Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

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Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 14, 2019 12:26 pm

Over the past several weeks I've had three interviews with judges in my desired district. I've received rejections from two so far; I had a good rapport with the last judge but am starting to think she was giving me career advice in advance of my eventual rejection.

I prepped thoroughly for all three, practiced my responses to interview questions and familiarized myself with the judges bios and opinions. The first judge and I just did not mesh personality-wise so that wasn't a surprise. The second judge and I got along very well but I was still rejected. I thought the interview with the third judge went very well but, like I mentioned above, think in hindsight she may have been giving me career advice in lieu of my eventual rejection.

I know I might still receive an offer from the third judge but I'm still worried there's something I didn't do to properly prepare for each interview. I'm going to keep applying even if I get the last rejection but I can't help but feel frustrated that I blew near perfect opportunities.

Does anyone have any advice for future interview prep or dealing with multiple rejections?

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Re: Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

Post by HillandHollow » Tue May 14, 2019 1:07 pm

It's a frustrating position to be in.
My advice to you is first to keep doing what you're doing. Keep preparing thoroughly for each interview, like you have been.
But also, consider whether your answers are so well-prepared that they sound canned.
Are you on auto-pilot during the interview, or are you really engaging with/responding to the questions?
Are you finding a way to redirect everything that anyone says into you talking about your various virtues, instead of responding in a more natural way?
Are you being rude to support staff (JAs, case managers, etc) prior to or following your interviews?
Is your winning personality showing through at all, or do you just seem like a very smart automaton?

I suggest these reflection points, because--in my experience--these are the mistakes I saw most often from applicants (especially applicants who were otherwise clearly prepared and qualified).

The interview is to confirm that you are as smart and capable-seeming as your resume/transcripts/et al say you are.

It is also--and perhaps even more so--to see what kind of person you are, and whether you are someone we'd want to hang out with for a year in close quarters.

Lastly, and possibly most important: you have no idea whether the two judges that rejected you thought it was an easy call or a very close one. In one instance, we came down to two applicants who were very different, but who we felt were equally-good candidates. Ultimately, only one of them got the job. The one who didn't get it may not realize that it was almost a literal coin flip. If you knew that your rejections were the result of an unlucky coin flip, you wouldn't want to change your approach too much, right?

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Re: Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 14, 2019 2:27 pm

Permanent clerk here, and I agree with everything HillandHollow said. Adding on to HillandHollow's last point, one year my COA judge interviewed two candidates for an open position -- the candidate I wanted (with the best application and writing sample), and the one who was being strongly pushed by a district court judge who is friends with my judge. The interviews were very comparable, and in the end, they didn't make any difference -- the personally referred candidate won out, which is the same thing that would have happened if no interview had occurred. And on the flip side, there was another year where my judge interviewed a weak candidate just to appease a pushy recommender, but there was really no chance that candidate was going to get the job, no matter how well the interview went. Being rejected after an interview doesn't necessarily mean that you did anything wrong in the interview.

However, you should definitely also consider the questions HillandHollow asked, since it's possible that there is something you're doing that isn't working well for you. (My main suspicion would be that you're prepping so much that you're coming across as fake and unnatural.)

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Re: Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 14, 2019 3:18 pm

OP here - I really appreciate the feedback!

I feel like I've been fairly laid back in my interviews since they've all been more conversational rather than pure Q&A. The canned answer point is interesting; I've been trying to balance coming off as prepared with being more natural throughout my prep. I've been practicing with one person up to this point so I'll start branching out to get additional feedback on my demeanor from more people.

I've also received conflicting advice about framing answers with a roadmap (e.g. I want to clerk for three reasons) versus a more organic approach (e.g. I want to strengthen X during my clerkship so I can do Y in the future). Where do you guys/gals fall on that spectrum?


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Re: Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

Post by nixy » Tue May 14, 2019 3:27 pm

I think roadmaps tend to sound more canned, but that could just be me.

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Re: Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

Post by anonymous117 » Tue May 14, 2019 3:43 pm

I want to chime in (anon, due to personal info) to say that sometimes it takes time, so don't get discouraged. Some people go into one interview and land the clerkship, but that's not how it works for everyone. It didn't for me, and it was really hard, especially with interviews where it felt like the judge and I got along great. Here are some things I did to improve and land the clerkship:

- Mock interviews. As awkward as they are, there's no harm in it, and the mock interviewer could give good feedback
- I don't know if you've been speaking to former clerks prior to interviews, but do that. They might give insight on what the judge looks for, or they could just calm your nerves.
- Keep your recommenders up to date with your interviews, so they can reach out before/after the interview.
- Send a thank you note. I don't know if they help or hurt, but I have heard stories of people getting dinged because they didn't.
- Be confident! The next judge won't know you already had three that didn't work out. And given that you've gotten three interviews in your top-choice district, there will be a next one. Just remind yourself that if the judge is interviewing you, they think you are qualified and want to hire you. Someone told me "if you have an interview, the job is yours to take, so go take it," and while maybe not always the best advice, it helped me to be a lot more confident. Also telling myself that the others did not work out so I could get this one. Maybe you will be a way better fit with the next judge. Just keep that in mind.
Last edited by QContinuum on Mon May 27, 2019 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Think I Blew It - Next Steps?

Post by lavarman84 » Tue May 14, 2019 11:33 pm

nixy wrote:I think roadmaps tend to sound more canned, but that could just be me.
I think it's going to depend on your personality. I tended to use roadmaps for some questions to make sure I hit my key points. But my issue was never my ability to improvise or come off as natural. It was making sure my answers were organized and covered all of the key points I wanted to make.

The reality of the interview process is that you have the opportunity to learn from each interview. It took me four or five interviews to land my COA clerkship. I believe two of my rejections came down to what was essentially a coin flip based on what the judges said. But I whiffed badly on the one I wanted the most (and that's where I learned that I needed to use the roadmap).

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