The Most Important Interview Tip I Can Give You
Okay, so the headline is quite a tease and I apologize I’m not going to give you the answer right away. Before I reveal the most important interview tip, here are the tips that ]]>
Be prepared – this should go without saying, but it is important and sometimes overlooked. Interviewers can tell who has done their research and who hasn’t, and it can become an easy way for them to eliminate candidates when narrowing the pool down to a more manageable number.
Want the job – sometimes students go overboard in an effort to not appear too excited or desperate for the position. This is a mistake. Often when employers are down to just a few candidates, all of whom they feel could do the job, it will be the candidate they perceive as the most interested in the position who will get the job. Most employers want to hire someone who will be there for a decent amount of time, and the candidate’s interest in the job is one indicator of that.
Ask great questions – this one is interesting because it is really an offshoot of (1) and (2). If you prepare well and demonstrate genuine interest in the job, it will show in the quality of the questions you ask. You can use research you’ve done on the employer as a jumping off point for a question (ex. I saw your firm recently added a Bankruptcy partner; is that an area you are looking to grow moving forward?). Avoid “process” questions such as “when might you make a decision” or “how many clerks are you planning to hire?” (For the life of me I don’t understand the value of that last one, yet it gets asked fairly often).
Now that we’ve dispensed with the “runner-up” tips, I can spend some time on the most important interview tip I can give you: create, develop and get comfortable with your personal story (i.e. your elevator pitch). It is common to be asked early in an interview to “tell me about yourself.” However, when I ask students that question in a mock interview, it tends to be the one they have the most trouble with. When addressing the reason for the struggle, the most prevalent response is “I’m not comfortable talking about myself.” “I don’t know what they want to hear” is another refrain.
Here’s my advice on how to prepare to tell your story and communicate it clearly and succinctly:
- Start at the beginning. I’m always disappointed when the first words out of a student’s mouth are “I’m a 2L at Baylor Law School, studying trusts and estates.” Why? Because it’s very difficult to then go back and fill me in on the first 20+ years of your life. And even if that was the intent, it doesn’t happen. Where are you from? How did you get from there to here? These are important to mention and not skip over.
- Identify four to six key moments or stages in your life that you would say directly contributed to your being in law school and interviewing for this job. Maybe it was debating in high school. Were you a devoted watcher of a legal drama on TV growing up? Was your mom in an accident when you were younger, and a helpful attorney made an impression on you? You aren’t going to tell these stories in their entirety (there won’t be time); but you do want to provide a sample of something interesting they might want to know more about.
- Practice, practice, practice. Because you know you’re going to be asked some version of this question, it only makes sense that you should prepare the answer ahead of time. I suggest you plan on approximately 90 seconds, and if you feel they want more you can always go back and fill in your key moments with more detail. Lock this answer in, and you’ll not only be prepared when the question comes, you will deliver it with confidence. Knowing how to talk about yourself and tell your story is critical in an interview. Because the question typically comes at the beginning (maybe even #1), it can set the stage for the rest of the interview. If you knock this answer out of the park, you are in good shape and even have some room to slip up here and there and still have a solid performance. If, on the other hand, you struggle through this answer, you start off way behind and it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to come back.