Far too many attorneys and law students “blow” the legal job interview. This happens primarily because they either don’t prepare adequately for this critical make-or-break step in the job-hunting process. This blog series is intended to make sure that does not happen.
The first order of business is to review some basic interviewing rules of thumb that apply across the board to every type of job interview.
Interview Do’s and Don’ts
Arm yourself with what you need to know about the interviewing organization, its industry, and the individual interviewers. If the interviewer(s) has expressed his/her opinions in books, articles, blogs, podcasts, media interviews, etc., read or listen to those so that you can get a “fix” on them. The more information you are able to identify and familiarize yourself with, the better prepared you will be and the greater will be your self-confidence at the interview.
Take a trial run to the interview site. You may discover that there are unforeseen obstacles to getting you there on time, e.g., traffic congestion; parking problems; public transportation hold-ups; building security checkpoints. Try to do your trial run at the same time during the day that you will have to make your way to the actual interview.
Prepare and memorize a list of good questions to ask the interviewer(s) when it becomes your turn to take the floor. These can be general (e.g., What is your organization doing about cybersecurity? How does the legal department contribute to increasing shareholder value? What do you look for in a prospective employee? What are the likely challenges and difficulties that you foresee I might have to confront?) or specific to the particular employer (based on what you learned from your preparatory research).
Dress and groom appropriately. Regardless of the nature of the organization, you need to present yourself professionally. Proper attire and grooming are essential to making both a great first…and lasting impression.
Be respectful without being obsequious. Fawning may get you a job in the current administration, but it is highly likely to be off-putting everywhere else.
Do one or more mock interviews before the real thing. Select a trusted family member or friend who can intelligently critique your performance.
Don’t be late…or too early. Try to arrive at the interview site about 10 minutes before the time scheduled for the interview.
Take care of personal matters—bathroom, make-up, changing shoes—before you walk in the door.
Be aware that the interview begins the second you arrive. I always learned a great deal from my receptionist’s interactions with candidates while they waited for me to begin the interview. Sometimes what I heard was determinative, usually in a bad way.
Don’t fidget. You want the interviewer to hear what you have to say, not be distracted by your behavior.
Don’t interrupt. Good listening skills are as important as what you say.
Don’t let your eyes wander. Focus your attention on the interviewer, not the trappings of the office.
Don’t drone on. Keep your answers succinct, concise and to the point. If you get the “Tell me about yourself” question, you don’t need to begin with your conception or birth.
Don’t be an express of implied critic. You don’t know even remotely enough to be able to advise the interviewer as to what could improve his/her organization’s performance.
Don’t leave the interview without a clear picture of what happens next. That includes when you might expect to hear something.
Future blogs in this series will expand on some of these Do’s and Don’ts.