Ace your interviews
To maximise your chances of securing freelance legal roles, there are some key differences in the interview process you need to master. In our latest Move the Needle webinar for our Obelisk Support consultant community, Lucinda Acland explored how to master the art of interviews with the Obelisk team.
Focus your interview preparation and research
Adopting a framework for preparing for an interview gives you an efficient approach to cover the essentials and helps boost your confidence, especially if you haven’t had an interview for a while or are new to the freelance world. Start by researching the client – put yourself in their shoes and be clear in your mind about their world.
Before your interviews, always pay attention to understanding the client’s:
- commercial reality, sector challenges, international or UK presence and type of customers (business or consumer) and their organisational values
- legal needs and how the legal function fits into the wider business and sector regulatory framework
- interviewers – their role and perspective in the organisation and length of service.
As well as an organisation’s website, look at updates from blogs, newsletters and their social media presence. Also look at online resources and email subscriptions such as:
- legal press – The Lawyer, Solicitors Journal, Law Society Gazette
- sector publications – for example, Lexology, which is a great source of client notes from private practice firms, chambers, and specialist barrister blogs
- business Press – the Economist and Financial Times (take advantage of the 5 free articles a month).
In terms of the interviewers themselves, look at the organisation’s website profiles, LinkedIn and do a general search for any articles or press mentions. Remember too, that interviewers will look you up online, so make sure your professional social media presence is appropriate and your LinkedIn profile is up to date.
Remember, for freelance roles, the job description details may not be as full as permanent roles and the hiring process is quicker. These interviews are the client’s opportunity to gauge how you will help them meet their organisation’s legal needs and whether the ‘chemistry’ is right between you and their organisation. Show you understand this by tailoring your answers and the information you share to them specifically.
“The interview began with the client asking me to tell them what I knew about them. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to be prepared.”
Set the scene
A common starting point is the interviewer asking you to explain your current circumstances, so be prepared to talk about your background and your journey to freelancing. Don’t be concerned about career gaps, or redundancy, clients support Obelisk’s ethos of championing flexible work, and the key is to be open and confident in your interviews.
If you’ve had a career break, be prepared to demonstrate how you’ve kept up to date with legal developments in your specialist area. Provide concrete examples and share how excited you are to have the opportunity to use and build on this knowledge.
“Clients will have seen your CV and know and like our ethos of championing flexible work.”
Be a STAR at competency questions
It’s very common to be asked scenario-based competency questions, such as “What would you do if…?” or ‘Tell me about a time when you had to …’. A good way to answer these questions is to use the STAR acronym: Situation, Task, Action, Result:
- Describe the situation you faced and briefly set the scene
- Expand on the task you identified, outlining the challenge and why it mattered
- Detail the action you took, concentrating on your individual impact
- End by explaining the result, in business terms such as time saved, a contract won or a risk averted.
A good way to prepare is with the help of a supportive friend or family member. Make a list of your successes or challenges you have overcome, together with your top three personality strengths. Look for examples of praise you have received in assessments, difficult transactions, or complex projects. Practise describing these to your helper, using the STAR model.
Remember that clients will also be looking at how succinct you are at answering questions. Clients need consultants who can give practical, clear, commercial advice that they can act upon. A good tactic is to structure your answers using the Minto pyramid principle: present a lead point, then add three pieces of supporting information, and if necessary go into more detail for each, then summarise with your key point.
It is always better to say something than look stumped, so if you are asked to demonstrate a competency for which you don’t have an exact example, use one of your personality strengths and describe how you would use it in the situation. Clients always value good communication skills, reliability, resilience, and adaptability.
Show how your skills fit the role
Check through the role requirements and have examples of your specific capabilities, experience, or transferable skills ready for your interview. As with competency questions, build up several examples so you can discuss them and develop a strategy to talk about transferable skills. For remote roles, clients will be keen to hear about your experience or preparedness to liaise with them effectively and manage the work patterns or hours they require. Some clients ask consultants to prepare a short paragraph about their motivation for the role and/or undertake legal writing assignments or a specimen contract review exercise.
Shine in video interviews
Most interviews for freelance legal roles are still being held remotely, so prepare to shine online and:
- Check you have the requisite software installed and understand the joining instructions
- Choose a quiet location without the risk of interruptions and disable notifications
- Present yourself professionally in terms of dress and background
- Have your CV to hand, along with some paper to jot down any notes and some water
- Speak clearly and with enthusiasm, as you need to compensate for reduced body language
- Don’t be tempted to look anything up or multitask whilst talking to the interviewers.
“Do you have any questions for us?”
The interview finishing line is in sight, so think about if you need clarification on any aspect of the role. In addition, prepare at least three or four thoughtful questions in advance of your interviews. They demonstrate your enthusiasm and preparedness for the role, and may also help you stand out from other candidates.
“Asking questions shows you have done your research and are confident enough to say when something isn’t clear to you.”
Finish on a high
Remember to thank your interviewers for the opportunity to discuss the role, even if the interview hasn’t gone quite as you would wish. Afterwards, take a few minutes to reflect. It can be useful to make a note of the questions and your answers whilst interview is fresh in your mind, to help you prepare for future meetings.
The Obelisk Support team is here to help our consultants thrive. For more tips, watch this webinar in full on the Obelisk YouTube channel.