How do you "Interview Well"?

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Verity
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How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby Verity » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:22 pm

Many times, I've seen someone give their rank and school/school range and ask for their chances at V5, V10, etc. Inevitably, I find a bunch of responses something along the lines of "you should be good for [insert firm name], as long as you interview well."

My question (to people who have actually interviewed and received offers/holds/callbacks...stay out 0Ls) is, how do you interview well? How does the interview usually proceed? Any pointers (on substantive matters)?

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prezidentv8
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby prezidentv8 » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:31 pm

In before the vague, generic answers.

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lisjjen
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby lisjjen » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:36 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcaVSTsYyOI

But seriously. Interviewing well is a twisty cone of charisma and the capacity to BS. Good looks are just a waffle cone.

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby Big Shrimpin » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:41 pm

In before someone tells OP to use the search function and/or research the wealth of information pertaining to legal interview skillz on teh internetz.

formerbiglawpartner
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby formerbiglawpartner » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:44 pm

OK. I was hoping one of your contemporaries would bite, but here goes. Your question is an excellent, if difficult, one. In the interest of full disclosure, I never conducted on campus interviews but did lots of "callback" interviews at my firm. I also received callbacks for most of the firms I interviewed with in the day.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I am going to outline the basics. Invest in your interview wardrobe, hair cut, shoes, etc. Some of you are taking on phenomenal debt just to go to school, so don't stint on your appearance in the interview that may land you an actual job. I have to assume that most of you have already had jobs and, therefore, have some interview experience. It's not all that different when interviewing at OCI. A firm handshake, eye contact, a smile, good posture, and an engaging personality go a long way (all of that is a long way of saying to exude friendly confidence). They've already read your resume, so you don't have to impress them with how smart you are. (In fact, that's a big mistake!) You want to be the kind of person they want to admit to "their club," i.e., someone they would like to work with for at least a few years. If you are interviewing for firms outside of NYC, you need to demonstrate your connections to the location of their firm. They don't want to blow an offer on someone who has no ties/serious interest in their location. Firms have personalities and sections within firms have personalities (which you really see when you clerk), so sometimes you are going to "click" and sometimes you won't.

If you have little interviewing experience, get with a family friend or HR person you know who interviews a lot and practice. You don't want to sound canned, but it would be worse to be fumbling for words on pretty standard interview questions. Have a few questions yourself to show that you've researched the firm.

Again, all this is pretty obvious stuff, but I hope this helps a bit. Good luck.

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prezidentv8
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby prezidentv8 » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:53 pm

I'll toss something else out there, just out of curiosity and a slight bit of frustration with the advice I have been given for interviews. I hear the word "demonstrate" a lot in regards to these interviews, and as I really have not had any professional experience, I'm frequently advised to "demonstrate" an interest in something through talking about a class I took or something I did in college. I have no idea what this means, other than "come up with a vaguely plausible story for why you are interested in whatever the employer does." Seems like kind of a silly exercise to me, but it always seems to work really well when I can point to classes I'm taking. I guess this shows employers I'm srs bsns? So anyway, what the heck is the meaning of "demonstrate" in this context?!

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vanwinkle
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:02 pm

A few tips:

1) Practice. Do mock interviews. Your school should hopefully offer these, and you should do them. Also, you'll have chances to interview for jobs during the 1L job hunt. take those interviews even if you don't really want the job. Every interview that you can do gives you experience. Experience matters because it helps you build confidence.

2) Confidence. I think what the above poster wrote is correct; your handshake, posture, smile, eye contact, etc. go a long way toward communicating who you are. They're looking for people who will represent their firm well, and if you're not confident in yourself, they probably don't think you'll be confident in the firm. (This is why practice matters; getting over interview anxiety can, among other things, help you appear more confident.)

3) Preparation. You'd better be prepared to answer some questions. Why do you want to work at that particular firm? Why that city? What did you do last summer? Why did you do it? You don't have to study extensively on every firm, but you'd better have some basic ideas about why you want to be there. In my experience you do better with the firms you're most enthusiastic about, and that kind of makes sense.

I hope that's not too vague for you.

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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby pasteurizedmilk » Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:16 pm

Pretty good stuff from Vanwinkle. I would add one other thing: be in the best physical condition you possibly can. It's really unfair, but being aesthetically displeasing can hurt your chances, sadly.

I did this before each interview.

1. Had 3 main points about the firm that attracted me there and which I wanted to drive home. e.g., 1. good bankruptcy practice, 2. good partner:associate ratio, 3. reputation for being collegial or somethign along those lines (pro-tip - unless it's a place like Skadden and you can't w/ a straight face say it has a rep. for being a good place to work, cite this as a positive quality of the firm at every interview).

