08-02-10

Training Contracts 2: How to succeed at your interview for a training contract So you've made it through the selection process and have been invited to attend for interview ... given the intense competition for training contracts, you've done well to get to this stage. Maximise your chances by paying attention to basic do's and don'ts. I am the managing partner of a medium-sized 20-partner firm based in Covent Garden, London. The firm is known for its entertainment, media and family work. We had more than 2,000 applicants for our two training contracts for 2011 and selected 17 for interview. First interviews were conducted by myself and another partner, and candidates were told in advance who their interviewers were going to be. What follows is geared to my firm but you should be able to pick up common themes: * Try to establish who will be interviewing you. Make sure that you carry out sufficient research on the interviewers and their fields of expertise. Go farther than the firm's website . . . * A good knowledge of the firm is presumed but so, too, is a working knowledge of competitors. Try to obtain a feel for the firm and its culture from contacts and friends. Ask around. * Rehearse the points that you wish to make and the questions that you're likely to be asked. Obvious questions will arise from your CV but typical ones include: what are your strengths and weaknesses and what is your biggest mistake? Rehearse and rehearse again. * Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview. If you are likely to be delayed, phone ahead. * Pay particular attention to your body language. Given that only 7 per cent of how we communicate is by words, you need to be aware of the impression that you give in an interview. A warm smile, firm handshake and good eye contact are all big positives. So far as the 7 per cent is concerned, concentrate on measured speech and avoid the temptation to over-speak or fill any silence unnecessarily. Listen and nod by way of acknowledgement. * If you are asked a particularly difficult question don't feel the need to blurt out an immediate response. Full marks went to the candidate who was composed enough to ask for an opportunity to consider his response to a searching question. * Consider whether a short follow-up e-mail after the interview is appropriate. Caution needs to be exercised here, as the right balance must be struck between enthusiasm and over-eagerness. Several candidates got this approach right and enhanced their position. * Six candidates were called for second interview and were advised that the interview would take place with another two partners who would not know what had transpired at their first interview. I sat in on all second interviews as an observer. At second interview some candidates were noticeably more nervous and their performance undoubtedly suffered as a consequence. With this in mind: * Don't forget the importance of your body language. * Research your new interviewers. * If you are asked whether you have any questions, try to link this with any matters arising from the first interview. * Remember that interviewers want to know why you want to join their firm and not that you just want a training contract You can never be too prepared. Show initiative. Full marks to the candidate who took us all by surprise with his in-depth knowledge of some of the matters we had worked on way past and present. You must be yourself. But you can go a long way towards reducing the odds against securing a training contract.
Article by John Seigal