I’ve said before that interviews are really just conversations. It’s not meant to be an inquisition. It’s just an opportunity for the employer to get to know you – and for you to get to know the employer. The employer is looking for something that sets you apart from other candidates, your interest and enthusiasm, your motivation, and whether you can fit in.
As part of that conversation, you can expect a few questions to come up more often than not. Below, you’ll find common job interview questions along with advice on how to answer them.
Oldies but goodies.
Why do you want to work for our organization?
If you don’t remember anything that I say, please remember that you need to have an answer to that question. You need to be able to articulate –very quickly – without looking at your notes, why you want to be there.
Tell me about yourself – or – Tell me something that’s not on your resume.
What they’re really asking is for something that’s interesting about you and is something fun to talk about.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
These questions have become a bit cliché, but you will be asked them; I promise you. 90% of you will be asked these questions at some point during law school so you have to have an answer.
Why did you go to law school?
Make sure you have an answer to that – even if you’re really not sure you were correct in your assessment.
There could be some questions that are called behavioral questions. What are you looking for in an employer? How do you handle stress? Behavioral interview questions are questions that try to predict your future behavior based on your past behavior. They usually start with, “Tell me about a time when you…” “Tell me ways you keep yourself organized.” “How do you manage your time?”
It’s unlikely that you’ll get behavioral questions in a first round interview. You’ll probably get them in a second round interview – or what we’d call a callback. Try to stay within the four corners of your resume when answering those questions. Tell me about a time where you had to persuade people you’re right – doesn’t involve a fight you had with your sister. It involves something within the professional realm, something on your resume, or an academic experience. Don’t go outside of that box when answering those questions.
There aren’t that many employers who use hypotheticals in their interview process, but the District Attorney and the Public Defender do. If you have a DA or PD interview, prepare for these types of questions. These questions are really designed to see how you can think on your feet and the quality of your reasoning. Just answer the questions to the best of your abilities.
You need to put a lot of thought into these answers, so practice them. Generally speaking, follow these rules:
- Avoid canned answers.
- Don’t suck up too much.
- No profanity, inappropriate remarks, or negative comments about anyone or anything.
If you’re looking for a helpful setting where you can practice your answers, sign up for mock interviews. The people who have signed up are really nice. It’s a soft audience for you to practice your stuff.
You will be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” The answer is always YES. Always have questions. You can always ask a spontaneous question that you haven’t prepared for. Look at their space and ask them a question about what you see in there. If you see children’s art on the walls, don’t ask about work/life balance, but if you see baseball memorabilia, ask about that.
There are stupid questions. For example, don’t ask how much money you’re going to make. Don’t ask about work/life balance. It doesn’t mean that’s not important, and you’re not entitled to that information – you just want to ask it after you get the offer.
Remember, you have lots of resources in the Career Services Office. You can find people who’ve worked there before. We have lots of really great books. You should practice interviews with career counselors. You should sign up for mock interviews. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to ask!