Our current pupils, Emma Woods and Verity Quaite, share their top tips for a successful pupillage interview experience.
So, you’ve been invited to interview…
Congratulations! All the effort you’ve put into building your CV and drafting applications has paid off and you’re now one step closer to getting pupillage. So, what next? We know how nerve-wracking pupillage interviews can be, so here are our top tips for a successful interview experience:
1. Preparation is key
The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel on the day, so start now. You will have been given detailed information on the interview process – make sure that you have read it thoroughly and understand what to expect. It is a good idea to remind yourself of the contents of your application before the interview and to research Chambers thoroughly (hopefully you did this before applying, but you will no doubt have made many applications so ensure you understand what Chambers does, the structure of pupillage etc.). You won’t be able to anticipate every question that you are asked, but you should prepare answers to the standard questions so that you can answer confidently and fluently.
2. Be yourself
Yes, it sounds clichéd, but at this stage everyone is good enough on paper. The interview process is about getting to know you as a person, so it is important that your personality shines through. Try to relax into the day and take the opportunity to chat with the members of Chambers that are there – there will be members from all levels and it is the perfect opportunity to ask them any questions you have and for them to get to know you. Mingle. In the interview, it can be tempting to simply give the answers you think the panel want to hear. Our advice would be caution against that and to answer honestly.
3. Take a breath
Instead of launching into your answer, when you are asked a question take a breath before you start. This will give you time to consider your answer. What is it that the panel is really asking you? Do you need to ask for clarification? Can you use an example to demonstrate your answer? Taking a moment will not only give you time to gather your thoughts, it will also show the panel that your answer is considered and well-reasoned.
4. Be assertive not aggressive
You should expect to be challenged. Afterall, you want to enter a profession where your success depends on your ability to present an argument and defend your position. The panel are likely to push back on some of your answers to test how you respond to pressure, but this isn’t personal and you shouldn’t argue back. Sometimes, admitting that you are wrong is the right thing to do. Rather than showing weakness, you can demonstrate your ability to back down gracefully and concede a point.
5. Be nice
Everyone in the room is competitive and there is nothing wrong with that, but you don’t have to put out someone else’s light for yours to shine. Ultimately, although you will be self-employed as a barrister you will also be part of a team. You will need to be flexible, as you will likely cover for other members of your department and even other departments from time to time. Chambers wants to know that you can get on with people and that you are prepared to share work. You should also remember that your future co-pupils are in the room – you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.
We hope that these tips help you to prepare for interview and enjoy the day. We’re really looking forward to meeting you, so please do come and say hi.
Emma Woods and Verity Quaite are in their second-six at 18SJS. Emma practises in civil, particularly personal injury. Verity practises in crime.