It is that time of year again, when rising 2Ls put on their serious clothes and sweat their way through interviews for jobs for the following summer, often at Biglaw firms or in government offices. The Editors of the Temple 10-Q have been there and done that, and—with the help of anonymous sources in the real world—wanted to share some quick tips on how to make the most of the interview process.
1. Know the Employer.
Learn as much as you can about the employer with whom you are interviewing—before the interview. Much of this can come from the employer’s website, but the ABA Journal, and sometimes Above-The-Law, can supplement that (though if there are scandals, don’t bring them up). Other good resources are The NALP Directory and Chambers. If you know someone at the employer reasonably well, get their views. What are the employer’s near- and long-term goals? Be prepared to answer the question: “Why do you want to work here?”
2. Know Yourself.
What interests you about this employer? It is not enough to say “I have good grades and you pay well.” If you’ve been diligent about item 1, above, you should have a sense of how you would fit in at the employer. So, if you are interviewing at a trial boutique, talking about your passion for estate planning is not going to help. Also, know your documents. Be prepared to address every item on your resume. Re-read your writing sample (as painful as that may be).
3. Know the Interviewers, but Don’t Be Creepy.
If you can learn the identities of the interviewers beforehand, try to know something about them salient to the interview. Are they an alum of your school? Do they practice in an area of genuine interest to you? Do you know people in common?
4. Dress for Success.
This should go without saying, but dress for the job you want—not the job you have. This means business professional attire, which means a suit in black, navy, or gray. Neat hair, neat shoes—the whole nine yards. You are not trying to win style points with your wardrobe choices. You are only trying to check a box that says “dressed professionally and looks like a lawyer.” Double-check in the mirror to make sure you’ve dusted off the last of lunch.
5. Electronics Off.
This, too, may seem obvious, but disconnect your mobile device from the grid. Getting—much less taking—a call or text in an interview is unlikely to make a good impression.
6. Answer the Question Asked.
You are not a politician: do not answer the question you want to answer—answer the question you were asked. Think in advance about your answers to likely questions, even easy ones (“what did you do this summer?”). Make sure your answers are responsive and to the point—the interview will go fast.
7. Anticipate the Hard Questions.
Questions like “why did you get a C+ in legal writing when all of your other grades are A and Bs?” can be tough. Make sure you have identified potential weak spots, and answers that are both truthful and, to the extent possible, helpful. “I was so surprised,” you might say (if truthful) “because I love to write, and my next semester’s writing grade was much better, so I think it was a matter of adjusting to a new style/form/environment.” No response to a hard question should blame the professor—just accept responsibility and talk about how you are working to improve.
8. Ask A Question?
You may have the opportunity to ask the interviewers about the employer, or things may drag in the interview (this is more likely if you are called back for follow-up interviews). Have a couple of good questions for the interviewers in your back pocket. Base the questions on what you’ve learned about the employer (see 1, above). Asking well-researched and thoughtful questions provides a real opportunity to distinguish yourself in an interview. Do not waste time on stuff that is obvious (“do you have a mentoring program?”).
9. What if They Ask Me Something I Don’t Know?
Answer if you can, but do not ever BS in an interview. If they ask something substantive and obscure (or provocative) (or all three)—“Wasn’t Hadley v. Baxendale just wrong?”—you need to do some quick calculating. If you actually know the substance and can answer, have at it. If not, be direct but not defensive, e.g., “I am sorry, we did not cover that. Can you tell me what that was about and what you think?”
10. Perform with Confidence.
Make eye contact; shake hands firmly, but not too firmly. Have a sense of humor about yourself, but don’t view this as a stand-up comedy moment. If you have gotten this far, it is probably because you have made one or more basic cuts. The interview is probably about more personal characteristics like “fit” and “temperament.” Be the best—most professional—version of yourself.
To be sure, there is more we could say about this. And we bet you could, too. What’s your advice for those interviewing for summer legal jobs? Leave a comment below.