Are you preparing for an interview at a firm or company? Whether you are preparing to interview at a big firm, small firm, pro bono internship, or some other job that is related to the legal field, it is important that you are as prepared as possible for the interview. Below are some important interview tips for law students and those applying to jobs in the legal field.
Seven Interview Tips for Law Students and Lawyers:
1. Demonstrate knowledge of the firm/company: Before the interview, learn about the history, types of cases it litigates, size, goals and other relevant, unique information. Look up the firm online. Ask others about the firm. Try to learn as much as you can about the company ahead of time. We put this tip first because we consider it to be one of our most important interview tips for law students and lawyers! If you do not even know much about the job you are interviewing for or the company that is hiring, it will be obvious to the employer and it will make you look unenthusiastic about the job.
Enthusiasm goes a long way. When someone truly wants a job, it shines through and the interviewer will want to hire them. The best way to show you truly want a job is to do your homework ahead of time!
2. Prepare to answer hard questions. Practice questions ahead of time. Get your dad or mom or sister or friend or significant other to ask you questions and listen to your answers. Answering them “on the spot” is much better than simply reading questions and mentally preparing your answers. (We also offer interview-coaching if you are looking for mock-interviews and feedback from real live lawyers!)
Some questions you may be asked are as follows.
- Tell me about yourself. (This is a surprisingly hard question to answer. Prepare your answer ahead of time! You want to put yourself in a good light without sounding arrogant. Also, you don’t want to tell your life story. Nor do you want to repeat your resume. You want to highlight the skills you have gained that make you a good fit for the job you are applying for.)
- What interests you about law/this field of law? (Try to say something specific. Don’t be too general like “I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer!” Tell a story or express your passion in a more specific way.)
- What is one of your major accomplishments?
- Why do you want to work for our firm/company? (This is why you want to know about the company ahead of time! I am always surprised at the number of candidates I interview that do not have any answer to this question!)
- Tell me about a time you had to accomplish something as a team.
- Tell me about a challenge you were able to overcome.
- What is your biggest strength?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What are your long-term goals? (The employer wants to make sure you are not going to leave the firm as soon as they hire you!)
- Why should we hire you over someone else? (This is not the time to belittle anyone else! It is the time to highlight a unique aspect of yourself.)
- Do you have any questions for me? (Say yes! You can ask something like “What is a typical day like?” or “What do you think the best part of this job is?”)
3. Create a professional Internet presence: Look up your public profile on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. Take down any questionable pictures or statements you have made. Many employers will look you up on these sites prior to making a hiring decision. Make sure your Internet presence is professional before the interview.
4. Ask questions: ask questions about the firm/company, the specific position your applying for. Learning about the company prior to the interview will help you formulate good questions to ask. Some generic questions you can ask are: Will I have a lot of client contact? What kind of training will I receive?
You can also tweak your questions to show that you have read up on the firm and that you are interested in them – i.e. “I saw online that the firm does a lot of pro bono work. Can you tell me more about the kind of pro bono cases the firm handles?” This is a way to ask questions and demonstrate your enthusiasm, which is the next tip.
5. Show enthusiasm: Demonstrate you’re passionate about the law and the position. Enthusiasm involves more than just a general interest in the job. Most employers are looking for a person with “spark” or something unique from the rest. Be self-confident in answering questions without being arrogant.
Tip: A way to do this right off the bat is to get back to the interviewer quickly when they email you. For example, when we are setting up an interview, the applicants that respond quickly (and give plenty of times they are available) instantly stand out as being responsive, enthusiastic, and the kind of people we want to hire!
6. Dress professionally: Dress to impress. Dress professionally and conservatively. Your first impression with the firm matters. If it looks like you did not make an effort to get ready for the interview, they will question your enthusiasm and your ability to make a professional appearance outside of the company.
We once interviewed someone who showed up to the interview with quite casual clothing and hair in a wet, messy bun. It made us second guess whether she was truly interested in the job and, if so, how she would present herself to clients. Dressing professionally will not necessarily get you the job. But not dressing professionally can ensure that you don’t get the job.
7. Bring a copy of your resume to the interview. Just in case the interviewer does not have a copy or misplaces it prior to the interview, you can show your preparation by providing them with one at the time. This happens more than you may think, as an interviewer may be interviewing multiple people for the same position on top of an otherwise busy day!