Interviewing. Even the word can cause some people to have butterflies. Others seem to take interviewing in stride, and view it as an inevitable part of the hiring process. Regardless of how you feel about interviewing, it is a virtual certainty that you will engage in a few interviews as you seek a summer position, or your first post-law school position. If you understand the interview process, and practice, you will feel much more comfortable and engaged when interviewing, and will likely come across as a better candidate for your desired position.
The 4 P’s. To interview effectively keep in mind the 4 P’s.
Preparing for an interview is an essential component of the entire process. Preparation includes self knowledge, research and professionalism.
Self-knowledge: Employers are there to learn about YOU. They need to know that you understand yourself, your motivation, and can explain your qualities and how they fit with the position and organization.
- Check out our Interview Preparation Guide
- Determine your “top skills” and incorporate them in the interview.
- Indicate skills you hope to gain or further develop in the position.
- Use “stories” to display your skills and personality.
- Think about why you want this position, why you want to work for this organization in particular, and especially, why you want to be a lawyer. Employers want to know that there is something specifically of interest about them and the position that appeals to you.
- Know the type of questions commonly asked in an interview.
Knowledge of the Organization: A very common complaint from employers is that candidates often know little or nothing about their organization. Employers are perplexed that in our high-tech communication age candidates still don’t bother learning even basic information about them. Employers make this task easy!
- Virtually all employers (firms, corporations, private practice, and public interest organizations etc.) now have a web presence. Access the organization’s web site for a wealth of information, both on the firm, and on the individual interviewers.
- Go further! Lexis and Westlaw have excellent search tools to learn about legal organizations. Review recent cases to learn about firm and attorney specializations.
- Read local newspaper articles about organizations that interest you.
- Access alumni who work or have worked for the organization. Consider conducting an informational interview with them.
- Talk with staff of the Meredith Career Services Center.
Be aware of the professionalism necessary for interviewing:
- Purchase appropriate interview attire.
- Be sure you are appropriately “groomed” bathed, hair washed, minimal cologne/perfume, subtle make up - if you choose to wear it.
- Keep in mind appropriate manners, a firm handshake, good eye contact, smiling, no chewing gum, sitting up straight, avoiding fidgeting.
In order to perform at your best in the actual interview it is helpful to practice. Be sure to know the phases of an interview, the typical questions asked, the expected attire, and the general professionalism required – all are important.
- Review interview questions that are typically asked in a law-related interview.
Law Interview Questions
Interviewing Skills Questions
- Behavior-based interviewing
- Check out books, DVDs, or websites on the interview process.
- Schedule a mock interview with staff of the Meredith Career Services Center. They will provide helpful feedback and can help you be more at ease during an actual interview. This can be videotaped for your review.
- Practice with a friend. Have them note if you have distracting mannerisms, including both verbal (umm, ya know, like) and non-verbal (playing with your hair, tapping a pen, slouching in your chair, etc.).
Phases of an Interview
Introduction greeting, small talk. Remember interviewers often make judgments in the first few seconds of meeting you. Put your very best foot forward.
Organization and information—an employer might inform you a bit about the position/organization, and possibly let you know the format of the interview.
Qualification assessment - the exchange of questions/answers and information between you and the employer to determine “fit”. Interviewers may be evaluating you in a variety of areas
Closing - an opportunity for you to ask questions. Thank the employer for their time, and learn about the hiring time line and next steps.
If you have prepared and practiced sufficiently the actual interview will likely be a much more positive experience.
- Arrive on time—10-15 minutes early is preferable.
- Be pleasant to all you meet. You are being interviewed by everyone you encounter.
- Be organized and prepared – bring extra copies of your resume/references/transcript/writing sample, in a professional portfolio.
- Be enthusiastic and upbeat but genuine.
- Listen! One frequently overlooked skill to hone; employers prize it.
- Be prepared to ask the interviewer questions.
- Make use of examples to answer questions.
- Ensure they see a fit between you and the position.
- Ask what the next steps in the process will be.
- Thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
You’re not done yet! Being proactive is key.
- Make note of how you performed in the interview
- Analyze the type of questions, the interviewers style etc. Note anything that was of particular interest.
- Follow up promptly within 24 hours with a typed or hand written follow up letter or note. If you are interviewing at WVU Law, we supply thank you note cards, and will mail them for you at no charge. If you are aware a decision will be made swiftly you can email a thank you instead. Bring up specifics of the interview and reiterate your interest. Displaying your knowledge of appropriate interview etiquette can truly make a difference.
- If appropriate, follow up with the employer if you have not heard from them by the time indicated.