Published on May 3, 2019 by lauraduckett

Smiling confident female applicant shaking hand of interviewer at a tableA training contract interview can be a nerve-racking thing, especially if your interviewer asks you questions that take you by surprise. The best way to avoid these situations is preparing for your training contract interview well by thinking of some possible generic and out of the box questions and answers beforehand. Here are some of the questions that have surprised me during an interview and tips on how to answer them.

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Tell me about a time you made a mistake

When I heard this question I was completely thrown off. Even the partners that were interviewing me at the firm thought it was harsh (they were reading set questions that HR had sent them).

In asking this, the person assessing you wants to see if you can describe something negative while putting a positive spin on it. It’s similar to being asked ‘What would you describe as your biggest weakness?’

The best way to answer, in my opinion, is to be honest, but take a second to think about how you will present your answer beforehand. Talk about what you learned from the mistake and whether the experience is something that can guide you when you’re working at a law firm?

Read our contributor’s blog about how she secured a training contract here >>>

How do you think your best friend sees you?

This is more of a question aimed at testing your personality. In my interview, the partner asked me if there was also something my best friend would suggest I need to improve about myself. As with the previous question, they wanted to see how you can work with what they give you in the most positive way.

Again, my tip would be honesty. Let the positives of your personality shine through. Even if you’re pushed on what might not be your strong suit, try and spin and use it to your advantage.

Questions like the one above are not asked to trick you. They are asked to test whether you can think on your feet.

Read our Training Contracts guide

Name a time you won someone over to your way of thinking

You might not find this completely surprising. However, having never worked in a sales environment, nor been in a position where I had to pitch something to a client, it was one I wasn’t prepared for.

Here, you’re being asked to demonstrate not just your ability to be persuasive, but your other soft skills. The interviewer wants to know how you communicated in that situation. Think about whether you worked as a team to win someone over and mention this in your answer.

If you’re asked this question, you need to talk about the role you played. Perhaps you won over someone because you challenged an established way of thinking. Think about what you’ve done academically or in extra-curricular activities. You’ll definitely have some experiences to draw from.

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If you were a film character which one would you be?

I recently saw this question on an application form. It’s a more interesting way to ask about a person’s transferable skills and personality than the more generic “what are your biggest strengths”, and the best thing to do is to be true to your personality. Don’t try and name a character that you think the firm will like. Ask yourself who you would want to be and why. Think about what it is about that character that resonates with you.

By the way, the character doesn’t have to be a lawyer – when I answered the question, I chose Jason Bourne from the Bourne series.

I would also add that you should connect your choice of character back why they would have the skills that law firms are looking for. For example, maybe the character you choose is a fast learner. This a skill that’s highly regarded in law firms.

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What are the benefits of law firms merging?

I found this unusual for a simple reason. When you’re asked about commercial awareness, you’re not necessarily asked about law firm mergers. Of all the interviews I did last year, only one interviewer brought up this question and I was completely thrown off.

One aspect of commercial awareness is being able to recognise that the law firm itself is a business. It is not just the clients who make business decisions but law firms as well.

You should therefore understand why a firm may merge: access to new markets, similar cultures in the firms merging, being able to access expertise in new areas, access to more clients, economic conditions changing, to name but a few. These are some of the factors you should keep in mind, and of course, there will be many others. Plenty resources are available to research this.

Good luck!

Next: Our guide on training contract interview questions

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