What the experts say about interview etiquette

2Ls are in the final stages of callback interviews, 1Ls are getting ready to contact law firms for summer jobs, and a second wave of job interviews are underway for recent grads who now have a bar admission under their belts. Ms. JD has a great string of posts on what to wear, what not to say, and how to interview as a 3L , but I was curious about what etiquette “experts” have to say about the interview process. The Emily Post Institute, which advertises itself as “a ‘civility barometer’ for American society” has the following advice on interview etiquette:

  1. “Scout out” the employer prior to the interview: This tip is less helpful to those interviewing out-of-state, but if you can make it to your interview location ahead of time, Emily Post suggests that you do so because:
  • You save yourself the guesswork of finding your way to the interview location the day of your interview (you’ll know exactly how to get there and how much time to allot, so you won't be late or lost)
  • If you can make it inside without looking like a loitering weirdo, Emily Post suggests you can see how people in the office dress and pick up company literature.
  1. Don’t arrive late: This piece of advice has a bit of the “duh” factor about it, yet it is absolutely true. My 2L year, I had summer associate interviews in New York City. It was my first time in NYC, and I had no idea how to navigate the transportation system. I arrived a half-hour late to my callback interview. Though I called to let the firm know I was lost and stuck in traffic, I was flustered when I finally got there, my intial interviewers' schedules weren't able to accomodate my late arrival time, and there was really nothing I could say that didn't make me look at least a little irresponsible. Needless to say, I did not receive an offer. It's possible to recover from arriving late, but you start the interview in a hole, which is never the best feeling. Especially if you are interviewing in a strange city, leave yourself plenty of time to get to the interview (bring a book to kill time if you arrive a half hour early--better that than the alternative).
  1. Dress “appropriately”: According to Emily Post, appropriate dress is “slightly more formally than the average.” As for what Emily Post refers to as “piercings and neon hair,” they suggest that “you will have to decide if your personal statement is worth more than the job.” You can find detailed information on women’s professional dress, including the difference between business casual and business professional, here.
  1. Grooming: Other than the usual “be neat” and “iron your suit” advice, Emily Post suggests women should keep their make-up “simple” and their “hairstyle tidy” while avoiding heavy perfume.
  1. Know Your Interviewers: Make sure you know how to pronounce your interviewers' names as well as who is interviewing you (you normally get a schedule when you arrive for your interview at a firm, and if you arrive early, you will hopefully have time to ask someone at the firm how to pronounce the names on your schedule). You could also call ahead of time and ask for the names of your interviewers, which gives you the advantage of being able to read their firm profiles, learn about their practice areas, and do a standard google search to pick up any other tidbits that might serve you well in the smalltalk phase of the interview (i.e. “I read that you won the chess championship last year.”) Of course, avoid creepy stalker if you use this strategy—a little information makes you seem informed in a good way, too much information quite the opposite. Emily Post suggests you introduce yourself to your interviewers with the standard: “How do you do, Ms. Doe, I am Mary Smith. Thank you for seeing me today.”
  1. The Handshake: We all know the drill (and Emily repeats it for us): "Stand up straight, look 'em in the eye, say their name and give 'em a firm handshake.”
  1. Don’t Cross Your Legs: According to Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee, who also dole out interview etiquette advice, the only way to go is to cross your feet at the ankles or keep your ankles together. Either way, your “feet are slightly to one side and knees always together whether in skirts or pants.”
  1. The Thank You: Per Emily Post: “At the end of the interview, stand, thank the interviewer for her time, look her in the eye and shake her hand. A short note of thanks—nothing fawning—is also appropriate.” I always collected the business cards of my interviewers and immediately wrote short and slightly personalized thank-you emails the evening after the interview. Though these are probably fairly intuitive to write, here’s an example of one of mine in case it’s useful to anyone:

Hi Mr/Ms. Doe,

I really enjoyed meeting you yesterday and hearing more about your practice and experience working at Firm. I was particularly impressed by your pro bono work, which sounded really interesting as well as fulfilling. From the people I met, it's clear Firm is a wonderful place to practice, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to interview. Many thanks again for your time and conversation.


Jane Doe Applicant

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