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How to Interview -a free guide from Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment

Guide to interviewing for employers.

When interviewing potential employees, particularly in a law firm setting, it is important to remember the following advice:

1. HR managers have been trained in specific techniques designed to apply psychology and test a candidate’s personality, but are usually unable to determine someone who you personally would feel comfortable working with. Make sure the person you are employing is someone that you could work with and get on with well in a work setting as well as a social one or an interview environment.

2. Be sure that the person you are employing is technically capable of doing the job. Ask a couple of technical questions during the interview and gauge the response.

3. Write down all the answers that the candidate gives you, as if you are interviewing 20 potential employees in one day you are almost certainly going to forget half, if not three quarters of what is said.

4. Refrain from taking over the interview and not giving the candidate an opportunity to speak. A lot of interviews are conducted by interviewers who have not really understood the idea or concept behind interviewing, which is for you to determine that the person you are interviewing is suitable for your company or firm. If you do not allow them to speak, you will never know this. Indeed, the person will go away wondering whether or not you are the slightest bit interested in them when all you have done is spend the time talking about yourself. There is a law firm in Nottingham where the senior partner is very well known for doing this and offering jobs to people at the end of the interview without them actually having uttered a word.

5. Do not be defensive to any questions that are asked by the candidate. Some candidates like to see how you will react as an employer in a situation where you may have been put on the spot or under a stressful situation. They may wish to see how you would react to them asking them, for example. An example of this would be a question such as, “What do you do if you get angry with your employees? Have you ever thrown a book at them?” It may sound a silly question, but if they have come from a firm or company where their former employer was slightly deranged and undertook such exercises on a regular basis, it may be something they feel very concerned about.

6. Smile in the interview. Do not glare at the candidates, and if interviewing as part of a panel try and avoid the situation where one of you acts as good cop and one of you acts as bad cop. This does not work on the whole, unless interviewing very junior members of staff who are desperate for work and may just annoy anyone with a bit of experience in the work place.

7. Think about using a mystery shopper to sit in reception with the candidate when they come in. This can be very interesting. You may find the person is reading your literature or may find them sat reading the paper but you will see them in a more relaxed state than they would have been in the interview. Ask your receptionist or secretary to keep an eye on them as well and to give you their feedback on their greeting to them and the way that they spoke to them when they first came into the building.

8. Avoid asking too many questions which are waffly or require lots and lots of business speak. Anyone can do business talk if they have been on the right courses, but it does not determine whether that person will be any use to your business or firm or gauge how hard working they are.

9. Do try to ask questions that put the candidates on the ropes and make them work hard with their responses. It will give you an idea as to how they react in a difficult situation at work.

10. Don’t forget to ask a moral question and see how they react to it. Such examples would include whether they would report a fellow employee they saw taking paper clips out of the stationery cupboard, or observing a potential criminal act taking place that required police intervention.

11. Finally, remember that the person you will be interviewing could be someone that is going to work with for a long, long time and if you give off an bad impression in an interview, this can last throughout your relationship as employer/employee. It does not necessarily follow that because a potential employee does not like you, they will not want to work for your company, as firstly money talks, and secondly they may see your company or business as an ideal career opportunity as opposed to needing to fit in well with you.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and also works as a management consultant advising law firms and others on business consultancy issues. You can contact him via or visit the website


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