8 Questions That Will Help You Land A Job

Featured Guest Blog by Mary Crane at MaryCrane.com

Too many summer associates and interns make the mistake of believing that they only need to produce quality work to land a job offer. Make note: In today’s competitive work environment, turning in a first-rate assignment earns little more than a “meets expectations” evaluation. To receive a coveted job offer, summer associates and interns must also establish relationships with professionals at every level in an organization.

If you’ve just begun work, don’t worry. Every employer I know has planned lots of opportunities for you to meet with a variety of people in your firm or corporation. When you do, request permission to set aside 10 to 15 minutes to ask a few questions of your own. Then use the following eight relationship-building inquiries to guide your conversation.

#1 How do you spend your time?

Make this inquiry for three different reasons:

First, this question helps you clarify and confirm the role the individual plays within the organization. If you’ve never stepped inside a law firm before, you may not know what a Chief Marketing Officer does and why the role is critically important.

Second, this question helps you develop a clear understanding of day-to-day work expectations. Learning that an entry-level financial analyst frequently spends 70 hours or more per week creating complex financial models may or may not be consistent with the work-life balance you hope to achieve.

Third, the answer contains important information that you can use to follow up and demonstrate your genuine interest in the professional and his or her work. Let’s say a partner tells you that she currently spends an inordinate amount of time assuring a particular client that proposed regulations are unlikely to move forward. After the meeting, you can create a Google Alert about the regulations. As soon as you receive notification of some development, you can share the information with the partner, thereby showing your interest.

#2 Is this what you thought you’d be doing every day?

You may think that most professionals follow a clear roadmap as they advance in their careers—they start at A, move to B, and eventually advance to R, S, and T. But today, nearly every successful professional engages in a nonstop game of chutes and ladders. They start in one position, often move sideways, and periodically slide on a diagonal. Sometimes they even go backward before they move forward again.

This question elicits the professional journey people have taken. Ask this question if for no other reason than most professionals love to share their stories. Many of the responses you receive will be filled with funny anecdotes about obstacles encountered and approaches tried. You will likely hear about career transitions currently unimaginable to you.

#3 What are you most proud of?

Everyone likes the opportunity to toot his or her own horn. Give the people with whom you meet this chance. Let them talk about a victory they snatched out of the jaws of defeat, or the biggest deal they closed, or the time they helped someone who was flailing at work become a proven performer.

#4 What weaknesses have you discovered?

This question helps you identify a respondent’s ability to self-reflect. Professionals who actively think about their day-to-day work experiences—especially errors made in judgment or understanding—begin to comprehend the underlying causes of their success or failure. This knowledge allows them to consciously change behaviors instead of repeating mistakes.

When someone indicates that he has no weaknesses (or is unaware of them), do a quick check to confirm whether he’s joking. If he appears to be serious, you’ve likely found someone who is not good at self-reflection. Keep this in mind during future meetings. As soon as someone cites a specific weakness, fine tune your ears and listen carefully. This professional is affording you the opportunity to learn from his experience.

#5 Are there organizations that I should join?

While social networks are great, never underestimate the importance of connecting face-to-face. Virtually every industry and profession has organizations and conferences where like-minded people connect. Use this question to discern those groups and events that are most worthwhile. You may even learn how to get on the inside track and quickly become a rising star.

#6 Who else should I connect with?

Your summer work experience will move at the speed of light. Absent the insights of seasoned professionals, you risk missing out on some potentially transformative conversations. Use each conversation to help you strategically plan your next one.

Finally, whenever you encounter a specific obstacle or challenge, feel free to ask, #7 What would you do if you were me? And before any one of your conversations ends, don’t hesitate to ask  #8, I appreciate the time you’ve given me. Is there anything I can do for you? This closing will help you end the meeting on an especially high note. It demonstrates your intent to build mutually beneficial relationships, an outlook valued by today’s employers.

See more tips from Mary Crane on Starting Work, Networking, Business Etiquette, Time Management, and more on her web site.

The Key to Unlocking USAJobs.gov

The clearinghouse for job opportunities with the government.

USAJobs.gov is the clearinghouse for job opportunities with the government.

If you are interested in government jobs, you might already know that USAJobs.gov is the clearinghouse for job opportunities with the government. Listings on the site include student and non-student jobs which makes it a good resource for temporary summer positions and permanent positions.

