Tips on how to answer the top interview questions for prospective in-house trainees.
In-house training contract interviews are slightly different because in-house legal teams are looking for someone who is the right fit, can hit the ground running and who is able to deal with challenging personalities from all levels within the organisation.
Although most recruiters and careers advisors will tell you to follow the STAR method when answering questions, from my experience, most interviews will be less formal and be more of a conversation with interviewers looking to see how well you both get on.
Here are my top interview questions with indicative answers:
Questions around you and the organisation
Tell me about yourself?
This requires a quick but engaging summary of what you are currently doing and what you did most recently but that is linked to how you are a right fit for the role. You could answer this by thinking about the following; where are you currently working? How long have you worked there? What did you do before that? If it is your first job, are there any pro bono or extra curricular activities that you could talk about?
What do you know about the organisation?
It is really important to show your interest in working for them and why:
What does the organisation do?
Are they a leader in their sector? (FTSE 100, award winning)
Are they international or national? If so, how does that differentiate them from their competitors?
Is the organisation part of a wider group that covers different operating divisions? If so, how does this link to your interest in the organisation, for example does it say in the job specification that you would be able to get involved across all operating divisions?
Are there any significant deals/projects they have worked on which have been reported? For example, finalising a deal with a well-known brand shows their position within the market and prestigious clients that they work with.
Why do you want to work for this organisation?
You could be looking to build on your legal experience and mention why that particular area of law interests you e.g. if you had completed a module then that shows your interest in that area or previous experience in that sector even if you did a non-legal role.
Are their other development opportunities such as courses that they are willing to send you on?
The clients they work with may be interesting to you.
The size of the legal team – whether it is small, medium or large you will be working with people of varying levels of PQE and experience who you can learn from.
Are there any initiatives that the organisation promotes such as D&I?
Competency based questions
Tell me about a difficult situation and how you tackled it?
The interviewer is trying to see how you respond and deal with challenging situations e.g. working with demanding clients/departments whilst giving advice and facing pressure to agree on a particular stance. The interviewer is looking to see how to deal with these situations so you could say you tackled it by giving them options or alternatives so they are able to meet their internal deadlines. In this situation, you have to think about their priorities/deadlines and how that is affecting their response to your advice.
Tell me about a complex legal issue that you worked on?
You could give an example of a change to law that affected the organisation and say why it was complex. Was it because it involved changing internal processes in order to comply? Then say how you dealt with that situation, so you have to demonstrate here how you worked on it, did you work on a project with others or did you work independently such as creating spreadsheets, analysing the information and impact and then feeding back your suggestions to the team?
What to ask the interviewer
Always ask at least 2- 3 questions at the end of the interview and if you still have more you can always ask after the interview is over either through the recruiter or by contacting the HR advisor.
My top 3 questions:
What is your management style?
What are your expectations of me in this role?
What is the biggest challenge that I will face in this role?