Congratulations! You have made it through the vacation scheme application form selection process and been invited for a vacation scheme interview. These tips will hopefully help you feel calm and well prepared when you walk into the interview room.
When you clicked the “Submit” button you may have felt that your application form had become a thing of the past. However, the firm will often use your answers on the application form as a basis at interview, so be prepared to justify, explain and expand on your answers. You can expect to be asked “Why do you want to pursue a legal career?” and “Why do you want a place on the vacation scheme at this particular firm?” so you should definitely be prepared to answer these questions and refer to specific reasons or examples from previous experiences.
Most university careers services offer the chance to book a practice interview but this opportunity is often undervalued. Try to make the appointment early because the only way to get better at interviews is to practice. In general, law firm interviews aim to test candidates on three areas: motivation, commercial awareness and skills or competencies. Practising will enable you to get used to answering these questions and will also help you to identify what the recruiter is looking for and structure your replies accordingly.
This tip is applicable to both application forms and interviews. Whenever you are asked a question, be clear on what is being asked and take a couple of seconds to figure out what you want to say. Pausing to think is not a bad thing and will help you give a targeted answer with specific examples to back up your point. You will really stand out if you can explain specifically what attracted you to a firm and why you in particular would be a good fit.
You should always use examples to aid your answer in your vacation scheme interview. For instance, you could say that what attracted you to the fast-paced work of a corporate law firm was the opportunity to combine your ability to solve legal problems which you developed on your law degree, with your ability to work well under pressure and interact with people on all levels that you learned in your part-time job at a busy restaurant.
There is no point discussing your impressive knowledge of a little known but highly influential banking transaction when you are sitting in a vacation scheme interview with a family law firm. While this is an extreme example, it demonstrates a common pitfall in interviews.
When you have prepared so much it is tempting to showcase your knowledge, but not all the commercial awareness research you did will be relevant to a particular firm or a particular question. When demonstrating your commercial awareness or explaining your motivation and skills, ensure you use relevant examples. Focus your commercial awareness examples on the areas of practice of that specific firm and focus your competency answers on skills which will prove valuable on your vacation scheme or in your future career.
This may seem like slightly redundant advice but following it could make the entire vacation scheme interview process much easier. Firstly, when researching news stories to demonstrate your commercial awareness, focus on topics you have a genuine interest in. Not only will this make keeping up with all the news a bit less tedious, it also means you are more likely to have your own unique opinion on the issue and can give an engaging and detailed analysis.
Secondly, make a list of your biggest achievements so far as well as your strengths. Not only is this a confidence boosting exercise at a stressful time, it will also focus your mind and allow you to choose a range of examples to demonstrate your strengths. Finally, take a deep breath and try to relax, after all, an interview is also an opportunity for you to decide whether you want to work for the firm or not.
Words: Mariya Rankin
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