For anyone in life, whether a law student or experienced professional, interviews can be incredibly daunting. This is especially when you consider that they can be the be all and end all, as the deciding factor in whether you succeed or fail.
With that in mind, we aim to pick out five ‘red flags’ which interviewers identify as common areas of mistake that undermine candidates and prevent them from fulfilling their true potential.
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The phrase curriculum vitae is of Latin origin and roughly translates into English as a life story or life’s journey. It aims to act as a brief summary of a person’s education, qualifications, skills and previous employment, so as to allow an employer to screen the applicants and eliminate those who are not suitable prior to an interview.
The biggest error that can cause alarm to an interviewer is to structure a CV with unexplained gaps in their employment history. For example, a candidate may have worked in an office from 2010-15, but then appear to have done nothing up until applying for this job in 2018, a 3-year gap.
There are a number of perfectly legitimate reasons for this, including but in no way limited to:
Caring for relatives
Undertaking a further qualification e.g. Master’s degree
If an interviewee finds themselves in a situation similar to this, it is completely acceptable to explain that circumstances outside of their control meant they had to take a break.
Equally, if the point about further qualifications is applicable, then you can explain how the additional knowledge has enabled you to take the next step in your career.
The only people I view as maybe struggling are those who take extended sabbaticals to travel or intentionally spend a few years unemployed after graduating. Nevertheless, they can mention how they have more than likely been enriched as people. Most importantly, this issue alone is unlikely to deny you a job.
Interview Red Flags: Lacking Work Experience
Whatever job you go into, be it law or not, it is always helpful and sometimes vital for a candidate to have some experience in the field.
That is not to say that finding such a thing is easy and many will be able to rely on family connections that others cannot. However, turning up to an interview without one of the key requirements is always a risk.
It is not impossible to deliver a stellar performance in the other aspects of the interview but not having any work experience to discuss can put you at quite a disadvantage.
The key for candidates is to make sure that they at least have something that they can use to make themselves look unique in an interview; it could be anything from volunteering to an interesting pastime.
There are definitely ways that someone in this position can improve their standing and maximise their chance of success; however, it is fair to say that a lack of work experience can bar you from certain professions.
Interview Red Flags: Attire
This next point may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many people turn up to interviews wearing clothes that simply do not befit the situation.
Whether you are going for a bar job, journalism job or a position in a law firm, it is widely unacceptable to turn up for interview in jeans and a T-shirt.
For men, the generally accepted form of clothing is a shirt and tie with black trousers and smart shoes. There are additions which can be made, such as a suit jacket, but this is not essential.
For women, it is not as stringent, but a pencil skirt or smart trousers with a shirt or blouse seems to be preferable.
The key thing to remember is that beyond your paperwork, this is the first impression an interviewer has of you. Interviewers have been known to reject someone simply because their clothing suggested they lacked interest and professionalism. There is no need to go out and break the bank when it comes to an interview outfit but dressing to impress will always stand you in good stead.
Interview Red Flags: Demeanour
Similar to attire, this might be seen as a given but a person’s attitude in an interview can often be the difference between success and failure.
The key to avoiding this common pitfall is to maintain eye contact and appear engaged with the interviewer. If they can say that you have a genuine interest in what is being said and that you clearly want to be there, you have a much better chance than if you seem disconnected and vacant.
Implement active listening techniques throughout the interview. These techniques can range from nodding of the head to subtle verbal mutterings. However, you choose to do it, there is no doubt that having a positive manner will allow you to build rapport with the interviewer and optimise your chances of gaining the job.
Interview Red Flags: Not Researching the Company
When you are faced with a job interview, it is because you have taken the time to fill out an application for a job that you evidently want. On that note, it is a big negative for employers if a candidate demonstrates little or no knowledge about the company, its products or just merely its history.
It is advisable then that all candidates take a look at their prospective employer’s website and make some notes about the business so as to give a brief summary at interview. This will not only increase your chances of success, but it will really impress the employer as you come across dedicated and interested.
There are many other things which do or do not impress employers, but often it simply comes down to learning from experience.