So, you have already spent hours researching law firms, submitting tons of resumes, and now you have an interview. The Law Firm Interview! That means you’ve gotten your foot in the door. But what’s next? What are you going to wear? What questions will they ask? What questions should you ask? When lawyers conduct job interviews the expectations are high. JFL BLOG is here to put you a step ahead of the competition helping you land your dream legal job.
First, let’s talk about what you need to do before you even arrive for the interview. Preparation is the key to success. In order to help you ace your interview, we’ve listed seven things you should do before an Interview for a Law Job:
1. Research the Company and the People you are going to be talking with.
There is nothing more obnoxious to a legal employer than an interviewee with no knowledge of the firm or company. After all, you’re a lawyer and research skills should be one of your strengths. At a minimum you do have to know the basics. Before your interview visit the organization’s website, and look over the home page, press releases, attorney bios and recent firm news to impress your interviewers with your knowledge of the firm. Find out as much as you can about the organization’s operations, market niche, and corporate culture. If you are given the names of the people you’ll interview with beforehand, be sure to Google them and check their LinkedIn profiles so you have a general sense of their background. This will help you prepare questions and give you more confidence to face him/her in person.
2. Try to find an Internal Contact.
Having an inside connection is extremely helpful in securing a law job and can certainly help you get to the interview in the first place. Think carefully about whether you might know anyone who works at the organization you’re interviewing with. If so, a brief email can be very effective, explaining your connection and that you’ve got an interview and asking if they’d be willing to have a brief call to answer a few questions. Networking and relationship building can often get you where a resume alone wouldn’t, however, after you have the interview scheduled, be smart about how and when you contact people at the company.
3. Think about why this job is a Good Fit for you, and be able to Explain it.
The most impressive interviewees are those who can clearly articulate why they are interested in particular law firm, with specific reasons that are based on research. To stand out in a crowded market, you have to sell yourself. To do that you need to understand what the employer is looking for, so you can match your skills and interests to the requirements of the job. Study the job description carefully, and be prepared to match specific items on your resume to the desired skills. Keep in mind that it’s your job to do the work of matching your skills to the employer’s requirements. The less they have to guess about why you’re the perfect candidate, the better!
4. Develop Self-Marketing Skills.
Create a concise presentation that highlights your skills, experience, strengths and accomplishments to employers. Most skilled interviewers will give you the opportunity to make your presentation through open-ended questions such as “Tell me about yourself”, “What relevant experience do you have?”, “What are your three top skills?” and similar questions.
Remember that you are there to sell yourself by demonstrating why you can best fill the open position the firm has and why you will add value to the firm both as a lawyer and as a good person. You don’t want to appear overeager or anxious. Don’t be ambivalent. Even if you have concerns, the interview is not the place to let them show. You only get one chance to sell yourself. You have to use that chance for all it’s worth by practicing your presentation until it becomes second-nature.
5. Practice Your Answers.
The interview format is essentially a question-and-answer session, with the interviewer asking most of the questions. You can’t predict exactly what will be asked, but certain questions do come up over and over again. It is to your advantage to prepare general answers to these questions. Scour your resume, cover letter, writing sample, and transcript for any potentially objectionable items, and explain them beforehand until you appear convincing. Your ability to answer these questions calmly and intelligently will indicate just how well you really have prepared yourself. Sadly, many lawyers fail to land their dream jobs because they cannot properly answer these rather simple questions.
6. Prepare Questions to Ask.
To ask or not to ask? That is the question. The answer is: yes. Interviewers expect you to ask questions and may interpret a failure to do as a sign of disinterest. Develop three or so questions that you can ask that demonstrate your thoughtfulness. Your questions should target the open position and demonstrate interest in broad issues affecting the company/firm’s clients and expertise, e.g. “What are the responsibilities of the position in terms of client and partner contact and independent decision making?”, “How do you assign work?”, “What career growth can I reasonably expect?”.
Do not ask any questions that directly go to work-life balance, salary, maternity leave and other benefits, start date, vacations, working hours, etc. You should ask these questions only after you actually have the job offer.
7. Understand Your Goal.
There is one key goal you must focus on during each stage of the interviewing process. Your goal is to get the job, and you can only accomplish that if you make a positive impression. Preparation ahead of time will result in a much higher success rate. Law firms interview in phases-initial interview, callback, possibly a second callback, and then a decision is typically made. Don’t look ahead of the phase you are in. Before you arrive for the interview make sure to have a proper mind set so you can concentrate on successfully completing that phase. Only then should you look to the next stage. Remember the Golden Rule, if you are enthusiastic about yourself and have fun, your interviewer will feel the same.
Now, having prepared for your interview, you are ready to present your credentials, to go for the offer, and to learn as much as possible about yourself and the firm from the experience. Doing so will show hiring managers that you’re serious about the opportunity and will greatly increase your chances of getting the job. Good luck!
For help with any question Legal Job Interview may pose stay tuned for The Law Firm Interview — a series exploring all aspects of the legal job interview process: