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Three Tips For Better Interviews

March 31, 2014

OCI meetings are this week (April 1 or 2, required to participate in Fall OCI), and, with the summer in between, the interview season will be here before you know it. Preparing for interviews can be tough and confusing, so I thought it might be helpful to give you some overall comments regarding what I’ve seen in the mock interviews I’ve conducted over the past few months.

As a reminder, each Monday between 2pm and 4pm you can sign up via Symplicity to participate in a mock interview. I also make appointments via email for those unavailable during that time. I’ve interviewed about a dozen of you in the past few months, and here are some common issues that come up:

  1. Have the “Tell me about yourself” answer ready to go. In most interviews you will get some type or form of this question, so you should have the answer. It’s one you want to have memorized similar to an opening statement; it should be fluid and clean without sounding rehearsed. Most answer this question chronologically, which is fine (though you could potentially stand out if you approached it differently). Although, I’ve also noticed many students beginning this answer with their law school career or perhaps undergraduate school, without mentioning where they are from and the first 18 years of their life. I then ask more questions which bring out fantastic details about their lives, education and careers that should have been included in the original answer. You may not get those follow up questions, and if not, a huge opportunity has just passed you by. Finally, many employers put a premium on where students are from, so you want to address that appropriately in your first answer.
  2. Project confidence. There’s a balance to how you want to come across in an interview; being confident without seeming arrogant is sometimes tricky to do. However my feeling based on employer feedback and my own mock interviews is that as a group you are not confident enough in interviews. If employers don’t think you can do the work (and if you don’t project to them you believe it yourself, why should they?), they’re never going to get to the next step of does the personality (i.e. perhaps arrogance) fit in okay with our firm. My encouragement to you is interview confident you can do the work they will ask you to do, or quickly learn anything you don’t know yet. If we start hearing and seeing candidates aren’t getting offers because they are too confident/arrogant, we’ll swing you back the other direction. The only caveat is this: it’s still a tough market and employers have the upper hand. So don’t mistake my advice as you should be unreasonable in salary demands, etc. I’m limiting this to your capabilities as a lawyer.
  3. Have several quality questions of your own for the interviewers. Josh White from Haley & Olson mentioned this when he did our interview workshop earlier this year. He said near the end of an interview he asked a candidate if he had any questions for him, and the candidate said “no I think you’ve answered everything.” That didn’t impress Josh and that was the end of the interview, and the candidacy. The key is to have several substantive questions which get the interviewer talking about themselves or the firm. These should be questions you couldn’t have learned from reading their website or job posting, so be sure to have gone through all of that when preparing questions. You can have a process question as well, such as “when do you think you might make a decision?” However the ratio of substantive to process questions should probably be two or three to one.

    Once the OCI meetings conclude this week, please don’t forget about interview preparation over the summer. It will be here before you know it, and the most prepared will be in a much better position to secure a position. As always please feel free to stop by or email to ask any questions you might have.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Entry-Level Title Examination Position with Three Pointe Land & Title in Plano (3L, Recent Grad) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

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