Interview tips for the Nigeria Lawyer

Job Interview tips #101 for the Nigerian lawyer

Congratulations your CV has passed through the hurdles of job applications systems and you have now been selected for an ‘interview’, here are a few tips to help you prepare and get that job .

1.Be Punctual: Nothing shows lack of preparedness than showing up for an interview late. Yes this is Nigeria, circumstances beyond one’s self can impact your arrival time, however you are expected as a job candidate to have factored all these . If possible stay close to the area of your interview or give allowances for traffic, heavy rainfall, etc. Interviewers are human so if you are going to be at least 5-15 minutes late, put a call to them apologise and let them know this. It is courteous to do so.

2. Research the Company: Knowing about the company or law firm you wish to work for always gives an edge as it tells a prospective employer about your interest in the organisation . Read news headlines about the company/law firm, its mission and vision, its core values, its management, competitors, market share. Do not just regurgitate what you have read up about the company, use the information you have gathered and make it relatable to why you want to work for the Company.

3.Dress Professionally: Ever heard the saying, dress the way you want to be addressed. Yes, this also applies for interviews. When in doubt about what to wear, always good to err on the side of caution or formality, lawyers are accustomed to owning black and grey suits from law school, so get out your well laundered suits , comfortable shoes, ensure good personal hygiene (use deodorants and freshen your breath) . Ladies subtle make up and minimal jewelry is advised also.

4.Be Amiable : Smile at everybody from the receptionist to the partner of the organisation. Let your body language exude confidence, always offer firm handshakes, think before you talk.

5.Be prepared for typical and the not so typical interview questions: Question:Why do you want to work for us? Because you guys pay well, is not the type of response you want to give.

Preferable response probably something about a right fit for your career move, That the firm is a tier 1 firm and will expose you to challenges that you are open to , company’s culture aligning with your values etc are better responses .

Question: Why should we choose you over the other candidates ? Because i want to work with your company or because i have nice eyes( believe it or not that was an actual candidate’s response). Companies do not care about your physical features and the fact that you have come for the interview sort of signifies that you want to work for the company. Those sort of responses do nothing to highlight your skills .

Preferable response I am an avid learner and a problem solver , i believe this role will require these sort of skills etc is a more appropriate response.

Question:What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Preferable response The way to answer this question for your strengths is to highlight a skill set of yours that is evidently required for the particular role. For us as lawyers, communication skills will evidently be a good strength to have, if it is a company secretary role, now is a good time to showcase your knowledge on corporate governance . For your weaknesses,always good to highlight a good attribute of yours as a weakness i.e i am a workaholic and i have issues delegating.I should work on my Excel skills even if i am proficient in the other Microsoft Office packages. No one wants to know if you are a late comer or you lack organisational skills etc.

Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I have not really thought about this is a lazy answer. Also do not say i hope to be in your position to your interviewer. That does not necessarily indicate ambition. Sure, it may be unrealistic to say i want to be a partner but an employer wants to see that you have put some thoughts into your career and its progression.

Preferable response: I intend to within 2 years, take the ICSA exams which i believe will give me the opportunity to take up a mid-level role in the organisation or a senior associate in your company secretarial arm of the firm. I have had a look at the structure of the organisation and i am hoping that in 5 years my position will offer me the opportunity to take up a compliance role within the eastern operations of the organisation.

Question:What area of law are you interested in? This will typically be asked if your interview is in a law firm . It is hoped by now you have thought about your niche area of interest. Corporate, Litigation, Finance, Energy , Intellectual Property, Real Estate etc are some of the practice areas in the legal profession. For a company such questions are unlikely to be asked as your application to that company already shows that you are either interested in the company or you have experience in that particular area. For example if it were a manufacturing company that you applied to, it is assumed that your experience or certificates are in tandem with this sector.

6. Follow up: May not be common in our work culture in Nigeria but it appears there is a momentum for this, we understand that it creates an impression, a lasting one at that, you have got nothing to lose so why not. Following up with a simple ‘thank you, it was a pleasure meeting with you today, i hope i will be right fit the company is seeking for and look forward to hearing from you soon”.

This is not a close ended list always bear in mind that an interview requires preparedness, many law firms use psychometric tests for entry level lawyers, some organisations use GMAT as a means of assessment, your knowledge of the law(especially the area of interest) is integral, current affairs as well but most importantly your application of the law is critical. Law is a business so many employers are in search of lawyers who wear a business hat and have a stakeholder mindset.

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