Janice Johnson, a Wake Forest Law 2L, had first-hand experience with using USAJobs during her extensive career prior to attending law school. After completing her undergraduate studies in Boston, Janice worked in Europe and with the U.S. Department of State. In this blog post, Janice offers her advice and personal tips on how to navigate the USAJobs web site and ultimately land a government job.

Tactics on How Best to Start

USAJobs has countless agencies, departments, and sectors that you may not even have thought about or knew existed. Interested in energy law? There are energy specialists in each agency, not just in the Department of Energy. As a rule of thumb: start big. It’s also wise to start by picking your geographic preference and then just browsing the listings for that area. You should also be attentive to jobs that are not categorized as attorney positions, but where your law degree will give you an advantage and/or help you meet the other position requirements.

When It’s Time to Apply

In order to apply for any job on USAJobs, you will first need to have available your complete, thorough work and volunteer history. From the time you click “Apply for this Position,” you will be prompted to the site’s resume builder. A time-consuming ordeal, yes, but once you use the resume builder, you will be able to save the resume profile in the system, so it will be easy to apply to future jobs.

Important Application Tips

Use the keywords in the job description when filling out the resume builder. There is a meticulously designed computer program that scans through the resumes on USAJobs and ranks resumes on several different factors such as keywords. These keywords will get matched in the computer system, making you a better match for the job than those applicants who do not use keywords from the description. For example, if the position is looking for drafting experience, be sure you have the word “drafting” in your resume profile.

Also, think broadly when it comes capturing your years of experience for certain listings. For example, let’s say the position in which you are applying is asking for a number of years of leadership experience. Leadership experience can include things such as cheerleading coaching, retail management experience, Boy Scout and Girl Scout leadership, etc. So if you’re comfortable talking about it in an interview, then use it.

If there is a requirement or an option to add a cover letter or transcript, be sure you upload those documents. Always cater your cover letter to each job just like you would if applying to a law firm or any other employer. A carefully crafted cover letter can be the difference between your getting an interview or being passed aside. And don’t worry about your resume being too long. The government is okay with long resumes as they would rather know too much, than not enough.

Word of Mouth & Networking Bonuses

You can’t discount the potential value of knowing someone within government agencies whether it’s a friend, former classmate, family member, or colleague. Personal connections still work and knowing someone can make a huge impact on your application status and getting called in for an interview. Connections can put in a good word for you, despite the HR department having to go through the whole stack of resumes. News regarding upcoming positions also travel via word of mouth, often before they are even posted on USAJobs.gov so knowing someone in the department or agency can give you advance time to gather all of the necessary application materials.

After Applying

After applying and interviewing, you may receive an offer (YAY!). Just note that there will still be a security clearance and credit check you will need to pass. Your job offer will be for conditional hiring only, contingent on this background check. The length of the security clearance process varies and sometimes the process can take up to a full year to complete. This is why many summer internships open up in November so that they can close out in December to allow enough time to complete the full process. At this time, the government is okay with credit card debt such as retail store cards and personal credit cards. However, any delinquent debt, especially student loan debt, will likely delay the clearance process.

The entire USAJobs application process can be a long one. Fortunately, the system’s email notifications do help inform you on whether you will proceed to the next step or if your application has not been accepted. Whatever you do, do not get discouraged! Apply. Then apply again, even if it’s the same job you applied to before. Human resources will not notice that you’ve applied 8 times, nor would it make a difference in your hiring. There is no limit to how many times you can apply to a position. Perhaps you might have been ranked lower before and now you have more experience under your belt so be sure you are updating and adding new experiences often to your USAJobs profile. Your efforts will eventually be rewarded for all your time and hard work!

A Candid Interview with Alumnus Vlad Vidaeff

Vlad Vidaeff, Wake Forest University JD/MBA ('13)

Vlad Vidaeff
JD/MBA (’13)
Wake Forest University

We recently spoke with Mr. Vlad Vidaeff, a 2013 JD/MBA graduate of Wake Forest University, about his unique career path and journey to success. His extensive resume includes co-founding the retail company 20 Pirouettes and acting as the Social Media Manager at the REFUGE Group. Mr. Vidaeff has also been involved with multiple business endeavors in Texas, New York, and North Carolina. In this interview, you will find out how he uses his legal background in a business setting, what his day-to-day work involves, and how other business-minded students can pursue a similar career track with a JD.

