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Do you're homework

You have secured an interview but can you beat the competition to the job? Employers will want to know that you are really interested in them. How do you find out about your potential employer?

There are few things more off putting to a potential interviewer than an interviewee who doesn’t show enough interest in their organisation. After all, there is likely to be a fair amount of competition for the position and plenty of well qualified candidates. Why should an employer offer you the job if they don’t think you have researched them thoroughly?

Common mistakes include:

  • Treating your potential employer as a “generic” firm. For example, you may want to work for a large City firm. You know about working as a lawyer in the City generally but very little about the specific firm you have an interview with. If you fall into this trap you may find that you fit the bill on paper but never get past first interview because your interviewers will prefer the candidates who show a specific interest in them.
  • Failing to research the available position. For example, you are working as a general commercial litigator. You would like to specialise in a specific area in your new job. You mention this in interview and discover that the firm only wants a generalist for the role and you have just taken yourself out of the running. If you have an interest in a specific area, its fine to highlight that so long as you know the position will include that area but never express a wish to avoid dealing with some areas of work that may considered essential to the role.

How to research your potential employer

Hopefully you didn’t take a scattergun approach to your applications and you already have some knowledge about the firm who have invited you for interview. Now that you have an interview its time to do some in-depth research. But where should you look?

  • The internet – an invaluable source of information will be a firm’s website. Don’t just look at the area of interest to you. Consider the department you would be part of in the context of the firm as a whole. You may be a private client lawyer but the firm may have a commercial bias with only a small private client team. You may look foolish if you give the impression at interview that you thought you were applying for a position with a specialist private client firm. Looking at client newsletters published on the firm’s website and staff and partner profiles can also give you a good feel for the culture of the firm. Don’t limit yourself to recruitment information on websites or in brochures.
  • The legal press – in paper form or on the internet, specialist legal publications such as the Law Society Gazette or legal directories will give you valuable information on the firm, including, in some cases, details of more well known clients and deals. You will gain brownie points if you can indicate in interview that, for example, you are already aware of the department’s biggest clients.

Your CV has given you a foot in the door in a competitive market. Make sure that door doesn’t slam in your face because you can’t distinguish one firm from another! Firms will be proud of a good reputation and will want to feel that you would be too if you work for them.

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