This article is written by Aditya Shrivastava, marketing executive at iPleaders.
If someone asks me what is the most difficult part of being a law graduate I wouldn’t say cracking CLAT, passing 5 years in a law school, understanding all the laws, mooting, managing good grades, or performing at internships. The most difficult task about graduating as a law student is cracking an interview as a fresher.
Forget cracking an interview, getting an interview scheduled is quite a task in itself. You need to keep your CV updated, make numerous profiles on various job portals, apply at the earliest, make follow up calls and send emails, maybe use references. Basically, do whatever it takes to get an interview call.
During the first semester of my fourth year at law school, I started applying to law firms and companies incessantly without giving much thought to where I was applying. This is a common mistake most of us make.
Despite blindly applying to law firms and companies, I did get a few interview calls. While I was able to do well in some interviews, I performed horribly in most of them. I tried to figure areas where I lacked and tried to make myself better at them. To accomplish the same I took up an online course to enhance my knowledge. Much to my surprise, there was a career mentor who guided me to apply to firms and companies where I would genuinely like to work. He also helped me prepare for interviews which I subsequently cracked.
Owing to the same, I decided to write this article to help innumerable individuals like me succeed through their first set of interviews. Here are few tips that can help you crack any corporate interview:
Apply To The Places You Would Want To Work At
Technology and social media have made everything super accessible. People no longer have to look up the newspapers to zero down a job vacancy. LinkedIn and various Whatsapp Groups now advertise for job openings.
A huge issue with students who are trying to venture and look-out for an off-campus placement is that they are desperate to join anywhere. In my law school circle, it was an inside joke – ‘beggars can’t be choosers’. I wasn’t any exception to this. I was ready to work for a Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) at the very onset of my career because they were ready to pay me relatively better than another law firm I’d applied to. However, the mentor of my online course guided me not to do so. Eventually, I got a better job later on.
It is extremely important to make an informed choice.
You need to do a proper background of the company or law firm and the profile you are being offered. If it suits your taste, preferences and you are interested in having a career in that field, you may consider it.
Having said that, do not wait for opportunities to come to you. How would you feel if your contemporaries were exploring various opportunities while you were sitting idle? Wouldn’t you rather be pro-active and research about the firms or the companies that you want to apply to? Figure out if they have an opening?
Let me give you an example. A very hardworking friend of mine was interested in pursuing a career in media laws. She applied to various media giants in India, including Star and Viacom 18. Although she was given an opportunity to go down to Bombay for an interview with Viacom, at the very outset she was told that as company policy Viacom doesn’t hire freshers in their legal team. Would she have applied there had she been aware of their policy? Probably no.
Your Resume Must Be Honest And Customised
You need to understand that for every position you apply, there may be hundreds, or even thousands, of applications pending. A company or a firm would not focus on your achievements. They would look for a candidate who would meet their requirements. They need someone who can do the job themselves, or get the job at hand done. They need people who can produce results. Thus, once you have carefully gone through the job description, mould your resume to cover what they require.
Do not be dishonest on your resume.
You might ask, how do I mould my resume to their liking if I have done nothing which they require?
That’s a very valid question, but what you think might not be true. You might have done your internships having some perspective in place, right? You may have explored specific areas of law purposely through your internships, research papers, college activities, online courses etc. So, apply to law firms that cater to your interests. You need to ensure that you are in alignment with the requirement of the job.
Let me give you an example. If you’re applying to an FMCG company and you have previously worked on competition law at one of your internships, you may want to highlight this. Why? FMCG companies deal with a myriad laws – trademark, advertisement, competition, labour, etc. Domain knowledge is what will set you apart from the rest of the applicants and it is important to show that on your resume.
However, if you are someone like me who has done a plethora of internships to explore which are of law you may be interested in, you need to extract the relevant work from your internships or college experiences and highlight it on your resume.
For example, during my internships, I worked on contract drafting, labour laws, commercial arbitration, media laws, merger and acquisitions, real estate, finance, banking and airport regulations. Along with my internships, I took up an online course on Entrepreneurship and Business Administration, which helped me gain a lot of knowledge on business laws.