Biography

Vlad Vidaeff was born in New York.  After moving around quite a bit growing up, he spent most of his childhood in Boston before moving to Houston in 8th grade. He attended high school in Texas and subsequently pursued his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan.  Straight out of college, Vlad began the JD/MBA program at Wake Forest University.  After graduating in 2013, he returned to Houston and accepted a marketing position at eCardio.  Vlad spent almost a year with the company before starting his own company, 20 Pirouettes, with a business partner.  Now that most of the grunt work is out of the way, Vlad has recently accepted a marketing manager role with The REFUGE Group.  The REFUGE Group is a full-service advertising agency located in Houston.  In his free time, Vlad enjoys exercising, watching sports, and watching movies and TV shows.

What is your job title?

I am the Co-founder of 20 Pirouettes and the Social Media Manager at The REFUGE Group.

What do you do at your position?

While my position at The REFUGE Group is interesting, I think my role at 20 Pirouettes is the job where I more directly use my legal background.  Starting my own business was a lot more work than I could have ever imagined but also one that gives me a great sense of satisfaction.  There were many tasks that had to be completed before going public: writing a business plan, registering the business as a legal entity, filing for trademark protection with the USPTO, applying for a federal tax ID and any permits needed, etc.  Being a licensed attorney was invaluable in handling the legal and tax aspects to my business, areas that often make entrepreneurs uncomfortable.  Since we are a retail business that sells hand-made jewelry made out of precious gemstones and crystals, another huge focus of our business is marketing/promotions.

What’s the typical day like?

As we are not yet public, each day brings new tasks and challenges.  We are hoping to have our website up and running by the end of April.  But to give you an idea of some of the major activities we’ve been working on over the past couple of months, here are some examples.  We have worked with an advertising agency on creating a logo for the brand.  Since we are an online business, we have bought our shipping materials in bulk and designed some promotional flyers to be included with each package.  A major task facing 20 Pirouettes in the next month will be taking photos of our products with a professional photographer so they can then be uploaded to our website.  There are a ton of small responsibilities here and there that I won’t go into detail to bore you!

How did you got to this position in your career?

I feel like I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and having the opportunity to attempt to build a brand from the ground up is something I really enjoy.  My business partner and I had discussed opening a business for many years but the timing was never right.  I was busy in school and was living out-of-state.  Moving back to Houston and then leaving eCardio gave me the extra free time I needed to help get things off the ground.  Starting your own business is all about having an idea, whether it is a product or service, and having the courage to dive in and make your dreams come true!

What recommendations do you have for students who want to be in your field?

While my path has not been the traditional one that most law students follow, I believe my legal education has been a great tool in my field.  Do not be frightened to take a non-traditional path as there are many avenues to success and by going to law school, you have developed many transferrable skills. Having strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are essential to being a successful entrepreneur.  Moreover, having an attention to detail is also important as you are making major decisions frequently and cannot afford to make mistakes due to carelessness.  I had the added benefit of gaining a business education in addition to my JD, so I would recommend that students interested in entrepreneurship read books or take online courses in entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance.

Are there any specific courses you would recommend students take in order to be more marketable for a position like yours?

Legal courses that are business-related would be most helpful.  Some of the most valuable courses that I took include contracts, business organizations, intellectual property, and business drafting.

The Perks of Attending Conferences

Chris Salemme2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army J.D. Candidate, 2017 Wake Forest University School of Law

Chris Salemme
2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army
J.D. Candidate, 2017
Wake Forest University School of Law

Attending legal conferences can be daunting especially if you’re attending your first one, or don’t know anyone attending the event. It can also be quite difficult to plan if the event is being held out of state. Those feelings are understandable; however, conferences are a great way to gain insight into your own career path and network with the legal experts. It also demonstrates to professionals how interested you are about the specific practice area featured at the conference.

Just read this real-life experience from a WFU Law 1L, Chris Salemme, on his decision to attend the Georgetown Law Symposium this past February and how it benefited his career:

            On Monday, February 9, I read in the Office of Career & Professional Development 1L Newsletter about an upcoming symposium at Georgetown Law entitled “Trial and Terrorism: The Implications of Trying National Security Cases in Article III Courts.” This program immediately caught my eye because, given my career goal of becoming an Army Judge Advocate, I have a strong interest in national security law issues. The one caveat: the symposium was on Wednesday of that week, less than 48 hours away. I thought it over, met with my career advisor, and, with some hesitation, made the last minute decision to book a flight to Washington, DC to take advantage of this opportunity.

