Interviewing. I often work with candidates who are initially so excited to explore the job market but start to feel the cold feet at the mention of interviewing. What if I don’t know how to answer their question? What if I say something silly? My advice – let’s not look at interviewing as a way for an organization to judge you, but instead 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 interview: If your interview will be in-person:
- Wear a dark and conservative suit – gray, black, navy suits and white shirts.
- Details: turn your phone OFF – not vibrate. Don’t chew gum, keep cologne to a minimum or none at all, be sure your appearance is clean and conservative (clean shaven, clean nails, etc.)
- Be conscious of 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 being late is unforeseen and unavoidable, immediately call the interviewer to notify and explain the circumstances. If possible, consider making an advance trip to the sight of the interview. Never go in too early – at most 15 minutes.
- Greet everyone by 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 interview: If your interview is via phone/video:
- Verify who is initiating the call.
- Test connection and confirm instructions.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you are in a place that has limited background noise – avoid walking around, crowded spaces, areas that echo, etc.
- You should have a copy of your resume, paper and pen in front of you. Jot down bullets for questions you don’t want to forget 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 with 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
The questions should be substantive regarding the opportunity. Use your internal and external research:
- 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 do have.
- What qualities are you looking for in the candidate that 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, in the beginning of the position, 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. It makes you look like you are not focused on the opportunity. 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, and pick up a few research tips from Five Steps to Closing Your Own Gender Pay Gap.
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:
- Your Work: 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.
- Selling 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 2. 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 them? 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 bring 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 guideline will be to revert back to your strengths in order to highlight what you bring to the table. Let them know that if all of the candidates have your qualifications and qualities that it will be a healthy competition; however, not knowing the backgrounds of the other candidates you couldn’t possibly say you might be a better fit for the position.
Marisa Schuldinger is an Attorney Search Director for Parker+Lynch Legal, the attorney recruiting division of Special Counsel. Connect with Marisa on LinkedIn or email her directly to learn more about industry trends and interview techniques.
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