How to Ace Your Next Legal Job Interview

 By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD

 

An interview can change your life, especially when you consider the fact that if it leads to the legal job you truly want, you’ll be spending most of your waking hours there. This relatively brief meeting is your primary opportunity to demonstrate to potential employers that you would be a great addition to the firm. Regardless of your experience level and how many times you’ve been interviewed in your career, it’s always prudent to revisit the fundamental principles of successful interviewing. When a hiring executive invites you to a face-to-face interview, he or she wants to determine if you’re qualified, motivated and a good fit for the position. Your objective is to convince the manager that you are. 

To have a winning interview, you need to use the meeting to learn as much as you can about the legal job, communicate your relevant experience and accomplishments, and detail what you can offer the firm.

 

Preparing for the interview

Preparation is essential if you expect to remain calm under the pressure of job interviewing, and it’s the first step toward a successful outcome. Here are some suggestions for doing what you can in advance of the meeting:

  • Research the prospective employer. Learn as much as you can about the firm, including pertinent facts about the organization’s history, products or services, management style and corporate culture, as well as details about its corporate legal department. Knowing this will help you provide answers during the interview that specifically address the employer’s needs. Find out who will be conducting the interview, including name, title, current responsibilities and experience. Also, try to determine why the company is interested in your qualifications. This isn’t always easy, but a few phone calls among your professional colleagues may prove helpful.
  • Rehearse answers to tough questions. Every prospective employer approaches an interview with three central concerns: 
    • Is the candidate qualified to do the job?
    • Will the candidate fit in?
    • Does the candidate want the job?

Questions relating to these issues will always be asked and will serve as a springboard for conversation, encouraging additional discussion and queries. Develop concise yet informative responses in advance that detail situations at previous jobs where you capitalized on your abilities to add value to the firm.

One of the most effective ways to develop articulate, quality answers is to rehearse them on videotape or in front of willing friends. Reviewing and critiquing your responses will show you where you can improve, increase your confidence and help you communicate more clearly at the interview.

Develop your own questions about the company

It’s also important for you to be ready to ask a few questions of your own – this will give you an opportunity to further convey your interest in the job. For example, you may ask about industry outlook, the organization’s long-range plans, and the growth potential of the position for which you are interviewing. Inquire about plans to expand the team or practice group with the firm’s growth. Will you be allowed to grow in the job and eventually move into a position with new and greater responsibilities? 

Insightful questions help both of you determine if you would be a good “fit” with the company. However, remember that it’s unwise to inquire about vacation time, benefits or your office space until the interviewer has expressed serious interest in hiring you.