Now, if I have to apply for a job at a real estate firm, firstly I would change the objective of my resume from “aspiring to become a corporate lawyer” to “aspiring to become a legal expert in real estate laws.” This is presuming, you have an objective section in your resume. Secondly, I would mention my experience at the internship where I worked for the real estate team in a law firm, research papers I have written on 7/11 extracts and give the HR a glance of what I learnt through the diploma course.
This would give the firm an idea that I have prerequisite knowledge of real estate thereby increasing my chances of getting an interview call. However, if I try to fake it and mention things I have never done chances are that I may be caught and my credibility may be under question.
Make sure you mention what is required in alignment with the organisations needs and be absolutely honest in your resume.
Run The Interview
Yes, you read that right. This was a trick I learnt from my mentor while I was taking an interview training during my online course. What I am going to tell you is a secret not many would like you to know.
It is not the interviewer but it is you who decides the course of interview. I have tried it and succeeded at it. Hence, I feel you should be able to take advantage of this too. You can actually take the interview in the direction you want to. Here is how.
“Tell me about yourself.” This is the very first question asked at any interview. This is your golden chance and you need to make the best of it. Start with a general introduction and move to your technical knowledge giving him an idea of what you know the best.
Have you ever been in a situation, where you and your friend are talking about something and suddenly your friend takes it as a challenge to prove that he knows more about you? Interviewers are like those friends. Every time you tell them you know something, they want to test how much you know it.
For example, I am not a big fan of Intellectual Property Law (IPR). Now, if they start questioning me about various aspects of IPR, I might fail miserably.
However, every time I am questioned about my area of interests, I start by saying, “Real estate law and airport regulations and arbitration are areas which interest me the most (boldly and confidently.)” This creates a curiosity in them, “How could this man be so confident that he knows everything? Look at that confidence, let me try to break it a little.” This curiosity prompts them to forget what they had to ask, and they start questioning what I would want them to ask.
Of course, if you know something too well, you are bound to perform well. Moreover, as most of the interviewers run on a strict time schedule, they get so involved in asking what you want that by the time they come down to the questions they wanted to know about, you may have already impressed them and they will take you without knowing your weaknesses.
If you don’t believe me, try it with the smartest friend you know. Sit and start talking about any series/movie you and he/she both love. If you have got the trick right, he/she will be tempted to question you on things you know and you will be easily able to outsmart them.
But, be aware of the HRs that play this very game with you. There are many of them and you might not succeed every time you do this. Be prepared with your resume thoroughly. Don’t faff. Be confident about yourself and the work that you’ve done – the interviewer will not be able to break you.
Know The Laws
Despite having taught you the trick, there are certain laws you must know about if you are going for an interview for a corporate legal profile. Thankfully, I had the required guidance from this amazing course, that I did not have to look up for them to read it, however, I will try to give you a comprehensive list. You can look up for them and read them as much as possible :
- Arbitration Law – The 2015 Amendment Act, has caught quite a stir and recruiters often try to figure out how updated you are. You can read more about the amendments here.
- Basics of Contracts and various clauses in a standard agreement – You can learn about the various types of contracts that you need to know about here. Read out the primer for drafting a contract here. Learn about standard form of contracts here.
- Company Law – It is quite exhaustive, however, you must divide your reading into six categories. I will try to link relevant articles for all of them :
- Competition Law – Vertical and Horizontal Agreements, Cartels, Abuse of Dominant Position, Entry Barriers are some of the topics that you must be thorough with.
- Finance Laws – Important regulations of SEBI, RBI guidelines, FEMA and FDI related laws
- Labour Laws related to compliance – You can read more about these compliances here.
- Property Laws
- Taxation – All thanks to GST you need to know more about it so that you are ready for any question that is put across about it.
I hope these articles are useful to you! It is important to know that cracking an interview may be tough, however, if you are well prepared and confident it can be quite easy.
All the luck!