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Distinguish Yourself In A Positive Way, The Interview

Nov. 25, 2013

Last week we talked about how to distinguish yourself in the application stage of a job search. This consisted of not giving the employer a reason to dismiss your application in the early going, and then as the pool is winnowed down giving them specific, unique, yet brief reasons why you're the answer to their problems.

This week we'll assume you've done what you needed to do to secure an interview, and look at ways you can continue distinguishing yourself in the right ways to make sure you get the job offer.

Similar to the application process, you want to avoid mistakes that could end your candidacy and highlight strengths that will stand out. The difference in the interview phase as opposed to the application phase is these must be done simultaneously. You have 20 minutes to several hours, depending on the interview type, to avoid mistakes and positively stand out. Let's talk about how.

  1. Connection (if phone/Skype interview). Do everything possible to make sure you have a good connection; that you can hear/see them and they can hear/see you. Nothing is worse than having technology in any form disrupt or prevent the interview.

  2. Presentation and Dress. I won't go into all the details here, but you're not interviewing for a job at the sports bar or coffee shop. This is a professional job interview. If you choose to go with the shaggy hair, tattoo/piercing exposed, business casual look, don't be shocked when you don't get the job. If that's who you are, be who you are on the weekend or 20 years from now when you're the managing partner. For the job interview present yourself professionally. This generally means clean cut, dark suits and clean shoes. (Like anything else in life, this is a sliding scale. If you're a 180 LSAT, #1 in the class, 4.0 mock trial champion with a dynamic personality, employers are likely to overlook more presentation flaws than they would otherwise. Some may even find your rejection of appropriate presentation charming. But why even give them the reason to dismiss you?)

  3. First Impressions, Posture and Eye Contact. Most employers will generate a first impression of you in a matter of minutes or even seconds. If that impression is negative, it will be very difficult to win them over in the remaining interview time. You need to be early/on time for the interview. Look the employer in the eye during introductions and throughout the interview, and give a solid handshake. It's important to sit up tall and have good posture during the interview, as this communicates confidence, as well as interest and engagement with the employer.

  4. Your Answers. You should be able to prepare for at least half of the interview questions in advance. Common questions such as 'tell us about yourself' or 'what are your strengths' should be considered softballs that you have prepared for and knock out of the park. The only trick with those is answering without sounding over-rehearsed; that just takes practice. When the questions come you weren't prepared for, know that it's okay (and perhaps preferred) to take a brief moment to think. Similar to when you're called on in class, pausing shows you've actually listened to the question and have given it some thought. Another tip on interview answers is to provide a short solid answer to the question, and then elaborate with examples or experiences. For instance, if you're asked, "What are a few of your strengths?" don't just list them out. "I'm an excellent writer, a tireless worker and a relationship builder" is a good start to the answer, but is incomplete. A better answer would be, "I'm an excellent writer, a tireless worker and a relationship builder. Regarding writing, during my first year in law school I was honored for having one of the best briefs in our Moot Court Competition, and in my second year Professor SoandSo invited me to co-author a law review article with him, which we're finishing up this month, etc."

  5. Your Questions. Yes, you MUST have questions for the interviewer. And they need to be more than procedural questions such as what's the salary and when do you plan on making a decision (although in the right context those are fine to ask). The link below will give you some ideas but for now just know you need to come up with three to four substantive questions to show the interviewer you've done your homework and have given careful thought to the employer and the position.

More resources on how to prepare for an interview are available on our website. Next week I'll finish up this series with how to distinguish yourself in a positive way in the post-interview stage. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Connect with Daniel: and @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

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