The job interview is a crucial part of the job search process — it is the stage where decisions are made. For many job seekers it can be a stressful time; but it doesn’t have to be. It is important to remember an interview is nothing more than a very focused “conversation.” The following suggestions should increase your chances for a successful conversation.
You may assume that if you are invited to interview, the employer feels you are qualified to do the job. What he or she is looking for in an interview is a good “fit” with the organization.
The key to a successful interview is preparation. There are two distinct levels to the process of preparing for an interview: (1) conducting research on the prospective employer and (2) conducting research on you. It is only when you have researched the employer and its practice, and identified your own goals, interests, and abilities, that you are fully prepared for the interview.
PreparationKnow yourself and your resume. Be prepared to discuss anything on your resume. Know your strengths and decide how to handle your “weaknesses”. Always carry a copy of your resume, transcript and references to the interview.
Do your research. Know as much as possible about the employer and with whom you are interviewing. Employers consistently rank lack of knowledge of the organization as one of the primary reasons for not extending an offer to a candidate.
Develop a strategy. The underlying question in every recruiter’s mind is, “Why should we hire this person?” Just as you tailor a resume or cover letter to a specific employer, it is important to differentiate each interview and focus on the fit between your background and that employer. Consider what skills the organization is seeking, what types of clients they have and the practice area(s) for which they are hiring. Be ready to discuss how your experience relates to these areas.
Develop your questions. Prepare a list of questions relevant to the employer, and if possible, to the interviewer. Be careful not to ask questions that can be found on their website or other easily accessible source. A list of sample interview questions
PresentationInterviews give employers the opportunity to get to know you as an individual. Tips to develop an effective personal presentation include:
- Present yourself in a confident, enthusiastic and engaged manner. Make good eye contact and play an active role in the conversation. Listen attentively and show enthusiasm for the employer and for the individual with whom you are interviewing.
- Anticipate open ended questions, such as, “What can you tell me about yourself?” (This question, by the way, does not mean “tell me your life story.” Always frame an answer to this question in relation to your career and law school.) Also anticipate awkward questions, such as, “Why did your GPA drop so drastically?” or “Why aren’t you on law journal?” The answers to these questions are less important than how thoughtful and logical is your response.
- Practice is the most effective method to improve your interviewing skills. If you would like to have the CSO set up a mock interview, please let us know.
Dos and DontsDo your homework.
Gather as much information about the employer and the position as possible before the interview. Your questions and responses should be based on thorough research and should stem from your interests in the employer.
Do dress appropriately.
Remember, this is an interview, not a date!
Men: Choose a black, navy or charcoal business suit with a dress shirt and tie.
Women: Choose a conservative skirt or pant suit in black, navy or charcoal. If you choose a skirt, practice sitting in various chairs to make sure our skirt maintains a conservative length.
Do pay attention to footwear.
Men: Stick with well-shined black or brown lace-up shoes or dress loafers – and socks.
Women: Opt for conservative pumps. Avoid casual sandals or open-toed shoes, even in the summer. Hosiery is a must if you are wearing a skirt.
Don’t smoke just prior to your interview.
The smell of smoke lingers on your clothing and can be offensive – especially in a closed interview room or office.
Don’t go overboard with fragrance.
It is best to avoid wearing cologne or perfume. If you choose to wear a fragrance, make sure it is mild. Many individuals have immediate allergic reactions to any scent.
Don’t bring up personal issues or crises.
Don’t bring up salary.
Don’t be late.
What Hiring Committees Have to SayBased on feedback from Hiring Committees, the following personal characteristics as indicators of an applicant’s potential success as a lawyer. However, these characteristics are not magic words. Be prepared to substantiate your possession of these traits with concrete examples from your background and experience.
- good communicator
- team player/consensus builder
- integrity/strength of character
- common sense
- ability to work under pressure
- humble assertiveness
- problem-solving skills
- good personality
- ability to think on one’s feet
- ability to relate to diverse individuals
They made the following suggestions to assist students with the job search process:
- be fully prepared for the interview
- clearly understand what the job entails before accepting the position
- understand it is the student’s responsibility to direct their career search – must be career focused vs. job focused
- it is important for students to look good on paper – employers don’t have time to sift through poor resumes
- need to determine their “fit” in the organization’s structure and work environment
- know what they have to offer the firm
- demonstrate they can quickly produce results
- have an ability to master computer technology
- remember the firm is evaluating how you can perform your tasks, respond to clients, and work with the rest of the team
Sample QuestionsFollowing are a sampling of questions that you may be asked in an interview. Most interviews, however, do not follow a Q&A structure. An interviewer may be comfortable conducting a conversation or talking about the firm. Also, do not be surprised if the interviewer does not ask many questions about you but instead asks if you want to know anything about the organization or the position. Follow the interviewer’s lead, but make sure that you demonstrate to him or her why you are a good fit for the position.
