Applying for Jobs: Interviewing

So you got an interview with the firm of your dreams...What the heck do you do now? The short answer is prepare thoroughly and practice your interviewing skills.

Preparation and Research

Learn everything you can about the firm or organization before the interview. The best place to begin is with the firm or company's web site. Here you can determine how the firm sees itself and how it markets itself to clients and prospective employees.

You definitely need to review the profiles of the attorneys who will be interviewing you, but it is also a good idea to look at profiles of attorneys from different departments and at different levels within the firm to better understand the types of people that the firm has hired in the past. You should also review recent news or press releases posted on the firm's web site.

You should also review outside sources of information about the firm. If the firm has a website, you should certainly familiarize yourself with the information contained there. Check out the firm's profile on Martindale Hubble (www.martindale.com) and how many of its attorneys are AV-rated (the highest rating). Run a "Google" search and review the sites that reference the firm, taking a look at any that seem significant or might contain something that could be brought up during your interview.

You will also want to practice your interviewing skills before the interview. Think about your answers to the questions that an interviewer will likely ask. Topics generally addressed during interviews include your goals, both short and long-term; your strengths and weaknesses; your reasons for wanting to work at the firm or company; and your accomplishments.

After you have thought about how to address these topics, schedule a mock interview with our office. It is important that you become comfortable enough with the process and answering (and also asking) questions so that it will come more naturally to you when you are under the pressure of an interview.

You also need to prepare yourself to look and feel good on the day of your interview. Dress professionally (this typically means a navy or dark suit) in clothes you feel comfortable wearing. A good rule of thumb is that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Have your clothes cleaned, pressed and laid out the night before. Polish your shoes. Make sure you have your portfolio stocked with a pen and note pad, as well as extra copies of your resume, references, writing sample and transcript. Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before your interview. Eat something so for energy and so that your growling stomach does not drown out what you are saying to the interviewer. BE ON TIME! (this means 10 minutes early) to the interview.

The Interview

From the minute you firmly shake hands with the interviewer, you must sell yourself. Look the interviewer in the eye and address him or her as Mr. or Mrs. as you introduce yourself. If the interviewer invites you to use his or her first name, do so, but not until then. The most important thing to remember is to be yourself.

Answer questions honestly and directly. All answers should be wrapped up within 30-60 seconds. An answer much longer than that will cause the interviewer to lose interest in what you are saying. Besides, you need to show that you can get right to the point. Keep in mind at all times the points you want to want to make with the interviewer (pointing out your strengths). Convey your enthusiasm about wanting to work at the firm.

Additional Interviewing Tips

  1. Do not ask questions or discuss salary, benefits or work hours unless the interviewer raises the issue. If the issue is raised, be careful not to appear that you are more interested in the money than the job.
  2. If you are interviewing with an employer located in another city or town, you need to have a reason for wanting to live there.
  3. Acknowledge when you have made mistakes. If you state something incorrectly during the interview, do not be afraid to correct yourself. If you must discuss a situation where you were mistaken, take responsibility and explain it.
  4. Do not, under any circumstances, badmouth other employers or divulge confidential information about another employer or that employer's clients.
  5. You can disagree with an interviewer. Most law firms realize that the ability to respectfully disagree is an important quality for an attorney.
  6. You may have a bad interview (or even two or three). Sometimes no matter how much time you spend preparing yourself, you simply do not click with the interviewer. Just try to get through it, and move on.
  7. You will be asked if you have any questions. Have several ready. Write them down. Ask them. If you do, you will be perceived as interested and well-prepared. This is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for an interview.
  8. Do not ask a question that could be answered by information which you could have easily obtain on the firm's web site or the materials furnished by the firm to our office.
  9. Be positive and energetic. Sit up straight in the chair. Project confidence and poise.

Questions Commonly-Asked by Interviewers

Questions similar to those listed below are frequently asked during an interview. Think about how you would answer them and how your responses may be viewed by an employer. Practice your answers first by writing them out. Obviously you don't want a set of memorized answers to recite in an interview, but it may help you to organize your thoughts and be better prepared when you are actually in an interview situation.

  1. Tell me a little about yourself. This is a common leadoff question. You should take this opportunity to sell yourself in less than 60 seconds. Discuss where you are from and how you ended up in law school. Also take the opportunity to bring up particularly relevant work experience and also your hobbies or interests.
  2. Why did you decide to go to law school? This question is often asked for first-year students, but frequently second or third year students as well. Be honest about why you decided to become an attorney, but be cautious if your reasons are that you aspire to make a lot of money and to impress people.
  3. Why should we hire you? This is an open invitation to promote your skills. Even if this question is not asked directly, it is the ultimate question in the mind of the employer. In answer to this question, and throughout the entire interview as well, you need to show the employer how your abilities, skills and personality fit for the needs of the employer.
  4. Why do you want to work for us? Again, this is where you need to sell the employer on why your particular experiences and interests make you the right person for a job at their company.
  5. What are your long-term goals? This question is often asked in order to determine your commitment to the profession and to the firm if you are eventually hired. You can show that you have given a great deal of thought into developing a realistic career plan, and also that you have conducted your research, both into the firm and into the profession in general. In doing your research, be sure that you have determined the path your career can realistically take within the structure of the firm or company environment.
  6. What areas of the law are you interested in? Again, you can show here that you have given thought to what you envision as your career path. Many students, particularly first-year students, have difficulty coming up with an answer for this question. You might know what areas that you are not interested in, so you can at least narrow the field in that way. It is vital to the job search process to be self-aware. You will need to conduct the necessary research and give the matter sufficient thought to know the answer to this question. It is far better to do this in advance than learn it later when you are stuck in a job that does not interest you.
  7. What is important for you in a job? Big money and lots of perks. WRONG ANSWER. This is another question that requires self-awareness. You need to know what will make you happy in a job, other than money and perks. Employers look for employees who value the same things that are important to advancing the interests of the company. Look at the firm's marketing materials to try to get a better idea of what this may be.
  8. What do you like to do in your spare time? What spare time, you ask? Again, this is probably the wrong answer. Employers want employees who are well-rounded. Come up with an answer that is honest but shows that you are interesting and are able to manage your work/study commitments well enough to have time to enjoy yourself. Do not list any hobbies that are merely spectator (TV, fantasy football, action movies, etc.)
  9. What do you believe is your greatest strength? This is another great opportunity to sell yourself. Select two or three qualities about yourself that will fit with the needs of the employer. Be sure to support your claim by highlighting selected experiences that exemplify these qualities.
  10. What are your weakness? When you respond to this question, be honest, but carefully choose a relatively unimportant or non job-related issue to reveal.