Going on an interview is always a little nerve-racking, especially when you are a recent law school graduate looking to launch your career in the tough legal employment market of 2012. Years of dedication went into your education, and now the time has come for you to find a job so you can start to pay off that debt!
As with any job interview, you must be prepared. The three most important things one must do to prepare for a job interview are to research the firm, get to know yourself, and think about the most commonly asked questions and how to answer them in a way that puts your candidacy in the best light.
Some pre-interview preparation tips
Do your research
- The interviewer is mostly likely going to ask your motivation for applying, and you need to come up with an answer that shows that you have not only heard of the firm that you are interviewing with, but that you took the time to learn about what they are all about.
- Prepare by going on the company’s website, becoming familiar with the partners, their areas of practice and some of their well known cases.
- Check to see if there has been anything written about the firm in the press. Not only will it show that you are truly interested in working for the firm, it will also show that you are knowledgeable as to the current legal news.
- It may feel silly to study your own resume, but it is necessary to do so. The interviewer is probably going to ask you specific questions about prior internships and other jobs found on your resume, and you should be prepared. Instead of re-iterating what is already written on your resume, you will be expected to elaborate on your experiences and what you enjoyed most about them as well as what you did not enjoy.
- Think of stories and situations that you can mention during the interview to highlight your most favorable traits. This will be helpful if you get any hypothetical questions. You should prepare a few stories about your accomplishments, as well as one about a failure/difficult situation and how you overcame it. Stories about accomplishments and challenging situations in a school environment can be useful in an interview, especially because recent law graduates often lack significant work experience.
1. Why did you apply to this firm?
Naturally, there may be some general reasons you applied for a job at this firm, such as the type of practice, the reputation of the firm or the firm’s location. While it is okay to briefly touch on these points, make sure that your answer focuses on an aspect that is unique to this particular firm. This, of course, is where all your thorough research comes into play. You can bring up one of the cases they have done, especially if it ties into your personal interests. You can also discuss the positive things they offer to their employees, such as in-house training for specialized fields.
2. Why did you decide to pursue law?
On the surface, this seems like an easy question, but can actually trip up a number of people. Answering with “To make a difference” may certainly be true, but your answer should mention something specific that motivated you to pursue a legal career. Give a detailed and dynamic answer that is both truthful and sets you apart from others. Perhaps there was a mentor who inspired you or a job that sparked your interest – you should feel comfortable discussing why you decided to go to law school. While it is important to include details, be careful not to ramble; being articulate may separate you from other candidates.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
The “strengths” aspect should not be too difficult. Just make sure to bring up points that are essential to the position, and briefly mention how you would apply these strengths on a consistent basis at the firm.
The “weakness” question is the uncomfortable one. Most of the time, people are advised to answer this question with a strength masked as a weakness, such as “I work too much” or “I am too detail oriented.” However, the interviewer is probably an intelligent person, and your answer will probably just end up looking like a cop-out. It is best to be sincere, but not in a way that could jeopardize your chance to get the job. Think of an actual weakness that is not essential to the position and follow up with how you are working to improve on it.
4. Why should we hire you?
Discuss how your strengths will work well with their practice and how their firm is a perfect fit for you. Assure them that you are a competent, reliable and hardworking candidate through examples of how you have been competent, reliable and hardworking in the past. Anyone can say they are hardworking, but not everyone can say that they successfully balanced working two jobs their 3L year and still managed to graduate cum laude.
5. Do you have any questions?
Always be prepared with questions for the interviewer. There are some general ones that work, such as:
- What do you think are the most important qualities to be an attorney here?
- Can you tell me more about the specifics of the position?
It is a good idea to ask the attorney that is interviewing you about their job or their career path. One question to ask in interviews is “What is one case that you found most interesting to work on in your career, one that has stuck with you?” People always enjoy talking about themselves, and if you are truly interested in their answer, they are likely to come away with a more positive impression of you.