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Interview Tips… When Searching for a Job

Becoming a lawyer is no easy task. Conquering law school takes consummate dedication, personal resilience, and gritty determination. And we’re aware that those grueling late night study sessions along with an overall siege mentality remain etched in your memory. Nevertheless you made it: graduation—and for a moment the sun was shining above blue skies. But then there was the Bar Exam… another mountain to climb. Like we said, becoming a lawyer is no easy task.

From there it’s about building your career—and whether your searching for your first position with a firm or that “dream” job that caps off a career, the interview process is of utmost importance.

Our Goal: Be a Valued Partner

At Superior Executive and Legal Recruitment, we understand where you’ve been as well as how far you can go. Every aspect of our placement services takes aim at one goal: enhancing your career. At SELR, we acknowledge this unique moment in the legal job marketplace—one that embraces talent in the current and innovative “knowledge economy.” In fact, we deliver exceptional results by partnering completely with our candidates who seek a strong organizational fit. Our process is systematic and always bolstered by a powerful data-driven analysis.

At SELR, we also stress proactive communication with our candidates. That’s why our blogs offer real-life and practical advice on various topics aimed at supporting your job search. As mentioned above, this blog offers advice and tips on the legal interview process, whether in-person or virtual.

Let’s Explore Ways to “ACE” the Interview Process

Utilizing sharp and robust interview skills is vital to your success in the job market—whether you’re an experienced attorney or just starting out.

In any job market, weak or strong, attorneys on the move need to accomplish two things during the interview process:

  1. Do it well, and

  2. Separate themselves from the crowd

Also keep in mind that “the art of the interview” is an evolving process and not a one-time experience. Especially in the current competitive job market, it can be a demanding progression that unfolds over the course of numerous dialogues with various participants. Very much like law school, it takes consummate dedication, personal resilience, and gritty determination.

Do Your Research

This is boiler plate—especially since conducting thorough and focused research is the hallmark of any good attorney. Exhibiting detailed research will make a strong first impression, one that says you care and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and work hard. All the information you need is out there for online reconnaissance.

  • Acquire a strong understanding of the firm (its history, culture, specialties, as well as large or important cases, also any major awards or industry accolades).

  • Find out a bit about the person(s) you’ll be interviewing with (find common ground, interesting or intriguing connections, disciplines, law school alumni, etc.).

  • As much as you can, get to know what your role in the firm would encompass; understanding the scope and details of the position will help to create your personal narrative and how that narrative aligns with the firm’s expectations and vision.

This last point might seem obvious, but remember the competition you’re up against is tough and smart—any edge you can gain, no matter how small, might make the difference. In many respects, it can be a game of inches.

Never Forget: It’s All About You

The great American writer, Norman Mailer, titled a collection of his work “Advertisements for Myself”—and those three words should be your mantra during the interview process because there will not be a supporting cast singing your praise. It’s up to you to corral, craft, and deliver your story.

This may sound odd but research YOURSELF! Your resume and SELR opened the firm’s door but now the “real” you sits under their investigative lights. A small percentage of your interview(s) will focus on your resume—the black and white stuff—but the lion’s share of the discussion will focus on whether you match the position and the firm’s culture. Chances are you wouldn’t be interviewing if you weren’t qualified. It’s ultimately about the intangibles: Do you fit? Do you understand the scope and collective vision? Are you the type of individual others want to work with?

At some point in the process you better tell a good story…

That’s right—interviewers are primed to ask you what’s termed “behavioral queries.” These are leading questions that demand longer answers. Chances are the firm wants to know how you will function in a real work-life context. Typical questions or talking points will sound something like: “Tell me about a situation or project when you had to navigate a few tough hurdles to the finish line.” When prepping for the interviews, craft two or three examples from your experience that illustrate your abilities to tackle a project and/or a specific situation. Highlight your proficiencies as the example unfolds. Underscore your aptitude with—

  • Time management

  • Remaining calm under pressure

  • Negotiating skills with internal or external partners

  • Innovative solutions (thinking “outside the lines”)

  • If time permits, include a short story about an experience that may not be law related but exemplifies your diligence/intelligence/empathy—a good example that reveals a well-rounded individual; possibly cite a pro bono example.

Preparation of these stories is imperative. Unless you’re a natural storyteller that can weave a cohesive and linear chronicle, you must organize your thoughts to avoid rambling and going off on a tangent. Practice these short stories with a friend or family member. Casual rehearsals will make a difference.

Your Turn to Ask Questions

In an unmistakable manner you want to impress on the interviewer(s) that you’re seriously interested in their firm. Asking strong questions toward the end of the interview will demonstrate your preparation and seriousness.

  • Be prepared to ask poignant and pertinent questions; be curious—lawyers are considered diggers and excavators of facts… prove this to the interviewer(s).

  • At this point, don’t worry or ask about salary, vacation time, or other mundane or basic questions—be confident and inquisitive.

  • Also, don’t ask questions that might put the interviewer in a tough spot from an ethics standpoint; instead talk about the law, specifics that inspire you, an anecdote about a case or moment in history that underscored your interest in the law.

  • Be enthusiastic, plugged-in, conversational, genuine and friendly Be yourself!

  • Don’t be late. Dress sharp. And be courteous to EVERYBODY.

  • And don’t lie. Ever.

  • Send a “Thank You” note within hours of the interview

In conclusion: confident not cocky or boastful

Throughout the interview process, try to strike a balance between seriousness while still being open and conversational. Job number one: build rapport with the interviewer. Don’t be intimidated—the vast majority of interviewers want you to succeed. They are not adversaries. Of course you may run across a tough personality. Remain yourself. Stay the course. You may win them over—just don’t try too hard. Level-headed and confident.

And in the end, never let them see you sweat.

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