Interviewing Tips: From Screening to Call-Back

Looking for a new job can be a stressful and lengthy process. We've got suggestions for making job interviewing -- from screening interview to call-back -- a successful endeavor.

Before the Interview

Believe it or not, the most important work in getting a new job is done before the interview. In today's wired world, there's no excuse for not doing research before meeting a potential employer. Learn as much as you can about the company or firm, going beyond just the website's home page. Dig deep -- read their press releases and "news" sections, for example. Scan recent articles the attorneys have published and review their client lists.

A few days before your interview, thoroughly read the legal and local newspapers. It's fair game for an interviewing attorney to ask you, "What do you think of the Ninth Circuit's decision in the X,Y,Z case?"

Also, find out the structure of your interview -- is it a one-on-one or panel interview? Maybe you'll meet several lawyers individually. If possible, find out in advance who the specific attorneys are and read their biographies.

Prepare answers to those common interview questions like "tell me about yourself," "what attracted you to law school (or employment law or tax law)?", "why are you interested in our company?", and "where do you see yourself in five years?" Review your own history as it appears on your resume and be ready to elaborate on any item.

Also, test yourself with some of the more brutal interview questions. It's possible that you'll be asked how you'd handle an ethical dilemma. For example, you could be asked something like, "What would you do if a client told you he destroyed a document that the court ordered him to produce to opposing counsel?"

In addition to anticipating questions you'll be asked, draft some questions of your own to ask the interviewer. Here are some examples: "Can you tell me a bit about the cases (or deals) you're working on?", "What is the relationship like between partners and associates at this firm?", and "What do you like most about working here?"

When preparing for the interview, keep in mind that the firm or company is evaluating your potential for providing service to clients, executing quality legal work and developing business. They're also scoping out your leadership potential, your attitude and your work ethic.

Of course, be on time for the interview and project a professional appearance. Bring extra copies of your resume and writing sample.

During the Interview

First and foremost, relax, be friendly and be yourself. The interviewers aren't just looking for a lawyer, but also a future colleague. Your answers to questions are less important than the attitude you project. You want to come across as poised and confident and a fast learner who likes hard work and has good judgment.

Although you've prepared answers to standard questions, do your best to tailor your pitch to this particular employer. Be ready to cite examples of how your employment would specifically benefit that firm or company. Also, after answering a question, if appropriate, turn the answer into a question, which transforms the interview into more of a conversation.

Don't be negative during the interview, and especially do not bad mouth your current employer. If asked about something negative in your practice or your past, turn it into a positive. For example, if asked about not-so-great law school grades, respond with something like, "My best grades were in legal writing and moot court, two nuts-and-bolts subjects that would bear directly on the work in your office." If you lack specific experience, show how other experience you've had is analogous.

Ask about salary and benefits only after you've received an offer.

After the Interview

If appropriate, send a thank-you note or e-mail to the interviewing lawyers, mentioning the specific interview. ("I enjoyed talking about your practice, especially the Bank of America deal.")

And until you get the job offer you want, keep interviewing. It's great practice and the more interviews you go on, the more likely you are to perfect the experience and wind up with your dream job.

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