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Lawyers – Interviewing for an International Career Move

Lawyers – Interviewing for an International Career Move

Lawyers – Interviewing for an International Career Move


So, you have nailed the technical part of the interview; you have the skills and experience; you’re willing to relocate…the job must be yours right? 

Wrong. Whilst all law firms talk about cultural fit, in many domestic recruitment processes – particularly in high-demand skill sets - it is little more than lip-service.  Smile at the right moments and avoid any faux-pas and you’re ‘culturally’ perfect.

This differs markedly when it comes to an international move.  With an average recruitment and relocation taking six months, and many thousands of pounds, to complete, the need to get it right is paramount.  Furthermore, leaving friends, family and familiarity behind heightens the potential for ‘culture shock’ when reality dawns and you realise you are there for the long-term.

It is for these reasons that firms recruiting internationally put as much emphasis on the ‘soft side’ of the move as they do on the professional fit.  A canny internal recruiter will know the traits of someone who will take relocation in their stride and will be alive to the warning signals of someone viewing the move through rose-tinted glasses.  They will be reassured to hear you asking about lifestyle considerations and later, as things advance, may even offer to put you in touch with people at a similar level who have made the move recently.

Such is the downside (for all concerned) of getting it wrong, that firms will almost always err on the side of caution.  If you’re committed to making the move it pays to be prepared for this aspect of the process as much as it does for the technical questions.  It may not be possible to anticipate every question but there are some common themes that arise time and again, including:

Have you done your research?  Where is it? How big is it? Look into basic cost of living, taxes, regulations etc.  If you can have contacts in the region, now is the time for an informal chat; if not, check some of the ex-pat forums for a ‘warts and all’ take on life there. 

Have you considered your family?  Is your partner in favour? What will they do? Do you have to be married in order to cohabit? Have you looked into schooling?

What is the attraction?  Ideally this should be a mix of professional opportunity and lifestyle, either without the other has the potential to sound warning bells.

How long are you committed for?  Ideally you should keep this open ended as most international firms are looking to hire and relocate people for the long-term.

What do you do with your time off?  Make it relevant – there isn’t a lot of skiing in Singapore or opera in the British Virgin Islands! If you are dedicated to a certain sport, can you play it there?  The enthusiasm to get fully involved in life outside of the office goes down very well. 

Be yourself.  Personality is always important but international roles tend to mean smaller teams which makes it all the more important that the feel they have ‘got to know you’.   

If you have the requisite skills and you have given ample thought to these points, the next question you are asked may well be, when can you start?

Jason Horobin is Head of the International Division at Origin Legal and has been assisting lawyers in making international career moves for over 15 years.  If you are considering relocating and would like to discuss any aspect of the move, please get in touch.

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