In between sips of hot Americano and the occasional, polite nibble on an oversized traybake, we also spoke about some of the firm’s recruitment activity. The recent post-interview feedback the firm had received from trainee interviewees seemed to centre around an intriguing lack of self-confidence some of them possessed and a general belief that they were not really deserving of a place amongst some of the finest legal talents in Northern Ireland. This got me thinking… why? Why would you enter an interview with anything other than the mindset and belief that you are going to be an asset to the firm? Is this a case of applicants failing to prepare for interviews correctly and sufficiently? Is the next generation of leading lawyers selling themselves short at an interview?
Very few of any firms’ next intake of trainees are going to be offering much in the way of previous working experience. Be it right or be it wrong, a lot of the emphasis is placed on academics highlighted on a CV – 1st Class honours, 2:1, 2:2, 3rd… but how do you differentiate yourself from the next CV in the pile with a similar degree classification, also offering pretty good A-Level grades and a well-written, punchy profile on the CV?
Although I am relatively new to the world of recruitment, I had gone through the same process during my route to qualification – something that I have found very useful when speaking to newly qualified candidates. If there’s one thing that I have noticed when reviewing CV’s and meeting with individuals on a face to face basis, it’s that everyone has their ‘Unique Selling Point’. Each of you has something different to offer; most people will excel at something in some shape or form. This is what sets you apart from the rest of the crowd and extracting and communicating your transferable skills during your interviews is not only going to give you more confidence, but you’ll come out of your interview feeling that you have given a good account of yourself.
Whatever your ‘USP’ may be, you need to shout it from the rooftops when you are in an interview. It may be academic, practical, excellent communication, writing or listening skills, the ability to interact with clients, captain of the local sports team, the 2013 Jnr. Freestyle Dance champion etc…etc… Everyone has something that they can excel at and if you can define this, then emphasising it is going to be key.
We all know how daunting it is going into an interview and we often leave feeling like we could have done a better job. Those nagging thoughts of ‘I should have said this or that’ or ‘I could have answered that better’ haunt us all as soon as we step a foot away from the interview location and quite often linger for some time thereafter. An important thing to remember here is that no single one person is ever totally relaxed at the thought of being questioned about their experience, character, aspirations and future career goals. It is not easy being put on the spot by the very people you want to impress and the people you hope will provide you with that dream job offer following such a high-pressure interview situation, no matter who you are or how well you prepare. We have all been there.
Also to be considered is that you have already won yourself an interview at this stage and are therefore off to a running start! The fact that the firm wants to see you means that they are impressed by what you have to offer on paper and are keen to know more about you. Not only do you want to do well yourself, but the interviewers also want you to do well. They have already begun to get excited about what skills and qualities, commitment levels, enthusiasm and drive you could bring to their workplace. The interview can cement that hope for both parties. An interviewer is not there to catch you out or to take pleasure in watching you squirm to find the perfect response to whatever challenges, hypothetical scenario they place in front of you but to meet a great candidate who can join their firm and better their workforce. You are an asset to a firm as much as the firm is an asset to you, something which young trainee and newly qualified solicitors forget all too often.
Even when young candidates are successful in their job seeking and have secured that coveted place in a renowned law firm, the self-doubt can remain or even deepen. Again, the inner saboteur rears its ugly head and tells you that you are not worthy of the position you have worked so hard to gain, that other people are more deserving than you and that you are not fit to work alongside people of this calibre in such an esteemed profession. It is difficult to pinpoint why these beforementioned individuals would be plagued by such ideas and think anything of themselves other than that they are intelligent, hardworking professionals and successful because they earned the right to be.
Is it because we live in a world that constantly pushes and encourages us to be the best we can be that even when we reach that point, we feel like we are still not good enough? Is it because we constantly compare ourselves to others, put excess pressure on ourselves to be faultless or because a job simply demands too much from us?
Whatever the reason, we will always have self-doubt and that is inevitable. The well-known phrase ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ springs to mind here – something I have heard a lot over the past year or so from friends, former classmates and colleagues. A lot of these people confess that they go to work every day feeling like they are not up to the job and worry that they are underperforming or just lack the confidence and belief in themselves.
It is often said that nothing prepares you for the real working world and that you don’t know what to expect until you are living in it. Certainly, studies can only take you so far and you learn how to perform a task once you are actually doing it and doing it regularly. Having a positive mental attitude can go a long way but this is, of course, easier said than done. There is a learning curve with any job and natural inner confidence that no doubt comes with time. Let’s just hope that the self-doubt fades sooner rather than later and remind yourself regularly that YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE!!!