This shows you've done your research. That's the trend now - firms want to know you're interested.

2. Had 3 main points about myself I wanted to drive home, e.g., 1. Easy-going, 2. interested in (insert practice area) b/c x, y, z, and 3. hardworking.

3. Had at least 5 relatively specific questions about the firm. If it's a firm with a low partner:associate ratio, I would ask how that changes staffing on various legal matters. I'd often ask if a particular practice group was a driver for the firm (e.g., does most of your lit work come from corporate?) Basically, if it's not on the website (READ THE WEBSITE FIRST) and it relates to work (not quality of life, work) then it's a good question to ask.

To reemphasize the last point, ask about how late you have to stay and if you can work from home after you have a permanent offer in hand. People will probably disagree with me about this, but don't give any indication you're not willing to stay until 9.00 pm every night. At callbacks junior associates will be all like "you can ask me anything, I won't tell them." Don't bite. Ask them how many projects they're working on right now or what their training has been like, not how often they have to work weekends.

And be confident. You don't ahve to be a frat boy / partier kinda personality to kill interviews. I'd rather drink a few beers and watch a movie / a game than go out every weekend, and I interview extremely well. It's just confidence and preparation.

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Verity
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby Verity » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:04 pm

vanwinkle wrote:A few tips:

1) Practice. Do mock interviews. Your school should hopefully offer these, and you should do them. Also, you'll have chances to interview for jobs during the 1L job hunt. take those interviews even if you don't really want the job. Every interview that you can do gives you experience. Experience matters because it helps you build confidence.

2) Confidence. I think what the above poster wrote is correct; your handshake, posture, smile, eye contact, etc. go a long way toward communicating who you are. They're looking for people who will represent their firm well, and if you're not confident in yourself, they probably don't think you'll be confident in the firm. (This is why practice matters; getting over interview anxiety can, among other things, help you appear more confident.)

3) Preparation. You'd better be prepared to answer some questions. Why do you want to work at that particular firm? Why that city? What did you do last summer? Why did you do it? You don't have to study extensively on every firm, but you'd better have some basic ideas about why you want to be there. In my experience you do better with the firms you're most enthusiastic about, and that kind of makes sense.

I hope that's not too vague for you.



To be honest, all of this was expected (except for the bit about schools offering mock interviews - interesting). I was really asking about the less superficial parts of the interview, like what sorts of questions people were asked (frequently), or interview techniques (both usual and unusual) that came up. I'm getting the vibe that the way you express yourself is as important, if not more important, than what you're saying.

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beachbum
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby beachbum » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:05 pm

Wow, this thread definitely beat my expectations. Good advice, everyone.

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vanwinkle
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:13 pm

Verity wrote:I was really asking about the less superficial parts of the interview, like what sorts of questions people were asked (frequently), or interview techniques (both usual and unusual) that came up.

I think the reason there's no easy guide for this is that there isn't that much commonality, beyond what I mentioned. I did give the few major themes of questions you'll be asked, and everything else depends on both the interviewer and your resume.

For example: I had a few years of WE that was slightly unusual and interesting. Every single interviewer asked about it, and it led to 10-15 minutes of discussion in most interviews. I loved it; talking about my past WE was a great way to discuss something people found interesting and showcase a couple of my strengths at the same time. Many law students don't have that kind of WE; some don't have any WE at all. So they'll get questions about something else, like what they did last summer, or about the firm itself.

The questions don't really matter. I didn't get asked the same questions as most of my classmates and I knew it. What matters are your responses, no matter what the questions are.

Verity wrote:I'm getting the vibe that the way you express yourself is as important, if not more important, than what you're saying.

This. Don't look for some secret list of questions to prepare for, because it's not about the questions. You could be asked literally almost anything. I know one interviewer asked me to pick a book I'd read in the last year and describe it to him. That certainly threw me off, but it makes the point I'm trying to make. They're not looking for your ability to answer prepared questions, they're looking for the exact opposite of that. They're looking for your ability to hold a conversation about a topic you're familiar with, whatever that topic is. It's the way you conduct that conversation that tells them what they need to know.

pasteurizedmilk
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby pasteurizedmilk » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:27 pm

Verity wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:A few tips:

1) Practice. Do mock interviews. Your school should hopefully offer these, and you should do them. Also, you'll have chances to interview for jobs during the 1L job hunt. take those interviews even if you don't really want the job. Every interview that you can do gives you experience. Experience matters because it helps you build confidence.

