Interviewing. Many candidates are initially so excited to explore the job market but start to get cold feet at the mention of interviewing. What if I don’t know how to answer their question? What if I say something silly? Look at interviewing as an opportunity to learn more about whether an organization is a good fit for you. Here are a few suggestions to ace your next interview.
Housekeeping and business etiquette
Tips for your in-person interview:
- Wear a dark and conservative suit (gray, black, navy) and a white shirt.
- Details: turn your phone OFF; do not just put it on vibrate. Don’t chew gum; keep cologne/perfume to a minimum (or none at all). Be sure your appearance is clean and conservative (clean shaven, clean nails, etc.).
- Be conscious to avoid any nervous habits and make good eye contact.
- Arrival: Never be late for an interview. Leave plenty of time for traffic, bad weather, parking, etc. If possible, consider making an advance trip to the site of the interview. Never go in too early—at most, 15 minutes. If being late is unforeseen and unavoidable, immediately call the interviewer to notify and explain the circumstances.
- Greet everyone with their first name and a firm handshake. Using their first name shows confidence.
- Always stand while waiting before an interview. It shows confidence and you’ll be at the same level as them when they walk into the room.
Tips for your phone/video interview:
- Verify who is initiating the call.
- Test connection and confirm instructions.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you are in a place with limited background noise. Avoid walking around, crowded spaces, areas that echo, etc.
- Have a copy of your resume, paper and pen in front of you. Jot down questions you want to ask.
Interview best practices
- Do your homework on the organization, interviewers, etc.
- Greet everyone by their first name. Using their first name shows confidence.
- Be sure to thank everyone for their time BEFORE and AFTER the interview.
- Personality and enthusiasm are the two most important things! Make sure you let everyone you meet know how excited you are about this opportunity.
- Believe in yourself and be confident, but be careful not to be overconfident, arrogant, or oversell yourself.
- Find common ground professionally and/or personally. If you went to the same school, grew up in the same town, or worked on something similar professionally, bring it up. Connecting with someone on a personal level will help your chances of the firm moving forward with your candidacy.
A few questions to ask your interviewer
- What is the outlook for the short- and long-term future of the business, and how/what sets them apart from their competitors?
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this position?
- What is the most challenging part of this job? Be prepared to identify closely matching experience that you have.
- What qualities are you looking for in the candidate who will fill this job? Keep them in mind as you answer your questions.
- What are the expectations of this position in the first 90 days? This is an excellent way to find out what you will need to achieve to measure your success in the new position. It also helps to highlight what is very important to them in the short-term.
Note: It is NEVER appropriate for a candidate to inquire about salary, bonus, benefits, work/life balance, etc. during the first interview. These topics are better discussed after an offer is made. If they ask you what salary you are looking for, let them know that salary is not the motivating factor and that you are more concerned with finding the “right” opportunity. If pushed, let them know what you are currently earning and tell them that you would consider any reasonable offer.
When you do reach the point at which you’re ready to discuss salary, walk into the negotiations having researched the industry and position you’re seeking. Start by taking a look at the 2019 Salary Guide for Legal Professionals.
Be prepared to answer a few questions
Tell me about yourself.
Discuss your current practice, clients/client contact, industries, level of responsibilities, etc. Make sure to sell yourself, the work you’ve done and how you can add value to their team.
To that point, know your resume. Be clear about the type of work you’ve done in the past and how you think that work will translate into helping them right away. Be prepared with specific examples and keywords, numbers and number ranges, deal values you’ve worked on, etc.
Sell yourself: Point out how you can add value to the team immediately. The best tactic is to ask questions about the work/practice, listen to their answer, and respond with how YOUR background or experience will be helpful with that type of work. Examples are great!
What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
3 sentences. 1—identify a weakness. 2—Say how you work with it. 3—How it doesn’t impact your job.
Why do you want to leave your current position/why are you interested in us?
Do not speak negatively about your current or past company. Be prepared to give specific reasons for all previous career moves.
What do you dislike about your current position?
Be very careful with your answer. Start with “it has been a great opportunity, but…”, and be sure you’re not speaking too negatively or bringing up anything that would still be a factor with this employer.
We are interviewing several qualified candidates, why should we hire you?
This is a test of arrogance. Your best option is to revert to your strengths and highlight what you bring to the table. Let them know that if all of the candidates have your qualifications and qualities, it will be a healthy competition. Of course, not knowing the backgrounds of the other candidates you couldn’t possibly say you might be a better fit for the position.