Thinking over your options – well-prepared or uncommitted?

In amongst the fallout from the football club I support dispensing with the services of yet another manager recently, I read a tweet in my Twitter timeline which caught my attention. One of the lawyers I follow was talking to a law student who had mentioned the importance of having a backup plan, and that he was looking forward to a graduate careers fair in the summer. Barry, a partner in a City firm, gave the following reply:

I can see why it’s a great question to ask from his perspective – put the candidate on the spot and see how they react. But as an interviewee, how do you react?

Law is a career that, whilst not on the same level as medicine for an early decision and a strong, goal-oriented focus, requires its aspiring members to show a commitment and drive for the profession. It’s a brilliant tactic from interviewers to word the question in this way, as it makes it sound as though the quality that the firm has probably asked you to exhibit on your application form – a complete dedication to law – might be a blot on your copybook.

If I had been asked that question in an interview, a million things would have gone through my mind at breakneck speed. What kind of answer do they want? It appears there are three broad types of answer to this question, each posing their own questions to the interviewee:

- Is it legitimate to answer that you have never considered any other career? Or is that being unprepared and unrealistic and likely to result in a disappointed look from the interviewer?

- If you have thought about what might happen if you fail to get a training contract, but only fleetingly, does that show a half-heartedness and lack of conviction? Will this reflect badly on you in the interview?

- If you have seriously considered the possibility of needing to go down another career route, does admitting it risk coming across either as a lack of faith in yourself or as not being fully committed to law? Is that career route linked with the type of law you’re hoping to practice, such as banking for an aspiring corporate lawyer? Does that make it acceptable? What if you’ve considered becoming a circus performer or some other legally unrelated career? Does that compound the problem?

As an interview candidate, you are constantly thinking about the image you are presenting to your interviewing panel. To be worrying about whether the single-mindedness you thought was a strength of yours actually seems foolhardy and naive, or which of the three answers comes across best, can throw even the best candidates.

I said to Barry that I thought it was a very tricky question, and asked whether the answer “I’ve only ever thought about being a lawyer” was a good one or not. He replied as follows:

No sensible candidate simply tries to work out the percentages for every question, attempting to second-guess what the ‘right’ answer is in the eyes of the interviewer and the firm. But there is certainly a degree of working out how to present answers to reflect you at your best.

Yes, the interview is designed to test the skills that the candidate would require for their career, of which thinking on one’s feet and handling tough questions are most certainly two. But in my opinion, a question designed in this way is certainly clever and not particularly conducive to seeing the best of candidates, even if it stops short of being “evil” as Barry first asked.

New-Fangled Commerce – or how Apple may take the cash from consumers’ pockets for good

It’s January, so it must be time to count down to a new product from Apple of some type or description. At the moment, the hype is surrounding the iPhone 5, which is likely to become available around the middle of the year if precedent is anything to go by.

Bloomberg reports that amongst the features of the new smartphone, which will probably include 3G and 4G connectivity, there will also be Near-Field Communication. Near-Field Communication, or NFC, is technology that many of us are already familiar with. We may use it to access public transport or our local gym, and perhaps some of us also use it to pay for goods in small transactions.

The technology clearly already exists in the marketplace, and is slowly gaining user numbers, although transactions have been hampered thus far by a lack of retailers who have invested in installing the necessary terminals. This is about to change though. Slowly but surely, retailers and payment companies are moving towards this payment method. McDonald’s is to accept the “pay-by-wave” cards from Summer 2011, which is likely to mark the start of a new era of adoption of the technology, so long as it is not prohibitively expensive for smaller companies.

Placing NFC into mobile phones, as Apple, Samsung, Research In Motion, Nokia and Google are doing, could increase its use exponentially. If the system works as conceived, the mobile phone would simply contain the technology which would then be able to be used by any type of reader. Gone might be the days of carrying around change for a newspaper – just use your phone. Do you really need that wallet full of cards? No – your phone can get you onto the bus or into your office.

So long as the security concerns are dealt with adequately – no mean feat given that this technology will probably make mobile phones even more sought-after by those who seek to acquire them nefariously – the technology has the potential to revolutionise the way commerce is handled in everyday situations.

The major US cellphone providers have co-operated to form ISIS, a new mobile commerce company. If that is a success, the next generation of transactions will be almost unrecognisable, even from those we currently use. Cheques and credit cards that require signatures rather than PINs are already collectors’ items. It might not be too fanciful to think that credit cards themselves could join this list. Visa certainly thinks so; they quote a Forbes magazine article in which the author writes that “it’s possible for the phone itself to replace a card“. Tech Crunch also believe that the sky is the limit with this.

Prepare for your pockets and handbags to become lighter – your phone may now genuinely become the centre of your life.

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