Life at Allens

Clerkship interview tips

Congratulations, you've been invited to a clerkship interview! How do you stand out and make sure you are offered a place? We have put together some tips to help you rock the interview.

Before the interview
1 First and foremost, be on time. Pre-plan your journey and allow extra time to get to the office if you're meeting your interviewers in person. You can always take a walk if you've arrived too early. Arrive at reception with five minutes to spare – while you don’t want to be late, you also don't want to be too early. For clerkship interviews, they may ask you to arrive 15 minutes in advance, so, again, you don't want to be too early. The same goes for a virtual interview – log in to the meeting within five minutes of the start time and always check your connection in advance of the interview. Some firms will require you to download software too, so be aware of any instructions to do this in the interview confirmations that you receive in advance of your meeting. If you're wearing headphones, test your audio and microphone in advance. 
2 Make and respond to small talk when you first arrive for your interview or join virtually. It will help you relax, and set the mood for the rest of the discussion. Ensure you come across as genuine when making small talk.
3 If you're able to interview in person, think about those first impressions. For example, look at the layout of the room if you are shown through to a meeting room before your interviewers arrive. Will your back be to the door when your interviewers walk in? (Solution – make sure you pick the seat facing the door). Stand up to greet your interviewers when they walk into the room and maintain eye contact. Try to mirror their movements: eg you should sit down when they take their seats. Be aware of cultural differences and don't forget to smile.
4 If the interview is virtual, pay attention to your background (eliminate sources of background noise and consider what the interviewers can see behind you), lighting (choose a well-lit spot, ideally facing away from a window) and camera placement (the camera should be level with your face). Speak slowly and clearly, and pause for a few seconds after the interviewer has finished speaking – sometimes video lag can interfere with communication, making it harder for interviewers to understand you or making it appear as if you are interrupting them.
5 Make sure your mobile phone is turned off and not visible during your interview. If your phone does ring, however, try not to draw too much attention to it. Simply switch it off, apologise to your interviewers and move on.
6 Remember that practice makes perfect (as the old adage goes), so memorise your CV inside out and you'll naturally exude confidence. Try not to read your resume if it’s in front of you, so learn the dates of your employment history and the positions you’ve worked in, in chronological order. You should also try to use any opportunity to put your interviewing skills to the test; ask a family member or a friend to go over your CV and identify areas that may come up in the interview. Utilise what's available at university – some firms offer mock interviews through the law students society, and your university careers service/ faculty may also be able to help.
7 Know yourself and your elevator pitch (the name comes from the notion that your 'about me' speech could be delivered quickly and succinctly in the time it would take you to ride in an elevator, usually 20 to 60 seconds). You'll be able to revisit and use your elevator pitch in other situations aside from interviews too, such as events, so it's worth spending time practising this until the words flow naturally.
8 Do your research before your interview. Most interviews are between 30 and 60 minutes, and you should be prepared to answer questions about the position you're applying for and what the firm you're interviewing with actually does. You could investigate their learning and development strategies, their values, the opportunities for career progression, their international opportunities and secondments, clients, the type of work they do, flexibility, sustainability and corporate social responsibilities. Digest it all but remember to keep in mind your own values and what's important for you. You don't want to apply for a position if those values don't align.
9 Do take the time to research the interviewers before you head in for your interview too. You can demonstrate an understanding of both the firm and specific practice groups simply by asking your interviewer a question about their own background (eg what’s been your experience in private practice versus in-house, why did you decide to settle into banking and finance, what do you enjoy about front-end projects work). Please bear in mind your interviewers may change at the last minute due to eg a competing client demand, so try not get too flustered or let it get to you; simply thank the replacement interviewer for stepping in and get to know them in the interview.
10 Find a contact within your target firm – they can provide a valuable insider perspective on the firm's life and culture, as well as tips on how to prepare for the interview. This could be someone you already know, or you could reach out to your personal and professional network and ask them to introduce you to somebody. You will be assigned a buddy during the clerkship recruitment process, so they can be your point of contact if you don't already have one.
During the interview
1 Always accept an offer of water and, if interviewing virtually, make sure you have some water nearby. This will give you a few seconds to collect your thoughts before you answer a question, without looking like you’re struggling to think of something to say.
2 Similarly, take the time to respond with an accurate answer. Don't feel you need to reply to a question instantly to fill 'dead air'.
3 Avoid using 'erm', 'umm' and 'errrr'. It might take some practice, but the more you do this, the better you will become. One tip is to record yourself on your phone to hear how often these words subconsciously pop into your vocabulary. Simply pausing is a better option than trying to buy yourself some time (but we understand – it's hard to break a habit!).
4 Back up every answer you provide with a specific example and be prepared for follow-up questions from your interviewers, who may want to delve into those responses. This is where you can really set yourself apart from other applicants. Every candidate can google the best answers to standard interview questions, but the examples you use to back up that answer will help us to really understand you – the way you like to work, how you respond in certain situations, what you've learned etc. Remember to use the STAR technique to frame your responses – situation, task, action, result.
5 Find a link and tell your interviewers about it. Eg if you're interviewing at a law firm, then tell us about the law subjects you've enjoyed the most. Why did you enjoy those subjects? How do those subjects relate to the specific role you're applying for?
6 Be enthusiastic and make the interviewers believe that the firm you’re interviewing with is the only firm that matters. You're interviewing with people who love where they work, and if you can match their energy and passion and show them that you're equally keen, that's a big part of the interview assessment.
7 Your interviewers aren’t trying to trick you, so don't be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to a question. You could always respond with what you think you would do in that situation, even if you don’t have the experience to back it up at this stage in your career.
8 This is a two-way assessment, so don't be afraid to ask questions throughout the interview if they’re relevant to the discussion at that point. An interview is as much an opportunity for the interviewer to hear about your experiences, motivations and expectations as it is for you to test whether the firm is right for you and your career.
9 Feel free to bring a pen and paper to the interview, so that you can take notes. As you learn more about the firm and the experiences of your interviewers, you'll likely be forming questions that you don't want to forget to ask if you have time at the end of the discussion. You may also want to pre-plan some questions, and having some ideas already jotted down will ensure you're prepared (though try not to rely too heavily on your notes – you want to appear fully engaged in the conversation).
10 Your interviewers want to get to know you – your experiences, fears and the things that get you out of bed each morning. This is one of the only times you can really talk about yourself, and just yourself, for an extended period. Enjoy that moment and don't sell yourself short.
11 Maintain your composure throughout the interview. Fidgeting can be very distracting for an interviewer.
12 At the end of your discussion, take the time to thank the interviewers for making themselves available.
After the interview
1 If you have follow-up questions after you leave the room, don’t be afraid to use the networks you've formed during the interview process to get clarification.
2 An interview should be used as a networking opportunity too, so don't be afraid to connect with your interviewers digitally afterwards, to keep the communication and relationship going. Engage with everyone, regardless of their role within the firm.
3 If you're successful or not, use every interview process as an experience. Learn from it, refine your answers and don't give up.

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