            I am glad I did. The symposium featured three panels of federal judges, US Attorneys, professors, defense attorneys, and other experts in the field. They discussed Miranda rights for terror suspects, special administrative measures (SAMs) in pretrial confinement, race-based targeting, interrogations, and more. Some of the judges had presided over notable terrorism cases such as those of Ahmed Ghailani and Zacarias Moussaoui, giving them great insight on this area of law. Additionally, I was seated at a table with the chief and deputy chief of operational law for the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and was able to gain valuable advice from them on pursuing a career in law and the military.

            While it was a split-second decision to attend this symposium, it had greatly exceeded my expectations and I would undoubtedly go again. Reading about issues that are important to you can be helpful, but actually listening to experts discuss and debate these issues is incredibly more informative. I strongly encourage my peers to seek out such opportunities for issues they are interested in and I am confident that they will find them as rewarding as I found the Georgetown symposium. 

To find out about other upcoming legal conferences or events that might be of interest to you, be sure to check the weekly OCPD student newsletters as well as the WFU law school event calendar.

Why All That Interview Research?

Chambers Associate spoke with dozens of legal recruiters and employers each year during their research for their online OCI guide. Among other things, these recruiters and employers told them what they look for in prospective hires. Check out what they heard from employers and hiring partners about interview preparation about interview preparation and research:

“Law students really need to bust their gut doing homework on firms. You need to know about its practices, its history, its strengths and weaknesses. It’s also increasingly important to be aware of a firm’s business ideas.”

“Prepare. It seems like very old-fashioned advice, but I’m not sure that people entirely understand what preparing means. It takes more time than some students set aside for it. Practicing to get over the jitters is good, but what’s more important is thinking through what you’ve done in your life to understand what skills you have that can contribute to being a lawyer. When we sense that somebody’s done enough thinking about themselves to know which part of their experience to talk about at an interview, we’re prone to think they’re analytical and will be able to perform the tasks required of them.”

“Show a serious interest in what the firm does, and what the people you are speaking to do.”

“Know the firm you’re talking to. Knowing your audience will carry you far in this profession – it’ll show that you’ve put some thought and effort into the place you’re interested in working.”

“During interviews candidates should have good questions about the firm. Not just questions to which the answers are on our website, but things that show they have done their homework.”

With these tips in mind for your next legal interview, you will definitely have the research part mastered. Questions about how to go about your interview research? Make an appointment with your career advisor today so you can be prepared for tomorrow.

The Law Student Holiday Count Down

At this moment, every successful law school student is hunkered down in preparation for final exams. Library caddies, study rooms, and hallway chairs are all full of studious individuals, hoping to pass their upcoming exams with flying colors. But during this time of year, don’t let those tests consume you. Beyond exams, focus on a series of other strategies that can help you build your professional network and launch your career. At a minimum, look to accomplishing the following five activities the next weeks following exams as a boost to your network and career path:

1. Shortly after exams, invest time sending holiday wishes to every professional and prospective employer you encountered during the previous 12 months. For more casual acquaintances, emailing those wishes can be perfectly appropriate. In the case of a prospective employer, past employer, or alumni of the school, consider sending a holiday card with a brief personal note. Just writing one or two lines will help you become memorable, and being remembered in a positive light is exactly what every student should want.

2. During the winter break, you may return to a city where you worked as a summer associate or intern just a few months ago. Use the upcoming holiday break to reconnect face to face with contacts you established in that city, especially contacts with potential employers. On more than one occasion, a quick coffee or lunch has revealed a previously unknown job opportunity.

3. In addition to meeting with prospective employers, use the winter break to build your professional networks. The holiday season can be the perfect time to reconnect with peers who have gone off in other directions. Search out college classmates who have headed to business school. Eventually and inevitably business people will need lawyers and vice versa. Use this holiday season to start creating those relationships.

4. In many cases, many organizations experience their quietest time of year between Christmas Day and New Years. That means key decision-makers, who have chosen not to take a vacation, have more time than usual to meet with students who have expressed an interest in a particular company or industry. Take a risk this holiday season. Reach out to every prospective employer with whom you have an interest and don’t stop until you’ve scheduled at least one meeting during the holiday break.