- Tell me about yourself. What else can you tell me?
- What persuaded you to study law?
- What areas of the law are of particular interest to you?
- What law school courses interest you the most?
- What qualities do you possess that lead you to believe you will make a good lawyer?
- What is the most significant item on your resume?
- Why did you choose the University of Mississippi School of Law?
- Where to you plan to be five years after graduation? Ten years?
- With whom have you discussed your career plans?
- How much significance do you think we should attach to your relatively high (low) GPA?
- Could give us a reason for your failure to rank at the top of your class?
- Have you given any thought as to how you might pursue continuing legal education after you have been admitted to the bar?
- Do you approve or disapprove of the (case name) decision?
- What Supreme Court decision during the last year seems to you the most significant?
- What do you consider to be your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
- Why are you on Law Journal? Why aren’t you on Law Journal?
Law Firm Questions
Large and Medium-size firms
- Is there anything in particular about our firm that interested you?
- Are there any other reasons that led you to choose us?
- Have you talked with anyone about us?
- What do you think of our firm resume?
- What part of our practice would be of special interest to you?
- Is there any particular part of your experience that you think might help you to fit with our firm?
- Do you think you have the qualities that would enable you to become a partner?
- How many hours a week would you be prepared to devote to the work of the firm?
- Would you have an interest in doing pro bono work at the same time? How many hours per week, month or year? Would you be prepared to insist upon it?
- What would your references tell me about your legal abilities and commitment to the profession?
- At what other firms have you interviewed?
- If we made you an offer, how soon would you be prepared to give us an answer?
Small law firms
- Do you have any ties to the community?
- What familiarity do you have with the way a small firm operates?
- Are you committed to work with a small firm and stay with it?
- Do you know enough about us to believe it would be a satisfactory place for you to work? Why?
- How soon would you hope to be a partner?
- Do you consider yourself an easy person to get along with? Explain.
- Do you think you will at first need a lot of supervision and general help?
- How much responsibility will you be prepared to assume right from the start? Explain.
Government and Public Interest Questions
- Why are you interested in us?
- How much do you know about us?
- Would you be prepared to make a career in government?
- What experience have you had that you think might equip you for this job?
- Do you have a career plan?
- What are your feelings about government employees generally and the effectiveness of the bureaucracy?
- What training have you had in administrative law?
- How much courtroom experience have you had?
Legal services and public interest groups
- How committed are you to working with this population?
- Do you have a general interest in service to the public?
- Which of the following interest you: domestic relations cases, rights of consumers, landlord/tenant problems, claim collections, civil rights, anti-discrimination actions, rights to municipal services, welfare problems, housing?
- What experiences have you had in any of the above areas?
- Are you interested in environmental problems? What experience have you had in this area?
- Would you be prepared to accept employment away from your present residence?
- How important to you is the matter of compensation?
- What do you see as the rewards of working in this area of the law?
- What are your plans for your legal career?
Judicial Clerkship Questions
- Explain your interesting in clerking.
- What is your specific interest in seeking a job with me?
- Do you think a one-year term is long enough to make a job worthwhile?
- What are the particular aspects of a clerkship that you would value?
- How far do you feel you have progressed in developing your writing skills?
- How valuable do you consider Law Journal experience in preparing you for a judicial clerkship? Explain.
- Have you looked into, and if so, what have you found out about the reputation of the judges to whom you are applying?
- While at law school, have you noted particular judges whose opinions you particularly admired because of style, substance or ideology?
- How important to you are the political views of the judge?
- What do you think of merit selection of the federal and state judiciary?
- How conversant are you with the significant current decisions of the US Supreme Court?
- Do you think a judge is under any obligation to help a law clerk find a job at the end of the term?
How to Handle Discriminatory Questions
Questions regarding your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, age, sexual orientation or being a disabled veteran that do not relate to a bona fide occupation qualification necessary to perform a job are discriminatory and, therefore, not permissible. Knowledge of this type of information about a candidate may lead to discriminatory hiring practices – either intentional or unintentional – and you are not required to divulge this information, unless you choose to.
If you feel an interview has been conducted improperly, you are encouraged to report the specifics to the Director of the Career Services Office.