Last week, area practicing attorneys conducted over 100 mock interviews of S.J. Quinney students as part of the Mock Interview program sponsored by the Young Alumni Association and PDO! Those students who participated got the chance to meet lawyers who work in government offices, and large and smaller firms. We have received emails from attorneys letting us know how impressed they were with you. Some of them already want to keep a mentoring relationship with you! If you participated, PDO welcomes your feedback, both positive and “constructive.”
1. Preparation and research on the employer or interviewer. “Know who you are talking to” was a common theme in the feedback from attorneys. If you are truly interested in an employer, you should review their website, NALP materials (if they are a member) and consult PDO, professors, and others who have worked there. Be wary of relying solely on one source, even a firm’s website or a trusted friend. The information on a site may be outdated or highlighting a practice area which is not particularly busy. Information from one person may similarly be skewed or outdated.
2. Cover letters. Several attorneys said that the letters contained too many generalities that could not be supported within the interview (i.e. “I was impressed by the firm’s reputation.”). It is ok to say something like that, but just be sure that, if asked, you can identify where you got any specific information. The basics to cover: identify yourself and the position you seek, try to identify an accurate reason you are particularly interested in that employer, request a meeting, and thank them for their consideration. If you DO have skills, background or a significant connection which is relevant to the employer, then by all means use the letter as a means to sell yourself. If you do use a generality, be prepared to back it up in an interview! Finally, if a letter isn’t really interesting (and how many are), keep it brief, typo-free, and well-written. Please do NOT spell the attorney’s name wrong.
3. Resumes. For the most part, the attorneys said your resumes looked great. For those who included a few “interests,” the attorneys appreciated these as easy talking points and a way to break the ice.
4. The Interview. Prepare for the interview by knowing your resume inside and out. Although there may be a few questions you may not have previously considered, try not to respond by saying, “That’s a good question!” Multiple attorney-interviewers also would advise you to “be a little more confident” during the interview, without being arrogant, of course. You don’t need to tell an interviewer that you are “just a 1L” if that is the case–they can tell that from your cover letter. Other attorneys would remind you that the interview is simply a professional conversation–not an interrogation! Try to avoid visibly looking nervous (fidgeting, avoiding eye-contact, etc) and take a few deep breaths before walking into an interview. One attorney suggested wiping your hands against your pants or skirt before shaking hands with an interviewer, if they feel clammy or sweaty. Have a few questions in mind in case their questioning slows down, so that you can avoid uncomfortable silences. In fact, you would do well to be prepared for an interviewer to open an interview with “I’ve reviewed your cover letter and resume. What questions do you have for me?” You might ask, for example, “What do you like about what you do?” Or, “Why did you decide to work for X firm?”