My career consulting work has seen me coach hundreds of lawyers for job interview success meaning when it comes to rookie errors / traps I’ve pretty much seen them all. The most common ones include turning up late (or not at all), IT failure and lack of preparation. For the less obvious ones read on and take the remedial steps I’ve suggested as soon as possible because they may mean the difference between an offer and rejection.
Thinking the job is already in the bag. Don’t get me wrong. One of my many missions in life is helping clients to build or regain their confidence. But occasionally I come across lawyers who think so highly of themselves they wrongly assume that all they need to do is turn up, switch on the charm offensive and the job’s theirs.
Thankfully, employers who operate fair and robust recruitment policies aimed at reducing unconscious bias will see straight through the swagger. They brief interviewers to pay attention to and score the candidate against a set of strengths and competencies designed to ensure unconscious bias doesn’t blur their judgement. In other words, it’s not as simple as blagging your way in.
Remedial step: Tone it down and focus on to the content of your answers. Also, have robust examples ready to back-up any claims you’re planning to make about why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Informal interviews. I’ve definitely fallen for this one, where I’ve walked away from an interview feeling really good and thinking it’s a slam-dunk. Having struck a strong rapport with the interviewer, the job is surely mine? Sadly, it wasn’t and my immediate reaction was why? Then after some serious self-reflection I realised that I’d inadvertently fallen into the above trap. In other words, I became over-relaxed in the interviewer’s company and chatted about everything else going on in my life other than how I was a great match for the role.
Remedial step: Striking a strong rapport with the interviewer(s) is key to helping you relax and will enhance your performance. But rather than waiting for the interviewer to ask specific questions about your experience, strengths and competencies, my suggestion would be to use the initial ‘open’ motivational-style questions to signpost the interviewer towards the stuff you want to discuss. Front-loading your responses with killer opening answers also safeguards against another common trap, which is the interviewer(s) doing most of the talking.
Catastrophising. Just like me, most of us are our fiercest critics. Indeed, I’ve come across many, many instances when a client told me their interview was a car crash / disaster and to our surprise they got the job. What happened? Immediately after muddling up an answer, they avoided catastrophising, maintained their composure and didn’t throw the towel in.
Remedial step: Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Interviews aren’t tests. If you get a curve-ball question fired at you that you’re not sure how to answer offered a qualified response. And even if it wasn’t the sharpest answer just carry on as if nothing bad happened because provided the rest of the interview went well there is a very strong chance the interviewers will turn a blind eye. Remember, the interviewers are testing your overall performance. And often their reason for asking challenging questions is more about testing your resilience and debating skills rather than your precise knowledge of an area of law or topical issue. Interviewers are also human and most will make allowances for interview nerves.