Five Tips to Help you Discuss Gaps in your Experience During an Interview

12 June 2023 Alessyn Hecht

Banner Default Image

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking for anyone, but going for a legal support job can make you feel very stressed, particularly if you are worried about any areas of experience you lack, or your employment history.

Roles in the legal industry usually require specialised skills and expertise, so it's not uncommon to have areas where you lack experience or knowledge if you are pursuing a new role. However, if you are prepared to talk through these knowledge gaps, you’ll feel much more confident about the interview process.  

Here are some tips for current or aspiring legal support staff on how to explain gaps in your skillset during a job interview:

  1. Identify potential gaps in advance

It’s helpful to read through the advert or job description (if one is supplied) to identify tasks or areas that you may not have previous experience in.  If you are working with a recruitment agency, reach out to your consultant for an interview preparation call to talk about their understanding of the role thoroughly, and identify gaps in your skillset that may come up.  

Also, look through your own CV as if you’re a hiring manager; are there any parts of your employment history that they are likely to want clarification on?

As recruitment experts, here are some common ‘gaps’ that are discussed in our legal support interviews:

  • Lack of experience on software or systems required

  • Lack of experience in the area of law

  • Lack of experience in the legal billing process

  • Periods of unemployment

  • Short tenure with an employer

So, how do you address these areas if they apply to you?

  1. Be honest and upfront

One of the most important things you can do when discussing gaps in your skillset is to be honest with the interviewer. Trying to hide or downplay a lack of knowledge or ability can actually make you seem less trustworthy.  It may also result in you losing your train of thought during the interview. 

You may think you can say ‘Sure!’ to a question about your skills and figure it out later, but the interviewer may ask for specific examples. Be honest and you’ll avoid digging yourself into an uncomfortable hole. 

Be prepared to talk through your reasons for moving between jobs, particularly if you were employed somewhere for less than two years.  Additionally, be prepared to talk through time off spent to travel, care for family, study, or have a career break.  

  1. Focus on what you do know

Having worked in legal recruitment for many (many!) years, one pre-interview shortfall we often see is applicants who convince themselves that they aren’t suitable for a role, just because they don’t know how to do it in entirety.  Remember, if you’ve been invited for an interview then the employer thinks your skills are relevant!  If you don’t believe in yourself, then this will come across in the interview.  

Even if you have gaps in your skillset, it's important to focus on what you have learned and how you've grown in your previous roles. 

Before your interview, jot down the skills and expertise you have under your belt, and be prepared to discuss specific examples of how you have applied them. 

If you don’t have previous experience using a certain software, then talk through the software you have used.  Talk about how you used it, tricks you followed whilst learning to be proficient, and your general aptitude for learning.

If it’s an area of law or billing experience in question, again - talk through what you do know.  Discuss any relevant tasks or workflows you have utilised in the past that would help as you learn during your first months in the prospective role.

  1. Demonstrate your willingness to learn

Don’t just say you are willing to learn, be ready to share an example of a situation where you were out of your depth and how you overcame it. 

If you know there is a specific skill from the job description that you lack, you may decide it’s worthwhile to enrol in a short course or at least watch a few videos on the subject. Being able to explain that you’re on your way to being competent will put you in a good light. 

  1. Ask for feedback

If you don’t get the job (or even if you do), ask the employer, or your recruitment consultant, which skills you needed but didn’t have. It’s a good way to follow up so the company can keep you in mind for future roles, plus you will know which areas to focus on as you work towards getting a legal support staff job. 

Remember, every job applicant has strengths and weaknesses. Be confident about the abilities you have and use examples to give the employer an indication of your aptitude and willingness to learn. If it’s meant to be, it will be!

Click here to review our recent law jobs

Click here to find out more about our recruitment in Australia, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom
Click here to review our latest salary report for legal secretaries and other legal support staff