Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Interview Question & Answer – Are you able to supply any references and if yes, who? What do you think they would say about you?

Interview Question & Answer – Are you able to supply any references and if yes, who? What do you think they would say about you?
Firstly the answer to this question always has to be yes, secondly you need to make sure the references on your CV are legally related if at all possible and thirdly you need to explain that they would have nothing but positive things to say about you. There is really no other answer to this question unless you have very specific circumstances that necessitate further explanation.
If you have been in employment recently where you will not be able to get a reference because of an acrimonious departure (whether this is any fault of your own or not) you need to be careful in the way you approach this in interview. Very often people get worried about the issue of references and employers get away with murder as a result because employees are frightened that they may not be able to work again due to the lack of a reference. There are always options on references and it is fairly easy to pick up references from work places even if the employers and yourself have fallen out.
Have a think about all the people you have worked with in recent times and come up with two who have seen your work in action over the last couple of years. If there are issues with your most recent employer then think about a colleague you have worked with or someone else you have had daily interaction with, whether this is a solicitor from another firm who you’ve dealt with regularly or a Judge or a manager elsewhere. You can use any one of these as a reference and I do not think an employer will necessarily hold this against you.
At the same time if you do not have any issues then your two references will be your most recent employer and, depending on how far your career stretches back, either an academic reference or someone from a previous firm or colleague who knows you.
If you have departed from a firm on an acrimonious basis or only stayed for a short period of time it is often worth making sure you have a To Whom it May Concern reference before you leave so that you can produce this instead of the future employer needing to go back to the past employer and there being issues with the reference that may have an effect on you at a later stage.
Always give the answer in interview if asked that the references will say nothing but positive things about you because one would not expect a reference to have been sent over that was anything different.
If you are at the start of your career and this is a paralegal or training contract application then you will probably be using an academic reference and someone from recent work experience or part time job. If at all possible try and get the professional title of the academic reference. If you have been studying for your legal degree or the LPC it is likely that the tutor will be either a solicitor or barrister, even though they are probably of the non-practising variety. It is worth having this on a CV as it makes a little bit of difference. The other referee needs to be someone who you have worked with if at all possible. Try to avoid putting down a person who just happens to live next door and is the family GP as this is not really much of a reference to give a future employer.
Sample Answer
“Yes, I can supply two references. These would be from my recent employer and my past employer. The reference from my last employer has said how exemplary my work record is, the fact that I’ve had no days off for sickness and that I was a valued member of the team and sorely missed”.
Jonathan Fagan is MD and recruitment consultant for Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and Interim Lawyers. Jonathan is the author of and all our articles are published here and also at – our monthly newsletter site. This extract is taken from our forthcoming book - 100 interview questions and answers. Our other legal careers ebooks can be found at our Legal Careers Shop.

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