly at university in your last year? You may have had good reasons for any academic failures; for example illness or full time work, so feel free to explain these issues.

What do you think you have to offer us? Again a question requiring you to show self-confidence and the ability to assess your own capabilities. This is your chance to sell yourself.

Do you have any questions about us? This is a common question and one many people find difficult. As a general rule, ask questions to which you genuinely want to know the answer - rather than ones which you think will impress. This is your opportunity to learn things about the firm or company which are not necessarily evident from brochures or home pages. Questions about working hours, whether further study is encouraged or even funded, what career path is offered, what the work environment is like, what will happen after the interview and when you are likely to have an answer are some common ones. Try to avoid asking about salary at the first interview unless it is raised by the interviewers. It is very useful to have at least some questions prepared but others may occur to you during the course of the interview.

After the Interview

If you are interested in the job, don't be afraid to say so at the conclusion of the interview. Leaving with a comment such as, "Thank you for your time. I think the position sounds really interesting and I do hope to hear from you favourably" will be seen as a positive expression of your interest and not as pushiness.

Sometimes a quick follow up letter to the interviewers to the same effect is a good idea and shows that you are following through on the interview.

If you do not hear from the firm within the time frame given to you at the interview (if given one), or if you don't hear after two weeks, you may wish to follow up with either a letter or telephone call. It is only fair that you should know the outcome of your interview.

Success or Failure

Hopefully, armed with the above information and a positive attitude, you will have interview success.

Unfortunately, not every interview will result in a job offer. You do need to be a little resilient when it comes to rejections. Try not to take them to heart, but see each interview as an experience from which you have learnt something, even if it is only interview technique.

If you have been unsuccessful a few times and wonder if your interview technique is the problem, you could try calling the interviewers (especially if they are in human resources) and asking for constructive feedback. This can be a little confronting, and not everyone will want to answer your question honestly, but if you are concerned about interview technique it may be worth a try.

Each new interview is a fresh opportunity. Go into each with the belief that the job will be yours. The right job for you is out there, you just need to find it.