5. Spend some focused time during the winter break setting SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-limited) goals for the upcoming year. Begin by asking a series of questions, including: Who do you need to know? Who can help you make a connection with a potential key employer? How should you best reach out to that person or persons? When? And what specifically should you say to that individual or ask of them? Remember, you never accomplish a goal that you don’t set.

How Blogging Can Boost Your Career

There’s no better way for a law student to network with leading lawyers, alums and potential employers than blogging (or also called ‘blawgging’ when referencing legal blogs). In addition, there’s no better way for a law student to demonstrate their passion for and desire to get into a niche area of the law than blogging.  Writing frequently helps to improve your expression, and the blog format means you learn to explain things in a clearer, more concise manner. Being able to explain something simply and accurately is the best way to be certain you and others understand it.

Then there are the career benefits. Blogging is particularly helpful if you are interested in a specific area of the law where opportunities are few and competition for particular positions can be somewhat intense. When you have no prior experience, all you can do is tell your prospective employer how interested you are in a particular practice area or legal niche. This typically involves saying, “Oh yes, I’m really interested in this area of the law,” and then worrying whether you sounded too enthusiastic or not enthusiastic enough when you said it.

If you had a blog, you could tell the employer that you’ve been blogging about that particular area of practice for some time, thus proving both your knowledge and your interest, particularly since you’ve been writing the blog in your free time. Later on when you are a practicing lawyer, a blog is can be helpful for attracting clients, motivating you to keep up to date with new developments in your practice area and networking with fellow practitioners, particularly as more and more lawyers are reading law blogs as a way of keeping up to date. Who knows, you may even end up a bit of an authority on your specific blogging area.

There are plenty of free blogging platforms on the Internet today, but WordPress and Blogger are the most commonly used. There are plenty of custom templates to choose from, but if you’re not feeling tech-savvy, seek out a tech-savvy friend to help you with setting up an account or check out the links below. Then, choose a central theme that interests you and be sure that it is one that you are passionate about. A blog takes a lot of a commitment, so your chosen topic area has to be something you won’t tire of after one or two posts. Maybe you want to write about your experiences during your summer clerkship, or maybe you want to be more academic and write about a specific area of the law – it’s your call. Need more tips and advice? Check out the links below which will help guide you through the setup and blogging process:

No Offer? Now What?

Steps to Take When You Have Not Yet Received an Offer from Your Summer Employer

If you did not get a job offer from your summer employer, you are probably wondering, ‘what should I do next?’ Students who worked with an employer this past summer can find themselves in the uncomfortable position of returning to school without a job offer.

Among the various reasons why students do not receive an offer from an employer, three common reasons include: financial constraints from the employer, work performance issues, and not being a good “fit” with the company. Sometimes, students who don’t receive offers because they already decided that the employer wasn’t the right fit are happy to seek other employment. However, due to the fact that future employers are likely to inquire about whether an offer was received from a prior employer, a student must be prepared to deal with that issue.

1. Make an Appointment with a Career Counselor - Run, don’t walk to your career services office and discuss your situation in detail. After hearing about your summer experiences, your counselor can point you in the right direction and let you know what to do next.

2. Find Out the Reason for the Non-Offer - You must take charge in finding out the reason for the non-offer with the employer by contacting the recruiting coordinator, your mentor, and/or the employer’s hiring partner. Ask for valuable feedback regarding points you need to work on, which projects were below average, and whether there were certain projects that turned out well. Then, you can then contact the attorneys and staff with whom you worked on the projects that turned out well and see if they will serve as a reference for you. Having great references is always a plus. However, if the employer tells you that you were not the best “fit,” simply ask for some additional information that led them to that decision and outcome. Having this essential information on hand will be beneficial when you have to answer questions on your summer experience with prospective employers.

3. It’s Time to Rethink Your Career Objectives - If you were unable to receive an offer from your summer employer, now is a great time to rethink your career goals and aspirations and possibly modify them. What parts of your summer experience did you like in particular and why? What areas of the summer experience did you not enjoy and why? Do you think there is a different practice area or work environment that would better suit your passions, personality and /or work habits? Flesh out these questions with your career advisor today by making an appointment to meet.

4. Obtain Important Information from Your Summer Employer - It’ is time to contact your summer employer and ask them a few important questions. Find out what they will say if they are contacted about you by a prospective employer. Inquire who at the firm would be able to be a great reference for you to utilize in the future. It is vital that you have at least one or two attorneys in the firm who will speak highly of you and your work. Summer employers may even provide some assistance in your job search efforts. This is especially true with larger firms that have a larger amount of contacts available. They may be more than willing to put you in touch with the right people, especially if your non-offer was for financial or fit reasons.

