The most critical part of a job search is the interview. Your resume may help land an interview, but the interview itself will determine whether you receive an offer. Here are five tips to make you a more effective interviewee.
Tip #1 – Do Your Homework
Prepare for the interview by learning as much as possible about the prospective employer before your meeting. For law firms, the easiest way to do this is from the firm’s website. A law firm website is a wealth of information. You should be able to determine who does what type of work, how many people are doing it and where you might fit in. If you are interviewing for a specific position, check and see if the firm has it posted. Some firms will have a career section that may give you valuable information about what to expect if you were to join them.
If your interview is with a company, use the company’s website to learn everything from their history and location(s), to what they do. If they are publicly traded, you can view SEC filings, and the makeup of the board of directors, and officers on line. LinkedIn is especially handy for looking up current and former employees. Check out more than just the attorneys, as it is common to be interviewed by non-attorneys for in-house positions.
Learn in advance whom you will be meeting and as much as possible about them. Check them out on Google, LinkedIn and Facebook. They will be doing the same thing to you. Ask how much time you should set aside. If you are meeting multiple people, will the meetings be held individually or will you be seeing several people at the same time? You can also get an idea from the person arranging the interview, about proper attire for your meeting.
Determine in advance, where you are going, how to get there, where to park and how long the journey will take. You want to be on time – or even a couple of minutes early – but never late.
Tip #2 – Dress for Success
In terms of dress, the best advice is to look professional and polished. Make sure your clothes fit well, and are not too tight or worn. Keep in mind that you may be meeting people of various ages so conservative haircuts and clothes are best. If you are not sure how to dress, call the main number, and explain to the receptionist that you will be interviewing, and ask how the attorneys dress. Some firms are more formal than others.
Tip #3 – Be Friendly and Direct
When you arrive, make sure you are polite and friendly to staff . Assume everyone you meet will have input into the hiring decision. Smile, make good eye contact and offer a firm handshake.
Because you have prepared in advance, you should now have a good grasp of the firm or company. You might want to bring extra copies of your resume, and possibly a list of references. Make sure you come across as friendly and articulate, but not long winded. People who are enthusiastic about what they do almost always have an advantage over those that don’t display this. You want to come across both as a hard worker and someone with whom they would want to spend time.
Listen carefully to questions and respond with direct, honest answers. Consider a question such as “Tell me about yourself.” Your opportunity for a two-minute sales pitch where you highlight your strongest skills that are related to the position. Some oft en used questions that you can prepare for in advance include: Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? What are your strengths and weaknesses? And various hypothetical questions related to the position. Questions about law school and reasons for leaving prior positions are common. Consider practicing answers with someone in advance before your interview.
Tip #4 – Stay Positive
Never speak negatively of a current or past employer – even if the negatives are well known. Consider this a trick question. Have your positive spin prepared. Also, don’t bring up compensation on an initial interview.
Tip #5 – Ask Good Questions
Almost as important as your answers during an interview, are your questions. Have some ready and make sure they are designed to demonstrate your knowledge of the potential employer (this is where your research makes a difference). You want to have a clear idea of how you would fit into the position including what your responsibilities will be and the expectations for you. Make sure you get a clear idea of how the department or group is organized. You might also ask about the interviewer’s experiences at the job.
A good question to ask the final interviewer is about what the next step would be and when you might expect to hear from them. If possible, collect business cards from each interviewer. This will allow you to send a thank you note to each person you meet. Phyllis Hawkins