When preparing for various interviews with a law firm or a company, there are numerous considerations and components that a candidate will fine tune and enhance regarding their repertoire. The candidate will ask themselves: Did I craft an intriguing résumé? What about my career and how much of it should I share? What should I wear? How do I answer this question if asked? But of equal value and sometimes lost in the mix is—What questions SHOULD I ASK the hiring manager or partner?
Creating an interview “conversation” will help establish a comfortable two-way street, which can only benefit the evaluation of how you interact with people. More than likely, this will set you apart from other candidates and will help build a strong foundation for your confidence, which is an important trait for any attorney to exhibit. Offering the interviewer prepared questions will highlight your work ethic, initiative, as well as your intelligence. Asking pointed questions will also help you determine if the firm or company is a good fit for your skills, your demeanor, and most importantly the future of your career.
Crafting thought-provoking queries for your interviews will involve research.
Start with the firm or company itself—their founding and history; identify their mission and expertise beyond being a successful financial entity; pinpoint their future vision; and categorize their clients as well as any high-profile cases they’ve handled.
Regarding the job you’re interested in, consider how the position’s responsibilities fit in to the organization’s overall goals and vision. Find the pathways of how your projected involvement will intersect with the firm’s overall strategies. Questions based on these specifics will give you a better sense of how your skills and experience will contribute to the greater good.
Remember, you’re not after “yes” or “no” answers. Try to design questions that produce open-ended and conversational answers. It’s important to allow the interviewer the chance to say more and offer details. Begin your questions with words like “What,” “How,” or “Why”—this will help elicit descriptive and informative answers. Regarding your firm’s fifty years in San Diego, what are some highlights of this illustrious history? As opposed to: You must be proud of your firm’s long and illustrious history in San Diego? Again, avoid closed-end questions whenever possible.
With all of your inquiries, try to write and ask questions that go beyond the obvious that you might pick up on their website. Look for any newspaper or journal articles about the firm, or one of their partners, or even a recent case. Go deeper than the shortcuts offered by online marketing. Strong research will help you avoid “cookie-cutter” questions that could be asked of any firm or company.
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
—Eugene Ionesco, playwright
During the interview, try and weave in questions of your own. This will go a long way in helping to foster a conversation rather than a one-sided inquisition. But at some point, the interviewer will undoubtedly ask: Do you have any questions for us? Obviously, this is your cue—time to roll out your research and hard work.
Here are some suggested general questions based on our experience and research with those in the know. These may help spark your process—but nothing will replace your own research and ingenuity when writing specific probes.
Keep in mind, questions will be crafted and tempered by the interviewee’s experience, background, and the position sought.
From your experience, how does your firm differentiate itself from others?
How do you envision the firm growing over the next five or ten years?
What are some current issues facing the firm?
Can you detail for me the organization’s vertical structure and management philosophy?
In your experience, what type of company culture exists here?
What type of cases are assigned to new associates? And how is work distributed?
What’s the typical case load for an attorney/associate?
If an associate were to succeed here, what advice and path would you suggest?
What advice would you offer for an associate starting their career with your firm?
Is there a training or oversight period for a new attorney?
How does the firm train junior attorneys to develop business?
In your experience, how long do associates usually stay with the firm?
How does the firm measure success?
What’s been your overall experience working here? What do you like most about the organization?
Typically, how does the firm feel about and handle pro bono work?
How would you describe the firm’s typical client?
What would be the firm’s procedure and process for evaluating my performance?
And how often would that happen?
Have I offered you any concerns that might exclude me from the position?
What’s the next step in your hiring process?
There’s no doubt that the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the job market as well as the interview process—and this is equally true when it comes to recruitment by law firms and companies. Forbes magazine details the shift and offers some excellent advice as well as highlighting the red flags you should watch for when interacting with a potential new employer and their interviewers.
Solid research that leads to knowledgeable inquiries will help guide you through the recruitment and interview process, laying the base for strong career development.