Interviews are always a scary affair whether you admit it or not. Here is a post by Rishita Summet, namely
. Hope you like this post and do visit her blog for other interesting posts.
Anyways, now I know what sitting across the desk from the General Counsels/Partners/HR Head feels like and today I'll tell you how NOT to "blow it."
Step One: Do Your Homework.
Generally, what happens when you start applying for jobs left, right and centre is that your interviews at different firms get scheduled ad seriatim a.k.a. one after another. And that is not very helpful because it leaves you with very little time to prepare for each interview the way you should. At this point you should start understanding the importance of preparing well for interviews. And girls, that does NOT mean spending hours on picking out what to wear on that day.
1. Try and get your interviews placed with reasonable gaps in between to allow you to start your preps. I, for example, had four days between my first two interviews and I spent two days preparing for the first.
2. Dig out the past. I started with Google-ing the litigations that the Company had been involved in during the past few years. I looked at the arguments presented by its Counsels to get an idea of how they address legal disputes. This gives you an added advantage over other candidates because it helps you solve the practical problems you might be given during the interview faster.
3. Make a list of relevant legislations and regulations. Looking at the history of litigations also helps you deduce the major areas of law the Company has to deal with in its day-to-day transactions. I made a list of all major legislations and regulations that kept turning up in the case summaries and I made sure I read them all once before going for the interview.
All these pains paid off in the end. My answers were crisp and to-the-point. I was interviewed by their Head Counsel who's been practising for 30 years now and at the end of the interview he very merrily told me that I was the first candidate in years who'd done her homework. "It's such a relief to see that you've come prepared. All other times I've had to start from scratch and that just drains me," he said, and I paraphrase.Step Two: Watch Your Attitude
Attitude does not mean Body Language. Attitude has nothing to do with the way you sit or you shake hands- though that's important too. But first you must learn how to come across as clear-headed. I didn't know how important that was either until I learned later on that it was one of the reasons I got through. I believe I came across as clear-headed because of the following things:
1. Never frown. I had promised myself that no matter how scary the person sitting in front of me is or how many times they tell me that the job is very tough and demanding, I will not frown. Frowning is a sign that you are thinking too hard or something's troubling you and you are not supposed to think or feel troubled once you are in that board room. You ought to have done all your thinking outside!
2. Never say "I guess..." No guessing business. Always say, "Yes" or "I understand." It gives an impression that you learn things fast and that you are clear about what you are saying.
3. Be prompt. Don't go, "Er..." or "Uhm..." or "You know..." The interviewer loses interest.
4. Be willing to learn. When they say, "I can see that you've never worked at a Corporate Law Firm before..." or such, say, "Yes, I haven't. But there's always a first time for everyone." I said this, and that actually made them smile!
5. Ask questions. Don't do all the talking. Make them talk. About anything. Like, "I've read about the Job Profile but I want to hear it from you. Is there anything else that I should know?" or "You've been working in this field for many years now. As a rookie, I would really appreciate it if you gave me one tip as to how to make that happen for myself." This makes them feel that you are indeed serious about what you're embarking on. I asked both these questions and they actually opened up and talked. It set the tone for the interview which then became a productive dialogue.
Step Three: Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin
You must have heard this or read about it before but I'm still putting it in here because it's so very important. The DOs and DON'Ts of body language:
1. Don't fidget. It's best to sit bare-handed, hands resting on your knees because if you're holding a pen or your phone, you might start fidgeting with them unconsciously.
2. Don't keep adjusting your hair! Even if your hair is messed up, don't try and fix it once inside the board room. Do it outside and forget about it!
3. Sit straight but not like there's a pole up your you-know-what.
4. Do NOT rest your elbows on the table. Remember, it's their table, not yours and you can't use somebody else's property without their permission.
5. Do NOT cross your legs. Keep your feet on the ground. You are not the CEO.Step Four: Be Precise
Don't blabber. No blah-dee-blah please. Speak only when asked and only what asked. For example:
"Tell us something about yourself."
My answer- "I am from Raipur. Born and raised. I did my schooling from BMV High. Held the position of Secretary of Student Council in my junior year. I studied Law from HNLU. Was a member of the Cultural and Performance Arts Committee in my fourth year. I am a voracious reader and am currently working on a legal non-fiction of my own."
That's it for them. Don't go, "Well, let's see...blah blah Student Council...blah Cultural Fests...got gold medal in the blah blah category...blah blah...i love reading...my favourites are JKR, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Charles Whathisname...blah blah...I'm writing a book about...more blah blah blah!" Your interview might just end there.
"Do you know anything about the business here?"
My answer- "Deducing from the various litigations you've been involved in over the past few years, there are three broad categories of law you deal with, namely- IPR, Competition Law and Consumer Laws. TRAI is the major regulator followed by Competition Commission, Bureau of Indian Standards and ASCI."
This was the part where they almost applauded!Step Five: Be Smart when asked about your Weaknesses
This is a critical area where most candidates break into cold sweat. The reason being, the interviewers will grill you on your own confessions. This doesn't mean you have to lie. You only have to frame your answer smartly. Here's what I said:
"One thing that I have been struggling with is how to say 'no'. Many a times it has happened that I have helped people out even when approached at the eleventh hour and that meant staying up all night finishing my own assignments. But I'm working on it."
Then the follow up question went something like this:
"Okay. Then take for example- You will be working under the Legal Department. You'll have your own work to do. There'll be times, and I assure you that it'll happen very often, that people from other departments will come to you for getting agreements and contracts drafted, abstracts reviewed and the like. Tell me, how will you deal with all of that? How will you prioritize?"
My answer to that question that earned me brownie points:
"During the first few days, I'll go to Sapna (my immediate senior at office) and get her to guide me 'cause she knows the business. And in a few days, I'll be ready to take decisions for myself. As goes prioritizing, I work on the B.L. and A.L. model. Things to finish 'Before Lunch' and things that can be done 'After Lunch.' It's a very efficient working model and I assure you that everything will be taken care of."
What was the interviewer's reaction? Broad smile! Which was priceless because he had seemed like a very uptight person till then.
Keep all of this in mind and I promise you a great first interview. The proposition that preparation, attitude and the way you give your answers are decisive factors can only be emphasized by the fact that I was up against several other candidates who also had years of work experience to brag about and professional recommendations while I had none and still I was the one who got hired. Yes, I now work for one of the Tata Group Companies!
Just remember, you are one of the brightest students in the country. You have good credentials and there's nothing to lose at an interview. Throw your worries to the wind, be prepared and be yourself!
Good Luck and Happy Recruitment!