The short answer is ‘yes’, personality can be a deciding factor when a firm is deliberating on whether or not to make an offer to a candidate. Of course, you won’t get a job offer based on personality alone; you need to demonstrate you have the required skills and experience in order to do a job well. But demonstrating that you would be a ‘good team fit’ is increasingly important.
This is especially true at the more junior end of the market when candidates typically have less work experience; in these instances when experience is not enough of a differentiator, personality can become of utmost importance.
The reason personality is having a stronger influence in interviews is due to the fact that a key element of any business support role within a law firm is being able to build strong relationships both internally and externally. Often the foundations of these relationships are built on personality.
With firms becoming increasingly client focused, even the more junior members of a business development/marketing/HR team are being given more client-facing responsibilities. This means that assessing personality is becoming an ever-more important part of the standard interview test. These tests typically measure your personal characteristics, your emotional make up and your stability.
In some instances, a minority of firms are asking candidates to complete a recognised test such as the Myers-Briggs Indicator, while others have introduced a more bespoke approach. The majority, however, still assess ‘team fit’ through established competency questions and gut feeling.
Firms are looking to assess candidates in terms of their ability to recover from failure, their motivation, and their levels of confidence, as being able to deal and cope with challenging partners is a pre-requisite for any role in the legal sector. Firms also want to hire candidates who show passion for both the firm and the role that they are applying for. If you do not feel enthusiastic about the role you have applied for, it is probably not the right role for you!
So in short, while preparing for an interview, remember that it will be vital to demonstrate the key areas of expertise that employers are looking for. But don’t forget to also think about how your personality is coming across.
Each firm has a different culture, which is worth getting acquainted with before you go into an interview (you can always ask your recruiter for insights in this respect). This will help you determine which personality traits a firm will be particularly focused on, as well as whether it’s the right firm for you – always a good place to start in any successful interview process.
Many candidates fall into the trap of stiffening up and giving impersonal, monotone answers during the interview, either due to nerves or due to a misguided impression that this helps them appear more professional.
In reality, interviewers are looking for candidates with energy and a ‘can do’ attitude who they would want to work with and who they would want representing the firm. So don’t be afraid to relax, show creativity and a sense of humour, as well as telling personal stories. Just don’t go too far… remember that ultimately this is still an interview…