2) Confidence. I think what the above poster wrote is correct; your handshake, posture, smile, eye contact, etc. go a long way toward communicating who you are. They're looking for people who will represent their firm well, and if you're not confident in yourself, they probably don't think you'll be confident in the firm. (This is why practice matters; getting over interview anxiety can, among other things, help you appear more confident.)

3) Preparation. You'd better be prepared to answer some questions. Why do you want to work at that particular firm? Why that city? What did you do last summer? Why did you do it? You don't have to study extensively on every firm, but you'd better have some basic ideas about why you want to be there. In my experience you do better with the firms you're most enthusiastic about, and that kind of makes sense.

I hope that's not too vague for you.



To be honest, all of this was expected (except for the bit about schools offering mock interviews - interesting). I was really asking about the less superficial parts of the interview, like what sorts of questions people were asked (frequently), or interview techniques (both usual and unusual) that came up.

Again, vanwinkle got it right. The questions will vary depending on you.

To figure out what kind of questions you'll get, look at your resume, and write down 10 questions you might ask yourself based off each experience. The obvious one, of course, being "tell me about your time at x."

Interviewing styles vary widely. I hear rumors of "behavioural interviewing," but I never saw it (and I went through like 12 or 13 callbacks and 25 screening interviews, so I saw a lot of interviewing styles [like, 100+ distinct interviewers or so). Even so, come up with a few stories from your past work experience or life or whatever that describe a positive quality - tenacity in the face of adversity is always nice.

I never saw any agressive interviewing. Some will be all like "so tell me why I should hire you and not the other 10 people I interviewed today and the 2 who have better grades than you," but IME that's the harshest it gets.

You'll get the "why firm x" for every. single. firm. Be ready for it. And if you don't get this question, you need to work in why firm x if possible during the conversation.

If it's not NY or DC, then why do you want to work in x city? And you might need that for NY/DC if you're from far away.

If you have one grade way lower than the others, expect a "what the hell happened."

Be ready to talk about your summer internship. Some will want to discuss a substantive legal issue and will grill you on it, so if necessary review your old work before going in to the interview to refresh yourself.




oh yeah, and try to read interviewers at the begining. i had a frat guy incredible hulk wannabe for a screener and went down in flames when I started talking about one of my biggest interests being historical fiction. I shoulda dropped all 3-syllable or more words and grunted out a few comments about "them Mets" or "the other day i was tyring to rack three plates when..." or something like that. be on cue for this sort of thing and don't make that mistake (anecdotally, this interviewer [a well respected partner] called me "dude" and "bro" and even "dawg" at least 15 times total thorughout the interview. so glad i don't have to work there.])

yeah if you have interesting work experience expect it to come up a lot. i have a cool background re: work experience and every interviewer except maybe 3 or 4 (out of 100) wanted to talk about it.

pasteurizedmilk
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby pasteurizedmilk » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:41 pm

when you ask a question about the firm, you should either 1. follow up with another question, related if applicable or; 2) express approval of some aspect of the answer.

e.g., "how would you say your lower partner:associate ratio changes the kind of work junior associates recieve?"

A: "Well, we tend to staff matters a bit more leanly, so juniors have the opportunity to take on more substantive tasks early on, depending on how their progressing . . . blah blah blah."

Response: So the kind of work you receive is less locked in with what year you started and determined more by your ability?

A: I'd say that's correct.

Response: That sounds phenomonal - I'm a self-starter, so I like the idea of blah blah blah.


but sound less canned, obviously. sound natural in every sentence.

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Big Shrimpin
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby Big Shrimpin » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:42 pm

While I maintain my point above, including the snark, I think that the poasters here have thrown you some great advice, OP. Vanwinkle's comment about interviewer-dependent questions was particularly spot on - different interviewers will often ask different types of questions. For example, at a higher level of generality, you're going to get more softball-type questions from junior associates and more inquisitive/directed questions by senior associates/partners. There are certainly exceptions to that rule, however, but it can help to go into the interview without being totally thrown off by the types of questions you might hear. Once you get into that room and greet each other (poaster above w/r/t great first impressions was also spot on), the game is on, and there is no way to tell how it's going to go. An analogy is in order...

I like to think about the interviewing situation as akin to how ESPNs "Around the Horn" works. You're one of many applicants for that day, and the interviewer is the dood with the joystick that either distributes or recalls "points" from your standing as a candidate. Each question you're asked is an opportunity to gain some points, and your candidacy will depend to some extent upon your performance in those questions. You'll certainly lose a few along the way, but as long as you try to keep that plus/minus ratio as high as possible, you're good to go. You might get points not only by good answers, but asking good questions and generally conducting yourself in a manner that impresses your interviewer (or at least doesn't totally turn them off to you as a candidate).

