The “How To Prepare For An Interview” series is supported by Gillette.
A successful law firm interview that results in a job has everything to do with your personality and ability to be smart, quick, unfazed, personable, and patient.
Of course your degree and experience are crucial, but the firm wouldn’t have given you a shot at an interview if those didn’t match its standards, so this meeting is all about being one step ahead of the game.
To help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of the most important things to remember and ways to behave before, during, and after your interview.
At the end you’ll find a list of useful sources for more detailed research.
A huge part of a successful law firm interview is how you get along with more than just your interviewer. The company is looking for someone that others won't mind spending long hours with, so make sure you convey your winning personality. Some key things to remember: being late is one of the worst things you can do. Assume your interview is 30 minutes earlier than it really is. Don't forget to turn off your cell phone and don't check your watch during the interview. Always make eye contact and have a strong handshake to show confidence. Also, make sure to be friendly and respectful to the assistants and front desk receptionists: they often have more influence than you think.
Don't underestimate the importance of first impressions. Things to remember: shave and keep your hair neat and your nails clean. Both men and women interviewees should wear a business suit and clean, shined shoes. Women should make sure not to wear overbearing perfumes or overdo their makeup, while men should chose a dark suit and a white or blue shirt with a blue or red tie. Go for a classic look that will guarantee you're confident in your appearance.
It's important to make your resume stand out from the crowd and in many cases that means not overlooking some elemental rules. Make sure that the overarching objective of your resume fits with the company and the job you're applying for, and your resume is devoted to work experience and skills related to that position. Keep it focused and clear, and stay away from quirky interests or hobbies -- they will make you stand out for the wrong reasons. Don't forget to triple-check for typos, make sure your references are valid (they will be checked), bring multiple copies to the interview, and memorize the information on your resume.
No matter what position you're applying for, firms will want a writing sample to evaluate your ability to communicate legal analysis and present your knowledge and critical thinking skills. The Georgetown University Law centre has some suggestions for making your samples work for you. The elements to focus on: grammar, proofreading, spelling, explaining the law you are discussing clearly, and smart and clear analysis of that law. If you are using a memo or brief from a previous job, first get permission to use it from your employer and remove the employer and client information. Most important, be ready and able to discuss.
It's crucial to know you strengths and be able to articulate them throughout your interview. It's a good idea to make a list of five of your strongest selling points as they relate to the position you're interviewing for. The idea is to distinguish yourself from other candidates, so make sure you present concrete examples of how those traits will translate into tangible results.
Be up to date on the firm before you even step through the door for your interview, especially:
What is the firm's general character and atmosphere?
What's in the firm's future?
Are the firm's organisation and administration systems sound and running smoothly?
Have there been any significant fissions in its history?
What position you are applying for and whom you're interviewing with is crucial. If you are hoping to score an associate position, the most important thing is that you come off as a person others want to work with. Though your personality is always important, it's especially so here, since there's a lot of teamwork that will be required at this level. You want to demonstrate that you're a competitive and driven worker, but it's also important not to present yourself as too competitive. You don't want to seem arrogant to the junior partners or associates most likely to be conducting your interview.
You will be asked a lot of questions so make sure to get ready for them.
A possible question: What would you do if a week before a deadline, you had been told that it had been brought forward by three days?
Possible answer: Describe some steps you might take that show flexibility. Things like: Delegating less pressing work to others in your office, renegotiating other deadlines, taking work home, and asking others for help.
Other possible questions:
What qualities do you believe will make you a successful lawyer?
How would you describe the ideal summer job?
What goals have you set for yourself? How are you planning to achieve them?
What was the most useful criticism you ever received, and whom was it from?
Prepare a list of questions for your interviewer before you go in so you're not trying to think of some while you should be focusing on giving good answers. A safe bet is to ask how the firm staffs cases. Some other possible questions include:
What different responsibilities would I have?
How much direct client contact can I expect to have during my first and second year?
How do you market the firm?
How many of the firm's lawyers are in the (fill in the blank) department?
Don't ask about your salary or the hours you will be expected to work. Questions about holiday time, how hard you will have to work, and whether you will be required to attend a lot of social post-work functions are also not a good idea.
Showing enthusiasm and excitement is crucial at all times. You might be in a bad mood or the person interviewing you might be nervous. It's your responsibility to keep the energy high and positive. Your potential future employer wants to see that you will be able to be professional, positive, and calm regardless of how many times you are asked the same silly question. The way you behave when giving your answers can often be just as important as what you say.
Never forget that people are all the same when it comes to some things, and in the case of most, they enjoy talking about themselves. Make sure to give your interviewer the opportunity to share his or her accomplishments. You need to show that you're a good listener if you want to get a job that involves helping clients with their problems.
Don't worry about sending thank you notes, but make sure you write an email on the day of your interview. Check for typos and don't write something identical to each person if you interviewed with more than one. Keep it short and sweet. While waiting for a possible offer, be patient and don't call to check in too frequently unless you have another pressing offer.
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