What are the key elements that every in-house counsel needs when applying for a general counsel role? The in-house panel at the Business Leadership conference unveils candidates’ biggest mistakes.

Partnerships in Care general counsel Sarah Livingston, NetOTC general counsel Joanne Theodoulou and First Group general counsel Louise Ruppel were part of a panel at The Lawyer’s In-house Counsel as Business Partner conference discussing the elements that in-house lawyers should present when being interviewed for the top lawyer position at any company.

Candidates who have experience working in other industries may find themselves with the upper hand if they are able to portray the value of their experience in their CVs, the panel argued.

“Candidates should be demonstrating a quality that every GC needs to have which is curiosity,” Ruppel said. “Not just about the business but the wider world.”

“Your CV needs to demonstrate that you can go out of your comfort zone,” Livingston said. “You need someone that can come up with a sensible answer that means that no one will go to jail.

“The people management and the ability to turn your hand to everything is what you have to get across, the rest of it is going to come down to your interview.”

One of the most frequent mistakes that candidates make is to assume that their interviewers will not do some background research to find their profiles online. 

“I’ll always look to find out more about candidates,” Theodoulou said. “That to me is quite important.”

Theodoulou said that if candidates have wildly disparate profiles online and on their CV, that can prove to be a red flag.

Getting the right chemistry during the interview is also important, the panel argued. 

Livingston said: “Don’t be so desperate for the job. Interviews are two-way processes. If you can’t sit with your interviewer for 45 minutes, don’t start the job. Don’t do it. You have to be comfortable working with those people because otherwise, it will be a miserable existence.”

For in-house counsel wondering whether they should apply for general counsel roles, the panel advised: “Find the job you want in two years’ time and find out how you can bridge the gap.”