Fundamentals: What You Need To Know
the firm or company and use the information to prepare a list
of good questions to ask at the interview. Thorough preparation
youre interviewing with a firm, find out how important
your practice area is to the firm, who the major rainmakers
are, and the nature of the client base. (Do 40 percent of
the firms revenues come from two clients, or one industry,
or one partner?) Check the Martindale-Hubbell profile for
such details as partner to-associate ratio and the law schools
from which the firm traditionally hires. You will make a far
better impression asking the interviewer if your understanding
of the firms management structure is correct than asking
him or her to tell you what it is.
youre interviewing in-house, find or request the companys
annual report. Use the Internet, Lexis-Nexis, and any other
tools available to familiarize yourself with the industry,
the company, its web site, recent articles and publications,
recent history, merger-acquisition-divestiture activity, competitors,
market position, etc.
all of this preparation, dont be surprised if you do
more listening than talking at the first interview. Its
a common mistake among interviewers. If youre asked
back, a lot of your prep work is already done.
in advance your strongest selling points relative to the job
description. You will then be ready if you are asked, "So
what qualifies you for this job?"
concise answers for the other two most logical questions you
could be asked: 1) "Why are you seeking a job change?"
and 2) "Why do you want to come to work for us?"
Practice answering these questions aloud! Also, try to anticipate
any tough questions (such as a short stay with one or more
employers), and have answers ready.
you probably know, it is considered unprofessional to disparage
ones current employer. If a bad work situation is the
reason you are looking, prepare answers that are truthful
but tactful and focus more on career advancement or career
direction. Then, practice the answers aloud. How do they sound?
How credible are they?
course, you will look your best, be dressed professionally and
groomed immaculately. Hair trimmed? Coat clean? Glasses clean?
Fingernails manicured? Shoes shined? Car washed (if youre
driving to the interview)?
your best to plan the day before and the night before an interview
to eat sensibly and get decent sleep. No matter how well suited
you are for the job, youll do better if youre
rested and well nourished. Assess your Positive Mental Attitude
and feed it too, if necessary. Unforeseen crises may dash
your best laid plans, but try to plan ahead so that youll
have time to clear your mind, center yourself, breathe deeply,
relax, and prepare to focus on the interview.
self-assurance, self-confidence, interest in, and enthusiasm
for the position. Convey an overall positive impression. Within
the limits set by the interviewer, seek appropriate opportunities
to sell yourself, such as bringing up examples of work or
career goals that relate to the job description. A "sell
me on this job" attitude is a serious turn-off most of
aware of your body language, and maintain good eye contact.
Smiling at appropriate moments (such as when you introduce yourself
and say goodbye) doesnt hurt.
to the question, and answer concisely. Then, elaborate on your
answer if appropriate. Once you have answered the question,
stop talking and let the interviewer ask his or her next question.
Or, you may want to ask a question that puts the ball back in
the interviewers court and establishes a dialogue. You
might ask, "Does that answer your question?" at suitable
moments. "Read" the interview!
yourself. Its the best way to find out if the people-fit
and culture-fit are there for you. One unspoken item on every
hiring officials checklist is "Is this a person I
can work and live with over the long haul?" It also belongs
on yours. If you have a sense of humor, and the interviewer
does not, be sure to factor that into your assessment.
the interview is going well, you may want to politely inquire
as to what the employers next step would be, the anticipated
timetable, who is involved in the ultimate hiring decision,
and where they are in the hiring process. You may then be asked
if you have other interviews in progress.
of your main goals at an interview is to sell yourself. Unless
you are exceptionally good at thinking on your feet, consider
taking doubts or reservations that occur to you in the interview
home with you to assess, rather than expressing them at the
interview. It might increase your chances that you will be called
back for a second interview, by which time you will have had
a chance to process the information and phrase your inquiries
basic qualities my clients seem to seek are: 1)
ambition, 7) energy, 8) people skills, and 9) personality
The First Interview
brief thank-you note is always good form. I recommend a brief
typewritten letter on good 8 1/2 x 11 paper, expressing appreciation
for the opportunity to meet the interviewer and learn more
about the position and affirming continued interest in being
considered for the position (if that indeed is true; if you
are sure its not, you might as well say so). Citing
noteworthy details of the conversation or aspects of the job
that are particularly well-suited to you serves to personalize
the letter and distinguishes you from the rest of the blur
of candidates they have interviewed. You can also mention
questions that have occurred to you since the interview and
areas or issues you hope to have the opportunity to explore
in greater detail at a later time.
you are interviewing for an in-house position, one important
issue to explore is how management regards the law department.
How involved are the lawyers in business matters? How much interaction
do lawyers have with business people? How much substantive work
is handled in-house, and how much is done by outside counsel?
Verify the answers you get to these questions with other in-house
lawyers and employees outside the law group.
you are asked to return for a second interview, it is just as
important for you to scrutinize them as it is for them to scrutinize
you. Is this a place you want to work? Are these people the
kind of colleagues with which you want to spend 50 to 60 or
more hours a week? How marketable would this job make you for
your next career move, and what kind of job would it make you
a list of things youll need to know in order to decide
on an offer. What should you have known--or asked--about your
current job before taking it? Why is there an opening? Is
this a newly created position or vacancy, and if so, why is
there a vacancy? What is the day-to-day nuts and bolts work
like? Can you get a sense of the prevailing politics of the
department or company? Animosities? Unwritten rules? Recent
history? Explore these questions with employees who would
be your peers as well as people outside the legal department.
If your request to meet them is not honored, think carefully
about what that tells you!