Monday, December 10, 2007

Setting the tone for Law interviews

One of the aspects of the interview that many applicants comment on after the event is how quickly the time passes. With usually between 20 and 30 minutes, even five minutes spent in giving general introductions cuts heavily into the available opportunity to engage with the applicant. One of the methods used by the interviewers to ensure that they can maximise the opportunity that the interview presents is to hold a pre-interview briefing for all of the students who are about to be interviewed; this enables all of the students within a subject discipline to receive the same information, and also allows general questions about the process and course to be asked up front.

In order to observe the effectiveness of this approach I was standing at 8.30 in the morning in front of 16 rather nervous and strained law applicants, listening as the law tutors introduced the interview team, and explained the structure of the day. Candidates would have two interviewers, and the focus of the discussion would be on some case extracts that the candidates would receive 75 minutes in advance of the interview. Candidates had a number of questions to answer, which were printed on the cover sheet of the extracts; knowledge of the law was not required, but the students would have to be able to interpret complex information and explain and summarise material.

The interviewers were very good at delivering what was an important message in a very encouraging manner. They were very straight-talking, emphasising that the interviews were only one part of the process in identifying the successful candidates, and stressing the importance to the interviewees of engaging in discussion - it was OK for a candidate to revise their views as a result of the interaction with the interviewers, as long as they could explain how they reached their conclusion clearly. The mood of suppressed panic in the room began to lift, and after 20 minutes the students were even beginning to smile. Then, disaster struck, as some one's mobile phone went off.

The ring tone of the phone was quite understated, and it wasn't immediately obvious what was causing the noise - gradually the tone grew louder; the interviewers to their credit ignored it, and kept on speaking, but it was clear that there was at least one person in the room who (internally at least) was going through a thousand years of agony in the space of a moment. Eventually the caller must have triggered the answer-phone, because the tune stopped, although we were then treated to a couple of loud beeps as the phone let its owner know that they had received an important message.

The briefing continued, the interviewers making a point about their intention to push the candidates hard, and in the supplementary questions towards the end of the interview they would ask about issues that had no clear right or wrong answer, but would require the applicant to take an ethical or moral stance.

Things were winding down, and the candidates were beginning to ask questions, when the mystery caller struck again - once more, the guilty party maintained a superb poker face, and let the call play out, although their self-control must have been at breaking point.

The Law Faculty typically only invites about 50% of their applicants to interview, following the initial scrutiny of applications, references and LNAT test results - for me the experience emphasised that the level of competition to do well and be successful for the candidates is so intense that a student will sit through the entire rendition of their most recently down-loaded ring-tone rather than indicate any possible fallibility on their part. It was a sobering thought. The silver lining however is that I guarantee that all 16 of the candidates in the room made sure that they were not going to fall victim to the same situation when it came to the real interview.

53 comments:

Argenta said...

Probably I miss the point having left University many years ago, but reading all of this, I wonder if I truly want my kids to go through this hell. Is it really worth it?

Anonymous said...

It's so worth it- I told my dad after it that even if I didn't get in I was happy I had went through the experience as it had been a worthwhile one. Fortunately I did get in- yay. I was in the room when the mobile was going off by the way- it was hilarious, I nearly died trying to keep my laughter down.

Anonymous said...

The most mortifying fact I found in this blog is that only 50% of law candidates are invited to the interview. *gulp*

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Tough stuff alright. I guess that is why it is a Great College.

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not quite cambridge though

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Having been through this interview, I understand how stressful it can be.

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I also now how it feels to walk out knowing you haven't had enough time.

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There is nothing more objectionable to a legal employer than an interviewee with no knowledge of the firm or company. After all, research skills should be one of your strengths.

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Practice, practice and practice some more for interviews and do role plays.

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Even if you do not get through I'm sure it is a great learning curve.
I was suprised that only 50% make it to the interview stage, but then I suppose the best students are what the university need!

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This could somehow help me in the future in case of... But, I confident to myself that I can handle things and I am good. I study hard and prepare myself to face the real life challenge after my life as a student. It's more tougher out there and I need to pack myself with knowledge and confidence.

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Joshua Carpenter - Vudu said...

I agree with the user Cairns Web Design, 2 years ago that I do interviews, not many years and still can not feel comfortable in them. But the practice is all, also have improved a lot since it was my first interview, now I try to think in advance the questions and then let it flow and invented new questions according to the Section.
Greetings.

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The interview process can be quite intimidating for those who are not prepared. Funny some of the trick that are played. Success is such a mind game.

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