Husnara Begum, associate editor & career coachInterview preparation is by far one of the most common areas most of my careers consulting clients need help with. More specifically, they turn to me for tips and advice on how how to boost their confidence at interviews. So I’ve put together some tried and tested methods I hope will help you push nerves to one side.

  1. Preparation is absolutely key to interview success. Firstly, go through your CV/application form and become an expert on yourself, covering your career journey to date, motivations for making a move, your interest in joining a particular law firm or team, key achievements and longer-term career goals. Secondly, if you’re already a qualified lawyer or soon to become one, turn your attention to the technical stuff (legal and commercial) and ensure you can talk intelligently about the deals/cases you’ve included in your CV. This is especially important for newly qualified or junior lawyers who frequently fall over when answering questions about their work. Thirdly, research the firm or team you’re meeting and swot up on recent trends, new laws etc. Finally, refer back to any previous interviews you’ve had and make a list of questions you found difficult and prepare edited or indeed alternative bullet point answers.
  2. Once you’ve pulled together your skeleton answers rehearse them out loud. Then wash, rinse and repeat (in front a mirror if necessary).
  3. Practice interviews will also help further as they encourage you to turn your initial preparation into spoken words. You don’t need a career coach to help with this. I’m sure most of you reading this blog will have at least one or two contacts in your network who’ll be delighted to run a mock interview with you. Failing that, if your interview was secured through a recruiter then they should also be able to help. Related to this, I recommend doing a voice recording of your practice interview (this can simply be done on your mobile) as this will help you identify whether your delivery also needs more attention.
  4. Cut the negative talk, self-limiting beliefs and concentrate on the positive stuff. Remember the interviewers aren’t mind readers and will expect you to sell yourself. So don’t worry about coming across as cocky or arrogant and focus on your USPs and draw out specific examples that will make you memorable. Also, remind yourself that you deserve the job and that you have already impressed the employer on paper (otherwise, you wouldn’t have got the interview!). And do try to normalise rejection and, as they say, just get back on the horse. Every lawyer I’ve worked with has had at least one unsuccessful interview but rather than dwell on it they have used this as as an opportunity to learn.
  5. Focus on quickly striking a rapport with the interviewer as this is a sure-fire way of demonstrating your likability. What’s more, if you successfully connect with the interviewer then they may well be more inclined to take a less combative approach and offer prompts if you get stuck on a question.
  6. Eliminate unnecessary stressors well ahead of the interview. For example, if your interview is in person plan your journey to the interview well in advance so you don’t panic about running late. Alternatively, for virtual interviews test your tech and ensure laptops and bluetooth headphones are fully charged. If at all possible, book your interview for a time of day when you will be at your peak. For example, I’m not a morning person and I also have a long journey into London so a morning interview at wouldn’t work for me. That said, a late afternoon slot won’t work either as I’ll just worry about it and get myself even more stressed. As such, lunchtime or mid-morning is ideal for me.
  7. Use breathing techniques to help you relax. While waiting to be greeted by your interviewer, take a few moments to do some breathing. To do this most effectively, take a deep breath through your nose (really feel your stomach expand) and then slowly blow it out through your mouth. Repeat this three times, while concentrating on centering your thoughts.
  8. Always accept the offer of a glass of water (or if you’re doing a virtual interview have a glass of the power juice next to you). Taking sips of water during an interview not only cools you off and stops your mouth from drying up it also works as a pause button and indeed can stop you rambling. For example, if you’re stuck on a question rather than blurting out the first answer that springs to mind have a sip of water to buy you thinking time.
  9. Develop your own strategies that will help you do away with any tell tale signs that you’re nervous. Body language is obviously very important here. For instance, if you’re a fidgeter then I recommend removing jewellery and placing any notes/your CV neatly in your bag so you don’t start bending the corners or keep looking down at them.
  10. Treat yourself to a new outfit or hairdo. For me personally, looking the part definitely boosts my confidence levels. If that doesn’t work for you then come up with your own method. Many of the lawyers I work with say exercise and a decent night’s sleep also go a long way to help calm last minute nerves.

By Husnara Begum, Associate Career Coach and Contributing Editor