Most importantly, as Vanwinkle mentioned, is your ability to just carry a normal, friendly conversation. Now, like 10% of the time you'll probably get a "hostile" interviewer (someone just trying to shake you up to see if you can handle the stress...this is characteristic of ibank interviews...which I've also done...so on the whole, just know there's an outside shot you'll get absolutely grilled :D ). Most of the time, however, you'll be confronted with another person, probably less awkward than you, just trying to get through an additional 20/30 minutes of their day and hopefully catch a great candidate for further consideration.

There are TONS of places to get typical questions you might be asked (your CDO, other school's CDO websites...I think Harvard's is pretty good...Vanwinkle can confirm or deny...also, sometimes each firm will have a part of their website that gives you tips about interviews, etc...). Definitely get on google and start doing some research. After a while, if you're lucky, you'll get so good at interviewing that you barely need to do any prep work beforehand. Just go in there, be confident, answer questions truthfully and organically (but have some prepared answers just in case), smile, laugh, and someone with whom YOU would want to have a conversation.

GL OP!

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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:05 am

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Grizz
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby Grizz » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:12 am

pasteurizedmilk wrote:
oh yeah, and try to read interviewers at the begining. i had a frat guy incredible hulk wannabe for a screener and went down in flames when I started talking about one of my biggest interests being historical fiction. I shoulda dropped all 3-syllable or more words and grunted out a few comments about "them Mets" or "the other day i was tyring to rack three plates when..." or something like that. be on cue for this sort of thing and don't make that mistake (anecdotally, this interviewer [a well respected partner] called me "dude" and "bro" and even "dawg" at least 15 times total thorughout the interview. so glad i don't have to work there.])



What firm? Gotta bid there.

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Grizz
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby Grizz » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:19 am

formerbiglawpartner wrote:so sometimes you are going to "click" and sometimes you won't.


So far in my 1L firm job search and OCI experience, this has been so true. I've gotta practice more so hopefully I can click with more people.

But I guess strategy #2 is just "do more interviews if you can."

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prezidentv8
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby prezidentv8 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:09 am

rad law wrote:
pasteurizedmilk wrote:
oh yeah, and try to read interviewers at the begining. i had a frat guy incredible hulk wannabe for a screener and went down in flames when I started talking about one of my biggest interests being historical fiction. I shoulda dropped all 3-syllable or more words and grunted out a few comments about "them Mets" or "the other day i was tyring to rack three plates when..." or something like that. be on cue for this sort of thing and don't make that mistake (anecdotally, this interviewer [a well respected partner] called me "dude" and "bro" and even "dawg" at least 15 times total thorughout the interview. so glad i don't have to work there.])



What firm? Gotta bid there.


Thinking same thing.

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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby texaslawyer » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:11 am

Be realxed, confident and most of all prepared.

pasteurizedmilk
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby pasteurizedmilk » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:23 am

Haha - if u really want to know PM me. Full disclosure tho - Im a former college athlete and hang out with a lot of bro-types, and this guy still annoyed me. He was basically the situation in Brooks brothers .

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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby formerbiglawpartner » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:40 am

You've received some excellent advice on this thread. To underscore Pasteurized Milk's comments, as with any interview, anything on your resume is fair game for a question. That's typically all the attorneys have in front of them during the interview. I disagree a bit with his comment about questions for junior associates. While you probably don't want to ask about how many weekends a month they work, it is fair to ask about the quality of their work, if they are being mentored, etc. If they are a woman or URM (and you are), to the extent you can't find out on the firm's website, it's important to know the percentage of women/URM partners, their participation in firm management, etc. The few younger associates with whom you interview at callback interviews can be an invaluable source of info about each firm that isn't on their glossy website. They typically don't snitch and their opinions only matter in the process to the extent they think they can work with you.

pasteurizedmilk
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Re: How do you "Interview Well"?

Postby pasteurizedmilk » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:57 pm

formerbiglawpartner wrote:You've received some excellent advice on this thread. To underscore Pasteurized Milk's comments, as with any interview, anything on your resume is fair game for a question. That's typically all the attorneys have in front of them during the interview. I disagree a bit with his comment about questions for junior associates. While you probably don't want to ask about how many weekends a month they work, it is fair to ask about the quality of their work, if they are being mentored, etc.
I definitely agree with this - those are solid questions to ask.




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