The Interview Process
When you are preparing to attend interviews for what may be the first time in some years, it is crucial to ensure you are informed about the process and thoroughly prepared for anything that might arise.
While you may have been through the interview process a number of times, we offer employees the reassurance of guiding them through each stage of the interview process. We aim to ensure you are relaxed, confident and fully prepared when you attend an interview we have organised.
To assist you, we have also drawn up a basic guide to the interview process commonly used by firms and corporates when recruiting legal staff lawyers. While the steps below represent a common recruitment process, no 2 employers are the same. Often there are also significant differences within the same employer, so our consultants will aim to brief you about the particulars of the relevant employer from day one. There are always those unusual cases where the employer uses a 3 or 4 stage interview process or where there are significant delays, as well as those cases where an offer is made during the first interview.
Bearing that in mind, the steps below should be recognised for what they are – a guide only and to be taken into context regarding the actual role and the actual employer.
The Recruitment Process
The time lines below have been provided in accordance with our perception of what is usual practice when recruiting mid-level support staff. We’ve broken it down into 15 basic steps, so that you can see what you should expect along the way and what you will be asked to commit to once the ball gets rolling.
- Call Consultant and Discuss Advertisement and/or Role Sought
- Provide Resume to Consultant
- Meet Consultant, do Testing (or provide test results) and Consent to Approaching Employer
- Consultant Provides CV to Employer
- Consultant Arranges First Interview
- Employer Conducts First Interview
- Consultant Provides First Interview Feedback
- Consultant Sets Second Interview
- Employer Conducts Second Interview
- Consultant Provides Second Interview Feedback and Requests References
- Consultant Makes Oral Offer
- Employee Accepts Offer
- Employer Provides Formal Offer
- Employee Signs Offer and Resigns
- Employee Commences
This initial call, whether relating to a specific role or simply registering to be informed of available positions, allows us to begin the process of getting to know you. While we won’t get into lengthy career discussions at this point if you are able to attend for a face-to-face meeting, we’ll be keen to assist you with some basic information on putting a CV together, and give you some information about the market in your area of interest. We’ll make a time convenient to you (often during your lunch hour) and will hope to see you within a week, if not days.
Prior to meeting with you we like to see your initial CV, even if it is a general one or is still in draft form. The draft CV assists us in preparing to meet with you and allows us to give consideration in advance to any positives or negatives that might arise. Of course, the CV you provide to us won’t be passed on to any clients at this point, unless we specifically discuss this with you in advance.
We’ll usually spend around 30 minutes or so getting to know you and discussing with you your goals, expectations and the types of roles that are likely to interest you, as well as going through with you any roles that you are specifically interested in. Testing will take around 30 minutes unless you can provide us with current results. After discussing your testing results we’ll tell you all we know about a role or roles, the potential employer and the positives and negatives of what they offer. We’ll also suggest any changes to your CV that we think are appropriate and we’ll wait for you to give us the go-ahead to approach the employer on your behalf. Sometimes we’ll suggest that you go away and do some more research on them before we move ahead.
Once you have given us the go-ahead we will draft a profile about you to provide to the employer including the testing results, together with your CV. The profile we do is positive and simple. It really serves as a quick and easy way for the employer to determine if the CV is worth reading. It usually takes us around 24-48 hours to prepare and provide a CV. In cases where time is of the essence we provide them immediately.
Ideally within a week of sending off the CV we will notify you that you have been successful in obtaining an interview with a potential employer. We are proud of the fact that a high proportion of CV’s we send out result in at least a first interview. At that point we’ll need you to give us as many available times as possible and we’ll often have you commence preparing for the interview. As you would expect, you’ll need to be easily contactable from this point on, and setting up interviews with a panel of interviewers can be difficult to coordinate.
