Training contract application: cracking the interview

24 August, 2018

This week the trainee solicitor blog team caught up Ed Dickinson, a first year trainee in the Commercial team. Ed gives his thoughts on how to crack the training contract interview.

If you’ve reached the interview stage (or ‘business end’) of your training contract application, you have successfully demonstrated your potential on paper. However, for many, the real challenge awaits. Why is it that so many applicants – who on paper are excellent candidates – fail to impress at the last hurdle? Below, I outline my tips to crack the interview based on my experiences and thoughts from current Cripps interviewers.

Interview process

The Cripps training contract interview process has two stages: the first involves a short interview with the Head of HR followed by a longer interview with two associates; the second involves a timed paper followed by an interview with two partners.

Personality

My experience during the process confirmed my desire to train with Cripps. Unlike many other firms, all my interviewers were friendly, engaging and wanted to get to know me as an individual. It became clear that personality is an important trait at Cripps. Regardless of what your interests are, personality will assist you in working with clients and colleagues. My first tip therefore, is to relax, be yourself, express your personality, and be memorable.

Focused responses

The purpose of the questions I was asked during my interviews were, largely, to establish my character, why I wanted to be a lawyer, why I wanted to join Cripps, my commercial awareness, and how I could add value. No wacky questions, more of a conversation than an assessment… easy right? Unfortunately not; and to quote the late Steve Jobs, “simple can be harder than complex”. Cripps interviewers have highlighted the importance of focused answers to questions. A common mistake by interviewees is to ramble on about something irrelevant, either by trying to say what you think the interviewer wants to hear, or by rambling to fill the silence. Responses should be expressed concisely and clearly. If necessary, do not be afraid to ask for clarification or for the question to be repeated.

Preparation

The last – and seemingly obvious – piece of advice is to prepare.

  • Practice your responses. If you were interviewing someone, what questions would you ask them? Have someone ask you those questions and practice your answers in simulated conditions. Can you think on your feet and apply your stock answers to unknown questions?
  • Research the firm – and not just from reading excerpts from Chambers and Partners or Cripps’ website which all the other candidates are reading.

For the anxious amongst us, remember – it’s just an interview – prepare, relax and enjoy it!