What to expect in your vacation-scheme interview

So you’ve submitted your application form, got a positive reply and have been invited to interview for a vacation scheme. Great! Next step: preparation. Here’s what to expect from your vacation-scheme interview.

  • Last updated Jul 16, 2019 4:10:24 PM
  • By Becky Kells, Editor, AllAboutLaw

If it’s a face-to-face interview 

If you’re being interviewed at a law firm, you can expect your interviewer to be a member (or members) of the graduate-recruitment team, as well as the partner at the firm who's most involved in recruitment. It’s a good idea to do a bit of LinkedIn searching in advance, so you know which faces to expect.

This kind of interview will likely be based in part on your application form, as well as some competency-based questions and commercial-awareness questions. It’s essential that you read back over your application form in advance: there’s nothing worse than blanking out at interview because you’ve been asked about something you don’t even remember writing down! 

Take a good look at your experiences—law and non-law—and think about the skills you have gained from those experiences. It’s good to do this as a pre-interview exercise, making a note of your experiences, the skills gained, the roles you had in each experience and how that would ultimately make you a fantastic vacation-scheme student.

It’s also really important to do some extra research into the firm. If you’ve been granted an interview, you’ll more likely than not have done some extensive research anyway: now is the time to build on this. Try to find out exactly what's involved in the vacation-scheme programme and revisit the press releases and blogs released by the firm, to see if there have been any developments since you applied. 

It goes without saying that you should be keeping on top of your commercial awareness prior to a vacation-scheme interview: read every publication that you can get your hands on and apply a business-focused thought process to each story you read. You’ll be expected to speak confidently about this kind of material at interview.

When attending a face-to-face interview, always go with some intelligent questions to ask at the end of the interview: less “Will I get paid this amount?” and more “What are the progression opportunities for vacation-scheme students?” or “I see your firm specialises in shipping law: will I have the chance to experience this department if I get a place on the scheme?” It’s better not to ask obvious questions, as it might make you look as though you’ve done less research.

If it’s an online/video interview 

Video interviews are a different ball game to face-to-face interviews. You might not actually have an interviewer at the other end: these are called one-way video interviews. This may be a pre-interview to the main event, so make sure you make a great impression! 

It goes without saying that there are a lot of technical aspects to be aware of. You’ll be told in advance how much time to allow for a one-way interview: give yourself this time and some extra. So if the interview is supposed to take 40 minutes, set aside an hour just in case! 

Record the interview somewhere quiet but professional, such as your bedroom desk or kitchen table. Doing the interview at home is probably best, as you can rely on a steady internet connection. Ensure that you won’t be interrupted and dress smartly, as if you were attending a face-to-face interview! 

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to do a practice run. As with a face-to-face interview, you'll likely be given some commercial-awareness questions, competency-based questions and questions about why you want to work at the firm. Practise speaking on these topics for a set period of time. It’s a good idea to make notes, but don’t rely on these too heavily: you don’t want to be reading from your notes in the real interview! 

When you begin the interview, read the instructions carefully and don’t make assumptions. Like your teachers warned you before an exam, there are no points to be gained for answering the wrong question, even if you answer it really well!

As much as doing a video interview can feel unnatural, treat the camera as you would your interviewer’s face. Smile, look directly at it and use the same open body language you would use in a face-to-face situation. 

Tips for all types of vacation-scheme interviews 

Whatever kind of interview you’re expecting, ensure you get a good nights’ sleep: this isn’t something you want to be doing after pulling an all-nighter to finish an essay, or even worse—hungover.

Nerves are a big problem for a lot of people, but remember that they are normal and will give you the adrenaline to perform as well as you can. Also, interviewers allow for nerves: they are aware that this is a big opportunity for you and likely to cause some butterflies in advance! Eat breakfast, avoid caffeine, take a deep breath and go for it—the nerves should dissipate once you get into your flow.

After the interview, all that remains is to wait for your acceptance or rejection call. If it’s not good news, don’t panic. The important thing to do is to ask for feedback: recruiters will be inclined to give this to interviewees, but you might have to ask for it. Use what you learn to pick yourself up for the next interview. 

If you've succeeded, congratulations—and best of luck on the vacation scheme! 

Next article: 6 vacation-scheme dos and don'ts 

If you're currently on the hunt for a Training Contract or Vacation Scheme, head over to our Law Jobs section.

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