To prepare adequately for most interviews you should:
Study the website of the employer, paying particular attention to any senior lawyers in the group that you are being interviewed by, sections on the culture of the employer, news items or updates etc.Search for any recent news events or matters involving the employer and familiarise yourself with the key issues
Familiarise yourself with any areas that will be relevant to the interview and that you need to brush up on
Review your CV, paying particular attention to the information you listed in the experience section
Check that your listed referees are in the country and will be available if needed to be contacted within a few weeks. If they are not likely to be available it may be prudent to have your consultant take a reference from them at the outset
Speak to your consultant at length about the employer, taking notes about issues that are raised
Consider how you will answer questions on salary expectations, perhaps speaking to your consultant about them
Double-check that you have the right date and time for the interview and make sure you know how to get there, allowing plenty of extra time.
Make sure that you are comfortable answering the common questions that arise at interviews
Make sure that you have a good suit or clothes that are suitable for the interview and that you present professionally.
Ideally, the first interview will be conducted within a week or two of the CV being received by the employer. The first interview will usually be conducted by the HRM or similar person. First interviews usually run for around 20 to 30 minutes and have a relaxed, professional tone, giving both parties the opportunity to learn more about each other and discuss potential issues and opportunities. Some employers conduct the first interview with the HRM only, so don’t be surprised if this is the case with you. The initial interview can be brief and salary expectations may not be discussed at this stage.
Generally speaking, while interviews can feel informal this doesn’t mean that the HRM won’t be asking behavioural based questions, so you will want to make sure that you aren’t taken aback if these come up.
Generally the consultant will provide feedback within 2-3 three days of the interview taking place. Often the feedback is very limited at this point. Usually the outcome of an interview is known within a week. In some cases a 2nd or a 3rd interview will not be necessary.
If the first interview was successful, and you also want to move ahead with the application a second interview is usually arranged to take place within a further 3-5 days. The second interview should be set for a time within a week of the notice being given.
Where the interview process has 2 stages, the second one should take around 30-45 minutes or so and should enable both parties to leave knowing whether the fit to the role is correct or not. This interview may be conducted by 2 people and will usually include one of the interviewers from the first round and a partner or team member. While the tone of the interview should remain friendly and professional, and the structure relatively informal, issues such as salary, future opportunities, work hours, and potential start dates should be discussed at this point. If there are any particular issues that you need to raise, such as an impending wedding soon after a likely start date, these are usually best raised here. Your consultant will also advise you as to any other issues that you might want to raise that are particular to you.
Ideally a decision should be made within a week of the second round interview, although where the role has multiple applicants or there are other issues this may take longer. If the employer uses personality/aptitude tests or other tests these are usually conducted during this stage. If the feedback was positive and an offer seems likely to be made, oral references are usually taken by the consultant or employer at this point. Usually 2 professional oral referees should suffice. Ordinarily, one key reference from a former supervisor together with another 1 or 2 supplemental references from others.
It has become common practice for law firms in particular to make an oral offer to employees comprising key information such as salary package, title, practice area and probationary period and to await an indication from the employee that they are going to accept that offer prior to having it formally drawn up.
Although most employers would prefer immediate acceptance of an offer, employees often take a few days to consider and accept the offer, particularly where there are multiple offers being made. While it is difficult to predict if and when an offer may be revoked by an employer, the general rule of thumb appears to be that a week is sufficient time for an employee to accept an offer. This can often be a tricky process and your consultant will give you advice appropriate to the particular situation. Often there will be some negotiation over the offer and your consultant will also be happy to advise you in that respect.
Once the employee has confirmed they accept the offer in principal they will usually receive the formal offer within a few days. Some employers prepare this as a matter of course following an oral offer, while others wait for acceptance to be given.
The employee ought to resign within 24-48 hours of receiving and accepting the written offer. While the thought of resigning can be stressful, your consultant will advise you how to go about it and how to deal with any particular issues that are likely to arise. Keep in mind that you will need to take into account your 2 or 4 week notice period.
In an ideal world, all employees would spend 2 weeks on a tropical island before commencing a new role. The key determinants in how long you will have before starting a role will be your notice period and the urgency of your appointment with the new employer. Most notice periods are 2 or 4 weeks or one month.
We do recommend that you have a short break between roles. Often a new employer will be keen to have you start as soon as possible, and your consultant will advise you and often speak to the employer about your needs in this respect as well as giving you some advice on how to ensure that you can shorten your notice period without getting your current employer off-side. Resigning and finishing mid-week will ensure that you have a few days off at the least.