Job Interview 101 for Law Students: The Selection Interview
What does it take to succeed in a job interview? Put on a nice suit, take some breath mints, and make sure the tie matches the shirt?
These are difficult economic times. Fewer and fewer companies are hiring new candidates, choosing to invest in experience over youth (if they are investing at all). In this tide of economic depression, good grades, strong extracurricular activities, and an excellent school record may not be enough to land you that fancy position at that prestigious law firm.
Enter the job interview.
If there’s one place you can stand out on your resume and show your potential employer where you shine, give them one more reason to hire you over the others, it’s the job interview. The job interview is all about making an impression, and we’ll tell you how to make the right one both rounds:
The selection interview
The screening interview is the first round of screening when your prospective employer tries to see if you, the candidate, match their credentials. Depending on your law school, there may be a lottery system to sign up for a screening interview. In this lottery system, you can’t get rejected outright based on your resume, so it’s possible that even mediocre students with weak resumes will get their 15 minutes with a recruiter, and maybe impress you enough for a senior interview. callback.
Advice: If you don’t win a scheduled appointment with a firm of your choice, persistence—for example, a call to the law firm—should get you a spot.
Do your homework
Before the big day, do your homework. Research the law firm: their practice, track record, and if possible, the attorney you will be speaking with. You can usually get all of this information in the hospitality room (or in the waiting room, if you prefer) or on the company’s website.
Learn as much as possible about the type of work the company does. Interviewers are usually happy to see that a candidate has shown interest in their company. Also, it will help to check what you’re talking about: your interviewer won’t be happy to hear you talk over and over again about an area the company doesn’t cover.
Also, consult the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) form at the private office of the firm at which you are interviewing. Branch offices of many firms have different statistics than headquarters, especially when it comes to practice areas and attorney demographics. Your professional services office should also have some helpful materials, such as employer reviews from previous years.
And don’t forget about your classmates and alumni. Talk to those people who have worked at your target company. This will give you a real view of the company: its practice, area of expertise, history, work environment, and even the less desirable aspects.
Your suit alone won’t get you the job, but it never hurts to dress professionally. While employers may indicate that students can come to the interview in business casual attire, they really want to see you dressed in a suit, just like a real lawyer would in a courtroom. Also, clothing preferences can vary from interviewer to interviewer, and therefore your best bet is a classic suit, preferably in a neutral color like charcoal or brown.
Carry your documents in a leather portfolio, don’t strut around carrying them in your hand.
And don’t forget to bring extra copies of your resume and transcripts.
Usually you have 20 minutes with the interviewer. Most of the time, the interviewer has already decided if he should be invited to the company to be called back, based on his resume, transcript, etc. before you’ve even entered the room. If his resume and transcripts are stacked against him (low grades, no extracurricular activities), there’s little he can do to salvage the interview. However, for borderline candidates, a good show can really increase your chances of getting a call back.
As cliché as it sounds, try to be yourself. Remember that the interviewer has probably seen hundreds of candidates. He can see through whatever facade he has built to fit his perceived image of what the company wants.
Fight the temptation to only talk about law-related topics. If your interviewer seems interested in opera, you’re better off talking about Pavarotti than his work at the law review. Keep in mind that the interview is designed to assess his personality, not his understanding of the law; their transcripts are proof enough of that.
So you walk into the interview room, fully prepared to answer anything that’s thrown at you. You sit, back straight to the interviewer, flipping through your responses in your head, smiling confidently.
But then the interviewer leans back in his chair and asks, “So what do you want to know about this law firm?”
And suddenly, all those written answers fall apart and you mutter a response.
Don’t let this happen to you. Interviewers tend to start with random, off-topic questions. In such a scenario, prepare to give a 3-5 minute narrative by answering the question (or asking questions) and gradually turning the topic of discussion towards yourself: who are you and what interests you at the law firm.
Try and incorporate items that interest you into your narrative: a particular question that scared you in a mock trial, an article you’re writing for the law magazine, your 1L summer internship. He can use the same story, but present a different version each time. He will keep you from sounding scripted.
But most importantly, learn to answer the interviewer’s questions in such a way that your response meshes with their narrative.
Be aware of the location
You’ll have signatures from all over the country coming to your law school for the job interview. This can cause a problem if, for example, you have lived in New York all your life and your target company is based in Los Angeles. It will be difficult for you to convince the interviewer about his sudden desire to move to Los Angeles.
Remember that companies are investing in you. They will train and prepare you during the first year. They want to be sure that you will stay the course and not leave them halfway. If you’ve lived in New York your entire life, a company will be (rightly) skeptical of your decision to stay in Los Angeles to work for them.
Deal with this problem by visiting the city where your target company is located. Arrange a meeting with them. A casual meeting will make it sound like you’re genuinely interested in moving to their town to work for them, factors that will go a long way toward strengthening your resume when it comes to the interview.
It shouldn’t seem like you just signed up to be interviewed by every company that visited your campus. When the inevitable question, “Why did you sign up to interview here?” appears, be prepared with an arsenal of company- and location-specific comments to make your interview seem more genuine.
So you hate your professor, your classmates are all idiots, and the cafeteria on campus never has good coffee.
Excellent. But don’t tell the interviewer.
The interviewer does not want brutal honesty from you. They would much rather hear you describe that insightful professor or that wonderful course you took last fall. Interviewers are very wary of any hint of negativity and can and will cling to it, severely hurting your chances of getting a job (and this goes for any job, not just a law firm; a negative attitude can be a dead giveaway). big detour).
Smile and talk about your great experience during your 1L summer internship, the clever discussions after the mock trial with your classmates. Show them a happy face and they might show you your interview date so they call you back.