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Interview: Tips & Advice

2018

"As much as it's a cliché, the best advice is to be yourself and go in with an open mind. You will shadow trainees as part of your assessment day and the firm paints an honest picture of itself to applicants so people seem to get a sense of whether the firm is right for them or not pretty quickly."
First year trainee, London
"Ensure that you know what the firm does and why you want to apply to this firm specifically. The culture and feel of different firms varies hugely and it's about making sure the firm is the right fit for you. Do your research."
First year trainee, London
"We have a very long online application so take your time with it. We then have an assessment day at the firm that involves various interviews, in-tray exercises and group exercises to see how you work on your own and as part of a team. If successful, you will be offered a place on the vacation scheme. My advice is to be yourself and be interested. Ask trainees why they do certain things and try hard in the work you are given, but also be sociable and be part of the group."
First year trainee, London
"We have a fairly lengthy online application letter so take your time with it. We don't have any telephone interviews or online tests so, if you shine well in the application, you are automatically invited to an assessment day at the firm. The assessment day can be a bit tiring but we assess you in different aspects including interviewing, group work and online tests etc. This means that, even if one area isn't your strong point, you can shine in others."
First year trainee, London
"Make sure you know what distinguishes the firm and specifically why you want to work here. Spend time thinking about how your own experience has led you to this point."
Second year trainee, London
"The application process for a straight training contract application is an application form followed by an assessment day. The application process for a training contract via a vacation scheme is an application form, an assessment day and your performance on the vacation scheme."
Second year trainee, London
"There's quite a lengthy application form and then an assessment day with the usual mix of interviews, group exercises and written exercises. The interviews are reasonably informal and the partners are happy to talk about anything really. My advice would be to focus on why you like the firm and to try to convey that enthusiastically in the interview. Let the interviewer guide you towards the right answer (that is what they want to do) on problem questions and be friendly!"
First year trainee, London
"The best way to prepare is to know the firm's practice areas extremely well, to show you've thought about them and why they are of interest to you as Macfarlanes occupies a distinct place in the legal market."
Second year trainee, London

2017

"The application process included an application form, a CV-blind interview, an in-tray (case study) interview and a written exercise. The firm also offers vacation schemes. My tips and advice would be to be honest and genuine. Let your personality shine through, as this is a collaborative firm built on relatively small teams that work incredibly hard. They want to know who you are and how you'll fit with the culture."
First year trainee, London
"Know your application inside and out, be prepared to qualify your answers and remember that they aren't trying to trip you up."
First year trainee, London
"I got the training contract through a vacation scheme. There was a written exercise, a team negotiating exercise and a short interview focusing on commercial awareness with a few personal questions. During the vacation scheme, I had a full training contract interview consisting of a written exercise, a commercial awareness interview and a longer CV interview. Our head of graduate recruitment always says that, if you can take a line out of your application and not know which firm it applies to, change it. They want to see that you've really done your research and have chosen this firm for a reason."
Second year trainee, London
"Know about Macfarlanes and what makes it distinctive as a City firm."
Second year trainee, London
"I applied directly for a training contract. This required a covering letter and CV and then a full day's assessment, which included two partner interviews and some written assessments."
Second year trainee, London
"Know the firm and what makes it distinctive (size, culture, quality of work etc). Try to be commercial as well as showcasing your intelligence."
First year trainee, London

