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How to ACE These Four Grad Job Interview Questions

Caroline Dry unpacks four frequently asked interview questions and provides foolproof answers to help you breeze through grad/clerkship applications.

Winter is a time of year characterised by glittering morning frosts, leaves drifting listlessly across the still waters of Lake Burley Griffin and the existential screams of law students preparing their grad and clerkship applications. Allow me to ease the stress by providing you with some foolproof answers to the questions that a recruiter will inevitably hurl at you at some point this year.

What is your biggest weakness?

What not to say: On its surface, it seems like there are only two possible paths to take with this question. You can lie, say that you ‘care too much about work,’ get written off as insufferable, and probably deserve it. Alternatively you can launch into a long tangent about your crippling sense of inadequacy and lifelong fear that you’ll never accomplish as much as your older sibling, as the interviewer’s finger subtly edges towards the emergency button under the desk. Needless to say, neither choice is a good one.

What to say: Sidestep the interviewer’s underhanded attempt to force you into a corner of self-reflection by sitting up straight, maintaining eye contact and confidently responding with ‘I’d have to say that my biggest weakness is fire.’ If they ask you to elaborate, double down with a prepared discussion about how you like to overcome your weaknesses by carrying a fireproof poncho with you wherever you go. They’ll be amazed.

Can you tell me about a time that you failed?

What not to say:The tricky thing about this question is not that you don’t have an answer. Let’s face it, you’ve failed at a lot of things. You failed at maintaining a work-life balance, at staying in touch with your friends from high school whom you promised to ‘call every week,’ at actually putting up your hand and providing a coherent, correct answer to a tutorial question literally once throughout your entire degree. The secret here is to come up with a good failure.

What to say:You’re looking for a failure where you didn’t actually do anything wrong. For example, you failed to impress the landlord in that one property inspection because you failed to agree to buy him a new dishwasher. If the interviewer asks what you learned from your failure, launch into a long rant about the inherent and debilitating power dynamic between renters and landlords created by artificial scarcity as the result of boomer investment property practices and the likelihood that most young people without inherited wealth will never own property. Ask them about their property portfolio. Guilt them into giving you employment.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

What not to say: You might be tempted to say that you see yourself working six casual jobs and paying off a fifty-year mortgage on an outer city car park. This will tell the recruiter that you are severely lacking in a ‘can-do attitude.’

What to say:Abruptly jerk your head up, widen your eyes and stare vacantly into space, without speaking, for approximately twenty seconds. When you are done, give a dramatic shudder and possibly a gasp to add a bit of flair. Then, in a hushed voice, inform the recruiter that in ten years you will be storming down the streets of Sydney, yelling at an intern about how they got you the wrong kind of coffee and working for one of the company’s direct competitors.

Do you enjoy working with others?

What not to say: The moment this question is asked you are probably going to experience a dramatic series of flashbacks to the various group assignments you have endured over the years. There was the girl who announced that the messages from the group were creating ‘negative energy’ in her life and she would therefore be undertaking a social media cleanse for the duration of the assignment. The RMs-wearing Northshore guy who contributed absolutely nothing but confidently read out other people’s notes during the class presentation. That one time you all liked each other, communicated well and worked very hard only to somehow end up with a 60. The crucial thing here is to push all of this trauma to the back of your mind and launch into a rant about all of the positive aspects of teamwork.

What to say: You love teams! You don’t have a weird need to compare yourself to others which was probably brought on by your helicopter parents and extreme level of emotional investment in the ATAR system as a teenager! Teams are GREAT. The law school’s bell curve system has done LOADS to prepare you for positive collaboration with others. It’s fine. Everything is fine!

With these simple psychological tricks, you’ll breeze through the interview! Don’t forget to greet everyone at your assessment centre with a death-grip handshake that screams ‘help me’! And most of all, remember to memorise a bunch of stock answers from clickbait Linkedin listicles because that will definitely make you appear effortless, well-hydrated and confident.

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