By Susan Smith Blakely • March 24, 2016•Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
Here we go AGAIN! It is interview time for many of you. Some of you were lucky enough to get a job last Fall, but more of you are still looking. That is the way it works in this new economy.
Here are some tips for interviewing that I think may be helpful to you.
- STUDY THE WEBSITE of the firm or the agency or the non-profit you are interviewing with. Do not ask questions about things that are obvious there. It demonstrates a lack of preparedness. However, you can ask for more information about something you read on the website;
- Be confident. You have a lot to be confident about. Wear something that you know looks really good on you and makes you feel comfortable and self assured;
- Get to the interview no more than 1o minutes early — even if you have to stand on the curb to kill time. 15 is too much, and the office staff does not know what to do with you that early and finds it annoying;
- Don’t drink too much coffee, water, juice before the interview. Caffeine and sugar can make you nervous and all of it may result in too many bathroom breaks;
- Have several questions prepared in advance so you can break the ice. For example look at the website bios. Usually you will find connectors: Schools, sports, former employers, etc. Capitalize on them and try to weave them into the conversation;
- Give some thought to where you think the business of the law firm or the public sector agency, non-profit, etc. is going and where you would like to fit in. Be prepared to discuss it;
- If you are asked about salary, respond that the experience of working at a firm like XYZ is most important to you. You will get to salary in later discussions;
- Ask what they like best about working at XYZ . People love to talk about themselves;
- Anticipate questions about your strengths and weaknesses and have your answers prepared;
- Ask about how work is assigned to associates and what the work model of the firm is --- the team approach or something else?;
- If joining the firm will require you to relocate, express interest in the new city and enthusiasm about living there;
- If you have work experience that you consider valuable to the firm, discuss it in general terms and be mindful of confidentiality;
- Order something easy to eat for lunch. You will be talking while eating. (Spinach salad that gets stuck in your teeth is not a good choice and long pasta that you have to slurp is out of the question!);
- Do not say anything negative about any professor or your law school. (I tanked an interview "in the day" when a sneaky associate at Big Law asked me about my least favorite professor, and I was candid in my answer. The professor's wife was a PARTNER in the law firm --- but used a different name! So, my study of the website had not disclosed the relationship. Who knew????);
- Take a copy of your resume and cover letter in case an interviewer has trouble located his or her copy;
- Don’t ask each group of interviewers the same questions. They will compare notes afterwards;
- Avoid discussing politics and, if it comes up, be neutral;
- Be yourself. Enjoy the experience. Approach each interview as the final dress rehearsal for opening night; and
- Keep track of everyone you meet with, and send thank-you notes to them as followup. Hand-written notes are not for everyone, but they can be mighty impressive!
Interviewing is stressful, but you get a real rush out of knowing that you "knocked" the interview. Being prepared gives you the edge.
Break a leg!
Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law. She is author of Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another. Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.
Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including The American Lawyer, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business. Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division. She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy. For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.