2016

"When I applied there was an online application form. If successful at that stage, the individual is invited to the firm for an assessment day that comprises of an interview, a group exercise and a written exercise. It is a challenging day but provides a valuable opportunity for applicants to showcase a variety of skills. Candidates can prepare by reading about Macfarlanes in the press as well as by picking stories of interest in the business and legal realms."
Second year trainee, London
"I did a vacation scheme. The assessment for that consisted of a team working exercise, a written exercise and a short interview. The training contract assessment took place on the vacation scheme and involved a written test and two long interviews; one about my CV and the other on commercial awareness. I think it's important to be yourself, as cheesy as that sounds. By the time you've made it to interview, they already think you're smart enough so they're really looking for people who fit in at the firm and they think they could work with every day."
First year trainee, London
"My main tip would be to consider things from a commercial perspective. Try to emphasise aspects of you that show you are more than someone who can churn out good exam results. In the scenario questions, try to think above what the 'black letter law' answer ought to be."
First year trainee, London
"Focus on the firm's key practice areas. Make sure that you understand the structure, culture and direction of the firm. More generally, commercial awareness is key and selectively studying the Financial Times or the business pages of the broad sheets with a focus on the firm's key practice areas will go a long way."
First year trainee, London
"Thoroughly research the firm and consider how it views itself relative to its peers. Put an emphasis on doing well in the commercial awareness question and being someone that the interviewer can both imagine themselves working with and put in front of a client."
Second year trainee, London
"Interviews and written assessments. Any applicants should know the firm and what makes it distinctive – as well as have a clear idea of the work and the culture, and be ready to show that they can contribute to both."
First year trainee, London
"Assessment day. Be prepared to back up everything you say with an example or meaningful argument. Try not to panic at any point."
Second year trainee, London
"Assessment days involve a business pitch, written legal problem, and verbal legal problem with a partner as well as a character interview. I think the best advice is to have real reasons for choosing Macfarlanes, beyond the usual 'private client plus corporate'."
Second year trainee, London

2015

"There are written tests and two interviews. For the written tests, I would say use common sense - don't agonise over the actual law involved. I tried to show sense of commercialism in my written test and I think it went down well. In the interviews, I think a good tip is to be able to stick to your guns in the face of a partner arguing the other point of view."
Second year trainee, London
"An application form and an assessment day which tests different skills - there is a written element as well as a negotiation, on top of the usual partner interviews."
First year trainee, London
"There is a CV screening, assessment day with a written exercise, group exercise, an interview and a 'scenario' interview, followed by a lunch with partners and trainees."
First year trainee, London
"You should find a way to gain exposure to the firm before applying. Your application will be helped no end by having a genuine and specific reason for choosing Macfarlanes."
First year trainee, London
"There is an online form and either a vacation scheme or an assessment day. At both you get a written assessment, CV interview and an 'in-tray' exercise where you discuss scenarios with a partner. All interviews are partner-led which is great."
Second year trainee, London
"When applying there is a group exercise, CV interview, in-tray exercise and a written exercise. It is best to research the firm, not firms in the City generally as Macfarlanes has a very specific strategy."
First year trainee, London

2014

"Read up extensively on the firm but don't sound like you're reeling off figures you have memorised. Be honest and enthusiastic about the firm and our ethos, and that should shine through. Be mature and thoughtful with your answers and engage with the partner - they want someone to work with in the future who is likeable and intelligent."
Second year trainee, London
"My advice for candidates is to be themselves, as so much emphasis is placed on how you will fit in at the firm."
First year trainee, London
"Personally, I would say that candidates should rely on their own instinct in the interview, rather than what other people tell you to do/say/think."
First year trainee, London
"Candidates should make sure they can expand on and discuss everything in their CV. I'd recommend against asking about the possibility of Macfarlanes opening lots of overseas offices because that only makes the interviewer think that you don't really value the firm's unique culture."
First year trainee, London
"Research the firm. All firms pretend to be unique, but Macfarlanes really is distinctive, and showing that you know that is key."
First year trainee, London
"Come to the interview armed with good questions to ask. Hold your ground in the interview - don't be bullied, but don't be obnoxious. Remember, from the second you step foot inside the building, to the second you step out, you are being interviewed."
First year trainee, London
"Genuinely consider why you have chosen to apply to the firm and be ready to think laterally at the assessment."
First year trainee, London
"Candidates should know why they want to apply to Macfarlanes rather than another firm, and demonstrate interests in the organic London-based culture of the firm."
Second year trainee, London
"Candidates should know the smaller details about Macfarlanes, as well as who they act for and some marquee deals. Have an answer to why you chose Macfarlanes in particular - there are ways in which it differs drastically to its peers. The fact it retains a PC department is always an interview conversation."
First year trainee, London
Our 'Inside Buzz' reviews are the comments and views of recent graduate recruits, giving you a view of what it may be like to work for an organisation. Copyright of all TARGETjobs Inside Buzz material lies solely with GTI Media.
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