So you're back from vacation... work doesn't seem challenging anymore, you actually want more hands-on experience (imagine that?!?) and you've decided to explore employment opportunities. There's a good chance that you haven't interviewed in awhile, and the thought of facing down several unfamiliar attorneys can be daunting!
Our candidates frequently ask us to work with them not only on basic interviewing skills, but also how to communicate their skill set and strengths to gain a competitive advantage. One way to alleviate some of the tension you might feel and prepare to answer questions is to narrow the list of what you should absolutely make sure to say in an interview. By doing so, it’s easy to fall back on just a few tried and true points, which you can enhance with your individual experience.
DEMONSTRATE FAMILIARITY WITH THE EMPLOYER; Tell the interviewer that you are familiar with this particular practice and the firm in general. Legitimize your interest by researching the firm and know a few tidbits of special information (such as a newly-won court case) and the attorneys with whom you’ll be involved. Segue from what you’ve read about the firm (culture, practice, pro bono work, etc) to explain how your particular background and experience make you a strong fit for this position.
TELL THEM YOU ARE HIGHLY MOTIVATED, DEPENDABLE AND ADAPTABLE; Give examples of your productivity. Quantify where possible. You might offer examples such as how many depositions you’ve taken or motions you’ve won. Adaptability can be demonstrated by showing an understanding that work environments change, and how you’ve adapted previously to situations to meet an employer’s needs.
TELL THE INTERVIEWER THAT YOU ARE RESOURCEFUL: share a professional challenge that you’ve overcome and how you accomplished it. Be prepared with one or two additional examples. Make sure to weave in examples of collaboration (“team player is overused!), such as your organizational or managerial skills and successful speaking engagements. Add that you’d also like to be a valuable resource for others.
DEMONSTRATE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE AND ENERGY: Doing so will help you to project a healthy confidence, as well as encourage others to want to be around you.
ASK QUESTIONS: At least two of these questions should likely focus on the firm, job or a request for clarification (perhaps about the attorneys with whom you will work, or something you learned during the interview). Additionally, ask the interviewer if there are any other questions they have – or information that they need – to help them determine whether your background and experience make you a fit for this position. Their response will provide you with a sense of how they view your chances to obtain this position. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask when you can expect to hear back from them. Don’t neglect this opportunity to gain valuable insight not only about their initial impression, but it also helps you to avoid speculation about a callback.
By Diane Rifkin, Esq.