11 Things to Avoid in an Interview

Lawyers gathering to discuss interview

Below is a light-hearted, yet important list of do's and don't's. 


Now that we are in the fourth industrial revolution, no one fully understands what their job will entail in the coming years and by this we mean, the way in which we do it. Technology is changing at such a rapid rate and is affecting every sector and industry. As such, it is highly probable that you will, in the next ten years, move job.

To do this, you will need to interview for it and whilst the format of the interview or the person interviewing you may differ, you will still need to approach it with care, enthusiasm and integrity. 

There are some simple rules that you can follow that will ensure that you get the basics right, especially if it is your first time, or it’s been a while since you’ve had to talk about yourself for an hour.

1. Do not turn up late.

You would be amazed by, the number of times a candidate is late for an interview. This is a heinous crime. Now with maps and travel times all accessible on mobiles and watches, you should really have the journey mapped out. Doing a trial run to the destination is a great idea. Check the journey the day before your interview or at the very least, make sure that you allow time for traffic delays, cancellations and general ‘bad luck.’ You should be aiming to get there at least 15 minutes before the start of the interview.

2. Do not take risks with your clothing.

This obviously depends on your sector and profession but a good rule of thumb is to wear a suit and tie. Certainly as a solicitor, we expect all candidates to be suited and booted for an interview. Stick with classic colours – blue or grey. And always polish your shoes. You don’t want to look scruffy.

3. If you have a copy of your CV to hand, DO NOT take it out in the interview.

First-time interviewers often ask, ‘can I take a copy of my CV out in the interview?’ This is a definite no. We always suggest that an interview is akin to an exam (closed-book), where no textbook or papers are allowed. Everything you need for an interview should be in your head. You drafted the CV, so you should know it like the back of your hand. The CV is for the interviewer’s reference. 

It is fine to have a copy in your bag or pocket to refer to prior to the interview.

4. Do not use a pen and paper.

We're big advocate of using a pen and paper for any meeting you attend … except for an interview. You aren’t there to make notes, you are there to impress and learn more about the opportunity. It is fine for the interviewers to take notes as the interview progresses, but you should be making mental notes of everything you are seeing and hearing. There is no movement on this.

5. Do not accept offers of biscuits/snacks.

You want to come across as professional and as smooth as possible. Your answers should be succinct and well measured. If you start tucking into a biscuit or cake whilst you are explaining why you are so good at your job, it’s going to take the edge off, especially if they ask you a question whilst you are chomping away on a KitKat or flicking crumbs off your lapel. You can eat once the interview has ended. As a side note, I would advocate making sure you eat breakfast or lunch prior to the interview if possible.

6. Do not employ negative body language.

Positive body language is so important in an interview especially when there are easy ways to show that you are comfortable and interested in the role. Avoid folding your arms across your body, as this makes you look defensive, sit upright (don’t slouch) and keep eye contact with all the interviewers. You will want to come across as enthusiastic and engaged and if you start avoiding eye contact, it will become apparent quite quickly, that you are uncomfortable in an interview situation. If they think it is nerves, you could be doing yourself out of a new job, especially if the role is client facing (as most lawyers roles  are).

7. Do not ramble.

It is important that your answers are succinct. You will obviously want to get your point across as best as possible and there will be times where you feel that you haven’t ‘quite’ made it and as such you will make the same point again, only with different language. Try, to keep your points as simple and coherent as the topic will allow.This is where plenty of pre-interview preparation helps if you have the foresight to prepare answers on expected topics.

8. Do not speak negatively about your current employer.

It is likely that your current role is not perfect, otherwise, why would you be looking elsewhere? But, whilst you may hate your boss, you can’t say that in the interview. Instead, you need to give good reasons why the work on offer, future prospects or general support are not right for you. If you speak positively about your current employer and still manage to get across your drivers for leaving, you will illustrate that you are both loyal and non-judgmental.

9. Do not discuss annual leave in the interview.

Many of us have holidays and time booked off well in advance of interviewing for a new role. Prospective employers know this and are fine with it. However, the time and place for these conversations are generally later in the process or during offer stage. It’s important to concentrate on the role and what you can offer, in the early stages, rather than discussing time away from the office.   

10. Do not forget to ask well-thought-out questions.

It is important to ensure that you ask plenty of well-thought-out questions and make sure that you have a good understanding of what the role will actually entail by the end of the interview. It is never ideal if the interviewers ask you if you have any questions and you have none. They will think you look uninterested and detached.

11. Do not contact the interviewers directly during the process.

If you get the urge to send a partner or HR professional an email after an interview to say ‘thank you for your time. It was lovely to meet you,’ don’t.

It puts the partner or HR person in a difficult position, especially if they don’t want to take your application forward. Secondly and more importantly, you are essentially duplicating the role of the recruiter. That makes you look desperate and makes the recruiter look like they have no relationship with you. Let the recruiter do their job and once you get to the point of offer/acceptance, you can then send an email saying ‘thank you, I would love to accept.’

CaterJay Legal | Legal Recruitment Services in London