I recently interviewed University of Oklahoma Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione, and in that interview he talked about how candidates for jobs often torpedo their chances with one thing. That thing is what I want to talk with you about. Because whether you’re interviewing to be a head coach at a major university, or to be a first year associate at a law firm, the principle is the same. And if you are able to hurdle this obstacle in the interview, you will separate yourself as one of, if not the, top choices.
Okay so what is the one thing Joe talked about? He said of certain candidates,
You would be surprised…there are many who pursue a job. Want the job…and you get to the point about talking reality in what they would do if given that chance, and you really find out if they’re fully prepared like they think they are. They want the role, but I don’t think they are fully prepared to do the job. And there is a big difference. Because all of a sudden this wave of accountability starts washing over them and they begin to understand that they are going to be facing some expectations.
I was transparent in some of my comments that this has been me at different times in my career. There were jobs I wanted, and perhaps was even qualified and prepared for on paper, but when it came down to my confidence level based on my actual preparation for that role, I was not ready.
What about you? Do you really want THIS job? Or do you just want the salary, title, prestige of the firm, city, etc? The latter, if found out, could cost you the job.
There are two ways this issue can manifest itself in the interview: 1) you, like me in my example and in Joe’s as well, are not actually prepared for the role; and/or 2) you are prepared and confident, but it doesn’t come through during the interview. Let’s look at each of these.
You can be prepared to be a good lawyer, and at the same time not be prepared for a particular job or role. The simplest way to boil this down, is that in this case you haven’t really given a lot of thought to what it would actually be like to do the job. You aren’t familiar with the types of clients you would be dealing with, the day-to-day tasks a partner may ask you to do, what the hours are really like, what it’s going to mean for your multiple hobbies you currently enjoy, what the career path looks like in relation to the career path that is in your head. Those are questions that a good interviewer will probe and tease out during an interview, and if it is clear you haven’t given much thought to any of this, you will not come across prepared for the job.
Now, it is possible you’ve appropriately considered the job ahead of the interview, but for whatever reason you have trouble communicating it to the interviewer. A couple of things here:
1) it’s important to really connect your experiences with what the employer does. Confidently show that everything you have done and been through in your life has prepared you to do exactly what this employer does. Of course, you must use specific language or it will sound like something you say in every interview. So an example might be, “I observed dozens of depositions while at my clerkship last summer. I also worked with my partner every step of the way in preparing for each of those depositions ahead of time. So I know what it takes to conduct a successful deposition and can do that for you right out of the gate.”; and
2) get very specific in your interview preparation. When you have the opportunity to ask questions, be sure to follow up broad questions with specifics, or lead with specific statements. So don’t just ask “what is it like to work here day-to-day?” That is a broad question which you could have asked to any employer who happened to be sitting across from you. Instead follow that question up with, “for example in the recent case where you represented the trucking company that was being sued because its driver was negligent behind the wheel, what would my role have been on that case had I been here?”
Employers need to feel assured you have thought this through, and are prepared to do the job. Make sure that’s the case; otherwise why are you interviewing there to begin with?!