Posted: August 18th, 2014
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!