in Interviews, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

How Do Training Contract Interviews Vary when with Partners or HR Managers

I was asked yesterday about the likely interview style and questions to be thrown at someone from a city law firm during a pre-selection day interview. This was to be with the HR Manager of the firm and would last for about 30 minutes.

Does it matter who takes a legal job interview and is there a difference in style?

Yes.  Law firm partners very often will ask you questions related to your academic and career so far. HR personnel will very often ask you competency based interview questions.

Similarly, both have different agendas for the interviews.  Very often HR managers are looking at your personality, whereas law firm partners are looking at your ability.  This does not apply to smaller practices where very often decisions are made on whether or not you have got on with a law firm partner during an interview.

We usually notice a difference in feedback from interviews when HR Managers have taken them. If you have not prepared for competency based interview styles, the interview will have been a bit of a struggle for you.  Competency based interviewing requires practice, particularly for legal recruitment.  We think it is a ridiculous way to determine whether or not someone is suitable for a job simply because it is so easy to practice for the questions.

Time and again I have done practice interviews with very experienced senior management who have been through these questions again and again during their career and sound like the perfect employees because they have got answering these questions down to a fine art.  People just starting out in their careers tend to struggle a lot with them because the questions are so difficult to answer off the cuff.  It is always easy to answer questions if you know what is coming up.  Just have a look online for competency based interview techniques. You can also go to our legal careers shop for our interview guides and survival video which explain it in detail.

In summary the difference is that HR Managers will ask you structured questions requiring a certain amount of interview technique, whereas partners are very likely to ask you either technical, academic, career or legal questions and the focus is very different.

Jonathan Fagan, Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at