5. How to Handle Interviews Going Forward - In preparing for interviews from this point forward, you must decide on how you will answer questions regarding your summer experience. This could include the big question about whether you received an offer as well as questions relating to why you did not receive an offer. If possible, try to bypass those questions by first explaining that while you enjoyed your summer (and support this statement with reasons why), your summer experience has taught you that you are more interested in other law practice areas. By explaining your new focus and new career goals, prospective employers may not think to inquire about whether you received an offer.

However, if prospective employers do inquire about whether or not you received an offer, be sure to always be positive when reflecting on your summer experiences and your skills. When asked, provide the reason for the non-offer, but do not spend a large portion of time on this point. Once explained, continue the process by providing great references, writing samples, and any other knowledge and illustrations of how you have the abilities to succeed at their company. The goal is to always respond to the questions conducted in the interview, but to keep the interview exchange on a positive side.

Are You Ready for the Legal Interview?

When it comes to interviews, there are certain imperative steps you must always take to ensure you have done your best. It seems to go without saying but you obviously must dress professionally and be on-time. However, making a first impression takes quite a bit of preparation and practice. It is a large part of the interview process as a whole. Whether you are going to be experiencing your first legal interview during OCI this fall, or if you’ve been through several interviews in the past, be sure you always keep these key points in mind:

1. Really Research the Employer – You’ve definitely heard this one before. But only because it is one of the most important points! Doing research beforehand on the company in which you are interviewing is a must. The employer needs to know that you’ve not only heard of them (or took initiative to learn about them), but that they were your first choice for a job. There are a ton of resources online for doing reconnaissance (Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubbell, Vault.com, Bloomberg.com and articles written for legal industry periodicals, as well as bio pages for the partners or staff you’re meeting on the company web site.) Also, include summer evaluations in Symplicity.

2. Understand the Role in the Organization or Law Firm – If you’re interviewing for an associate position (or even an internship), make an effort to really understand what the employer’s expectations are of you. This means either dissecting the job description, or if there isn’t one, doing enough research to find out what the role really requires.

3. Know Your Career Narrative Inside Out – Your legal resume (or perhaps even a contact) could have landed you the interview, but the real challenge begins now. About 10%-20% of the interview will be focused on confirming your resume and that you know what you’re talking about from a “technical” standpoint. The remaining 80%-90% will be about finding out if you’re the right fit for the position or culture.

In addition to the typical legal interview questions you would expect to receive (see below), you’re also going to have to craft some interview stories. These are stories that have longer answers which you would give to behavioral questions. For example: “Tell me about a time you had multiple, time-sensitive projects due — how did you prioritize and what was the result?” The interviewer is likely to be looking for your prowess in several specific competencies or skills such as time management, negotiation skills, or whether you work well under pressure. Stick to a cohesive and compelling story that highlights your skills and abilities and you will have a great, engaging answer for the employer.

4. Preparing for the Employer’s Interview Questions – Before your interview, research commonly asked questions and really understand and practice how you’ll answer them. Obviously, every interview will be different, but if you can articulately and thoughtfully answer the questions below (and also have several “interview stories” in your back pocket), you’ll likely land the position:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you decide to go to law school?
  • Why did you choose your law school?
  • Is your GPA an accurate reflection of your abilities? Why or why not?
  • What do you know about our firm?
  • What area of law most interests you?
  • Tell me about a major accomplishment.
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What interests you most about the legal system?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • How has your education and experience prepared you for the practice of law?
  • Describe a professional failure and how you handled it.
  • Why should we hire you over other candidates?
  • What questions do you have?

5. Always Ask Questions – At the end of the interview, it’s important that you ask questions. It shows not only that you were prepared and listened thoroughly to your interviewer, but also that you are seriously interested in the organization or firm. For more information on this topic, check out biginterview.com’s Top 12 Best Questions to Ask at the End of the Job Interview article.

6. Don’t Forget Your Thank-you Note – Good old P’s & Q’s. Everyone loves them! The thank you note is an important little piece of the interview process, and an art form unto itself. After every job interview, it’s critical to follow up with a thank you note to the person that interviewed you. Thank you notes are not just common courtesy; they are essential elements of the interviewing process. For info on how to structure a great thank you check out: Job Interview Thank You Notes 101.

In the end, your resume contains credentials that are only a small piece of the whole interview process. Making the strongest possible impression when you’re face-to-face with potential employers is essential. Keeping in mind all these tips will surely prepare and help you with all your future interviews. Good luck!

The Legal Resume: Back to Basics

Can you believe it? Fall is right around the corner! Say goodbye to warm temperatures, flip-flops, and trips to the beach and say hello to new textbooks, cooler weather, and a bit of polish for your resume. Resume work already? Of course! Rising 2Ls and 3Ls: the summer and long-term job search begins as soon as you return to campus (if not before). In addition to starting to send out resumes on your own, you will begin bidding for Fall On-Campus Interviews and Resume Collects (if you have not already) and you will want your resume to earn you some call backs and second interviews. Incoming 1L students: you’ll realize quickly that the legal resume differs from the typical business resume. A legal resume has a unique structure and format, along with its own set of rules and guidelines. This subject and more will be explained in detail as you progress through the Professional Development class, so no need worry about drafting your legal resume just yet.

As you begin the new job search, as well as throughout your career, keep in mind these important general tips for your application materials:

Focus on the employer’s needs
The legal resume is a unique marketing and sales tool that summarizes who you are and what you have to offer. It communicates strengths and distinguishes you from other applicants and also provides a sample work product characterized by quality and clarity. You can prove that you think like a lawyer by creating a resume in which you are an advocate for yourself.

Sometimes students draft cover letters that focus on their own goals (i.e. “I hope to gain meaningful experience from this internship”). Instead, do just the opposite. Close your eyes and picture the overworked hiring partners or recruiting personnel reading your resume. Their company has approved a new hire and they are sifting through stacks of resumes. What do they want? Someone intelligent, who has job-specific legal experience, gets along well with everyone else in the office, and can dive right in to their work, right? Make your resume reflect those needs by highlighting your work quality and experience. Such things that can demonstrate this are: Team projects, academic projects, writing samples, clinics, and volunteer work.

Make it pleasant to read
The legal community is conservative and expects a traditional resume. An employer is likely to spend less than 30 seconds on his or her initial review of your resume; therefore, a readable form is crucial. It can help the reader smoothly and quickly capture important information at the first glance. Make sure that you use underlining, italics, capital letters, etc. consistently from one position to another and one section of the resume to another. Your ability to do so shows your attention to detail.

Text that is jammed together, tiny margins, and distracting boxes and lines all make for an untidy, not aesthetically pleasing resume. The aforementioned tired hiring partners want to pick resumes out of the pile that are easy to read. Do this by limiting your resume to one page and pick a traditional font such as Times Roman, Arial or Garamond. With font size, choose 10 or 11 point; below that, you are risking someone not bothering to review your resume due to poor readability.

It’s not just a summary of experience
The purpose of your resume is to get you called in for an interview, so focus on marketing to the employer. Using excellent action verbs when you begin your phrases in your work descriptions can help you market yourself to the employer. Avoid passive voice, as well as the phrase “responsible for.” Briefly explain awards or scholarships, instead of just listing the name of the scholarship or award. Quantify where possible; for example, “Organized school wide fundraising auction. Chaired committee of 13 students; raised $7,500 for public interest scholarship.” Employers like hard data and facts. And keep in mind that the experience section of your resume can include clinical work, internships/externships, research assistantships, volunteer work, etc., as well as paid positions.

The biggest (avoidable!) mistake
Typos and grammatical errors are NEVER ok. Never. We’ll stop telling you this when we stop seeing them. Employers are likely to immediately eliminate you from consideration. They consider your resume your first work product, so make sure you spend time re-reading it – again and again. And when you think you’ve finished proofreading it, read it over again. Afterward, get a friend or faculty member to proofread it. Finally, email it or bring it in to your career advisor for a final look over. You can never have too many eyes looking at your resume when it comes to hunting for typos and grammatical errors.

What to learn more great resume tips? Check out our complete list of legal resume “Do’s and Don’ts”, advice, lists of action words, resume samples, and more in our Career Planning Guide. You can find it on Symplicity in the Document Library and on the Students section of our web site, in the Resource Center. Make use of this publication as your ultimate career guide and refer to it often during your time here at law school. It is a great resource to add to your law school toolbox!