By DebbieH 24 Apr 2018 7 min read

How to prepare for your NQ interview

Congratulations on being invited to interview for an NQ position! Now it’s time to prepare. We’ve put together this 10-step guide to help get you through your NQ interview. We know you might not have had an interview in a while as you’ve been completing your training contract, so we’ve included some general interview advice too. You’ll find that interviews for NQ positions are a bit of a step up from your training contract interviews so you’ll need to put aside plenty of time to prepare.


What to expect

For NQ positions, the recruitment process will usually comprise of at least two formal interviews and perhaps a less formal stage where you will meet your potential new colleagues. The first interview might be conducted with a member of the HR department, as well as a partner at the firm. This interview is to ascertain whether or not your personality and values are a good fit for the firm. The second interview will look more at your knowledge and technical ability and is likely to be with partners. You may have additional stages to complete, such as psychometric testing.  


Step 1: Check what the interview process is

While the above information gives you a rough idea of what your interview will involve, it will differ from firm to firm. It’s important to find out what the interview process will be so that you can prepare appropriately. If you know what to expect, you will also be much calmer on the day.  


Step 2: Sort out the logistics in advance

Once you’ve been given a time and a date, the first thing you’ll want to do is sort out the logistics. Knowing that your transport is sorted out and you have booked adequate time off work will help remove any unnecessary stress on the day. Double check all the details and make sure you know where and when you need to be and make the necessary arrangements.


Step 3: Do the research

Make sure that your research doesn’t stop at the job description. Explore the firm’s website and check the news for any mentions. Find out what current cases or projects the firm is working on. You can find out a lot with a simple Google search, so there’s no excuse for skipping this step. It is essential that your interviewers feel you have a genuine interest in the firm.

Their website might also have a careers section which offers useful tips for prospective employees. Sometimes they list the values that they look for when recruiting or go into further detail about their recruitment process.

If you know who your interviewers are going to be, can you find out anything about them that could be helpful? Would knowing their professional background help you build a rapport with them?


Step 4: Know your CV inside-out

You should be prepared to talk about every element of your CV in detail and, importantly, how they demonstrate your ability to do the role you’re interviewing for.

A useful exercise when preparing for any interview is to put your CV and the job description against each other. For every essential or desired skill on the job description try and find evidence of these on your CV.


Step 5: Adjust your mindset

It’s important to think about what your interviewer might be looking for in their latest NQ recruit. It goes without saying that they will be looking for someone who is talented and enthusiastic about their role. However, they will also be looking for someone who is proactive and commercially aware. Another consideration they will have to make is how you will fit in with the rest of the team.

When it comes to your skills and experience, remember that the interviewer will be looking for evidence of your personal achievements so, when giving examples, go for ones which centre around projects you were responsible for in some way. It’s all about you, however, you should always approach this in terms of what you will be able to do for the company instead of what the company will be able to do for you. It’s important that you can articulate how your particular skills and experience are valuable in the context of the role and the firm.


Step 6: Practise

The best way to make sure that you’re going to be able to respond with strong and articulate answers is to practise.

The first thing to think about here is structure. This is especially important when your interviewer is asking you to give evidence of how you’ve used a particular skill in the past. To make sure you don’t ramble on or go off on a tangent, remember that a good answer will consist of four elements: An overview of the situation, what you needed to achieve, what you did, and what the outcome was. This is commonly known as the STAR (Situation, Target, Action, Result) technique.  

Here are some common NQ interview questions to help you practice this technique:

  • What has been your greatest strength during your training contract?
  • What was revealed to be your greatest weakness during your training contract?
  • What did you achieve during your training contract that you are most proud of?
  • In which areas do you want to improve the most?
  • What is the most valuable lesson or skill that you learned during your training contract?

In addition to questions such as these, be prepared to talk more broadly about yourself and your interests. In order to gain an idea as to what you’re like as a person, your interviewer will probably ask you about other interests or hobbies.

Your interviewers will also be looking for evidence of how commercially aware you are. This should be an area that you have been constantly working on from your time as a law student. Here’s our guide to commercial awareness for more detail on this.


Step 7: Questions for your interviewer

You should always take the opportunity to ask your interviewer some questions in return. Not only does this help you appear interested, you may also gain some useful insights into how the firm operates. Prepare some questions that you’d like to ask in advance and try to go for ones that will really engage your interviewer. Asking questions about their personal experiences or their own opinions is a good place to start here.


Step 8: Organise a mock interview

This step is especially important if it’s been a while since your last interview. Practising your answers by yourself is a good first step but practising your answers with another person can help to highlight areas where your answers need improvement. If you have a colleague or friend who has interview experience, ask them to help you. There are also recruitment specialists that offer practise interviews.


Step 9: Presentation and body language

As the saying goes, a good first impression goes a long way. Make sure you are looking smart on the day and dressed appropriately. Even if the firm has a casual dress code, you’ll be expected to wear a suit to your interview.

Body language is also very important. In addition to a firm handshake, make sure you maintain eye contact with your interviewer. Smile and maintain good posture. Simple things like this can help you engage better with your interviewer.


Step 10: After the interview

After the interview, send a short email to your interviewers to thank them for their time. If you don’t get the job, you can ask for feedback which will help you in your subsequent interviews.


Struggling to find an NQ position?

If you’re struggling to secure an NQ interview you may need to start looking further afield. Remember that these opportunities are relatively rare as many NQ roles are filled by trainees already at the firm. If you are looking for NQ positions in London, consider roles in less competitive practice areas. There are also an increasing number of opportunities outside the City.


Want more advice about preparing for your interview? Download our brand new guide below: