Practice Your Interview
Interviewers will assess your questions and responses, not only in terms of their informational content, but also in the manner in which they are asked and answered. Your energy, sincerity, enthusiasm, candor, humor, precision, and style are among the many aspects that will affect the impression you make. Employers look for people with both sound academic skills and interpersonal skills. You should be courteous, make good eye contact, and remain calm. Likewise, watch your interviewers’ body language, as it could reveal important things about their beliefs about their employer.
No matter how academically gifted you are, assess your positive qualities (experience, writing ability, or personality, for example) before each interview. If you cannot convince yourself that you have something to offer, it will be impossible to convince an interviewer. If you want help assessing your personal strengths, arrange a meeting with the Career Services staff to help review and highlight your personal strengths.
Use tact to answer questions directly and honestly; your self-confidence says more about you than almost everything else.
Never apologize for shortcomings, but anticipate confident responses to potentially uncomfortable questions.
In addition, consider raising your weaknesses and addressing them with confident responses. This technique allows you to resolve concerns that the interviewer may well have but may not be asking. Otherwise, the interviewer will draw his or her own conclusions after the interview.
Have a friend ask you the questions or just read through them and answer them aloud or in writing in preparation for your interviews. The best way to assess your interviewing skills and determine what aspect you need to improve is to participate in a mock interview. Our counselors are happy to conduct mock interviews for you at any time during the year. Career Services staff also hosts a formal mock interview program for 1L students early in the spring semester.
Prepare to Look Your Best: Dressing for Success
Before you go into an interview, remember that how you dress is important. Your attire should reflect your professionalism and contribute to your confidence level. You want to be remembered for the content of the interview, not for what you were wearing.
While students often complain that their interview attire makes them look like conformists, many legal employers expect this during an interview.
Keep the following guidelines in mind when dressing for an interview:
Women’s Interview Attire
- A suit with a skirt is more conservative, and many legal organizations are “traditional” places. You may choose to wear a pants suit, though there is a risk that it may not be well received by particular employers.
- Skirts should be NO shorter than 2 inches above your knee.
- Suits should be a dark, neutral color (black, navy, brown, or grey); blouses are a good way to bring color into your outfit. Keep makeup understated; keep nails trimmed and, if polished, the polish should be in a clear or pale shade.
- Like makeup, jewelry should also be simple.
- Hair should be neat; if it is long, keep it controlled.
- Shoes should be appropriately professional; for example, stilettos, boots, mules, and sandals are not suggested.
- If you wear a skirt, wear sheer hose in the same color as your suit or a neutral tone.
- You may carry a small purse, briefcase, or portfolio.
- Forgo perfume for the day.
Men’s Interview Attire
- Your suit should be a dark, neutral color, with or without a faint pinstripe.
- Your tie should be conservative; for example, silk in a simple stripe.
- Men should wear black, cordovan, or brown leather shoes, polished and un-worn heels; wing tip and plain lace up shoes are best.
- Socks should be over-the-calf and should match your pants—no white gym socks.
- White shirts are your best bet, although you may choose other appropriately conservative colors.
- Your complete ensemble should be clean and pressed—especially your shirt.
- We recommend that your hair, beard, or mustache be appropriately short and neatly trimmed; if you have an earring, consider not wearing it for the interview; make sure your nails are clean and trimmed.
- You may carry a briefcase or portfolio.
- Forgo cologne for the day.
If you smoke, avoid smoking in or near your interview suit.
Meeting the Employer
The first few minutes of the interview are very important. Some interviewers talk about the “halo effect” of the first four minutes, which sets the tone of the interview and has a major impact on how the recruiter views the applicant.
- Shake your interviewer’s hand firmly, make good eye contact, and smile. It creates a strong impression to remember the interviewer’s name and to say, as you shake hands, “It is nice to meet you, Ms. So-and-so.”
- Wait until the interviewer indicates that you should sit down, and when you do, sit up attentively.
- Place your hands on the arms of the chair or in your lap.
- If you have a transcript or writing samples, put them in a portfolio and bring them out when necessary.
- Ask for every interviewer’s business card so that you will have the correct spelling of his or her name and be ready to follow up with thank-you notes.
- Have some specific questions prepared. Although not typical, an interview may consist entirely of you asking questions about the employer. Your questions will also show your interest in the employer.
- Use the interviewer’s first name unless he or she instructs you to do so.
- Slouch; slouching and sprawling are indicative of sloppiness.
- Engage in nervous habits, including playing with your hands, your watch, or your jewelry.
- As a rule, you should not take notes during the interview. With only 20 minutes to make a positive impression, this time is better spent concentrating on the interviewer’s questions.
After your interview, take a few moments to make some notes about the interview, your reaction to it, what was said, and your impression of the interviewer(s) and the firm. These notes will help prepare you if you are invited for a second visit or to write a thank you note.
What Happens After the First Round of Interviews?
Public interest and government employers vary in the next phase of the interview process. Some will make hiring decisions after the first interview; others will conduct a second interview over the telephone, and still others will require that the student meet with them on-site for a “call-back” interview. Please be mindful that you may be responsible for travel expenses when visiting a public interest or government employer for an interview. Private sector employers typically invite students to visit the employer for a call-back interview and will usually pay for your travel expenses.
The process for a typical call-back interview is described in detail below. Much of what follows is equally applicable to public interest, government, and private sector employers.
The call-back interview is an opportunity for both you and the employer to further explore whether there is a mutual interest in an employment relationship. The call-back interview ordinarily lasts three to five hours, and is the equivalent of about four to six on-campus interviews in a row.
During a law firm call-back interview, you will typically interview with a series of lawyers in the firm, partners as well as associates. The interview may also include a meal.
Because the employer has invited you for a call-back interview, the interviewers will probably assume that you are able to do the work. Your evaluation by each interviewer will be primarily subjective: how you will fit into the employer’s culture, your energy level, and your enthusiasm for the employer. The most important thing is that the people with whom you meet like you as an individual.
The call-back interview is a big expense for employers and should not be taken lightly. You should only accept a call-back interview with employers in which you have a genuine interest. Do not accept a call-back in a city so that you can visit friends or have a “free” trip home. Do not accept a call-back interview with an employer just to see if you will get an offer if you are no longer interested in the employer. Carefully consider how many call-back interviews you should accept and remember that:
- Call-back interviews may require missing one or more days of class.
- Employers offer a limited number of call-back interviews. Each time you accept a call-back interview, you might be taking an opportunity away from another student who wants to work for the employer.
- Call-back interview form.