Following these ten guidelines will ease your interview jitters and help you to present your best professional self.
1. Review PDO handouts in Documents Library on interviewing. These cover topics such as questions you might be asked during the interview and how to research employers.
2. Dress professionally. It should go without saying, but unless you have been invited to dress casually, you should wear the best suit and shoes that you can—generally meaning a matching jacket and pants or skirt. This is probably not the time to “show your personality” by wearing a sweater instead of a jacket, fishnet stockings, spike heels, or cowboy boots. While your interviewer may not mind it, they are probably wondering how they are going to bring you back to the firm and introduce you to a variety of other people, including more conservative people.
3. For all interviews, plan to be there just a little early. If it is your turn to interview and you’re still waiting outside the room, please knock firmly but wait to be invited in. Do NOT knock before your interview time.
4. Be positive and confident. Do not be arrogant, but also avoid self-deprecation.
5. Know your résumé and cover letter inside and out. Review them in detail a day or so before your interview. Remind yourself of names, projects, accomplishments and lessons learned from each experience. But, do NOT memorize answers. If you have mentioned it on your résumé, or if you raise an issue during an interview, it is fair game for discussion.
6. Have a copy of your résumé, cover letter, references, and business card (if you have them). You will probably not use them, especially during an on-campus interview, but on the off chance you are asked for them, it is best to have an extra copy. It is unnecessary to offer them during an interview unless requested, with the following exception: if you go to an employer’s office for an interview (for a callback or if it is the one and only interview you will have), and you have great references or a great reference letter, it may be a good idea to offer those.
7. Research the employer, including the interviewers. Remember, however, interviewers are often substituted at the last minute, so remain flexible. If you have an on-campus interview, the names are generally available on Symplicity. At a basic level, you should be able to answer this question: “Why did you apply to work for our organization over any other one?” Your research should include online searches of employer websites and a review of their practice areas, so that you don’t express strong interest in practice areas they don’t do! Consult with PDO or others, as online information may not be current. Once you know what the employer does, express an interest in or at least be open to those areas of law. If you interview at a general civil litigation firm and tell them that your true desire is to practice criminal or tax law, you are likely not to be considered further, regardless of how much they liked you. Understand that the interviewers know that you are still likely developing your interests.
8. Have questions ready for your interviewers, and listen for opportunities to ask new questions as you converse with your interviewers. It happens in nearly every interview—you are asked if you have any questions. Some interviews even begin with “Well, I’ve looked at your resume. What questions do you have for me?” Good, open-ended questions are a great way to engage in a memorable conversation. Bad questions (ones which you could have easily found the answer to on the firm website, or which require one word answers) don’t help you.
9. Be prepared to respond to this seemingly innocuous invitation: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” It can be strangely difficult to respond! Interviewers may ask you this simply to make small talk, but it can end up hurting you if you can’t answer it well. Have a brief answer—a life story is not required, nor desired. It could be a mix of a little bit about your background (non law school), why you came to law school, what you are interested in professionally.
10. Write a thank you note/email within 24 hours of the interview. A thank you note may be mailed or emailed to each interviewer if there were multiple interviewers; or if there were several in one single group interview, you may send one thank you email to the group. If it is not onerous, however, it is probably best to send individual thank you’s to each person. Be brief, but highlight why you remain interested in the employer or something interesting and helpful you learned in the interview.