Posted by Robert Half Legal on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 11:00 | Follow me
When you’re in the running for a legal job opening, the in-person interview is a make-or-break moment. It’s the point where you become more than just a resume to the hiring manager, where you demonstrate your personality, character and intelligence -- among other intangibles -- to a law firm or legal department.
In other words, it’s when the firm decides whether or not you’re a truly desirable candidate.
Before the interview, come up with three to five of your best professional attributes. Come back to these points of strength whenever you can during the interview.
So how do you best emphasize, throughout the interview, the things about your background and experience that make you right for this particular job -- and a good person to hire in general? Start preparing several days in advance with these four steps:
Review your resume from the point of view of the company with which you’re interviewing. Take a fresh look at the advertisement for the open position and carefully read through the requirements. Then compare your own experience and skills with that list. Note the places where the two overlap, and throughout the interview, frame your answers with those qualities and qualifications in mind. For instance, if the job description includes a requirement to bring in business, make sure you tell the hiring manager about any successful pitches you’ve made to land new clients when he or she asks what makes you a good candidate for the position.
Determine your strongest selling points. Yes, you’ll probably get to answer the classic interview question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” But don’t wait until you hear that query to emphasize your strengths. Before the interview, come up with three to five of your best professional attributes: Maybe you’re a great project manager or an excellent negotiator; perhaps you’re bilingual or you have technical skills most legal professionals don’t have. Come back to these points of strength whenever you can during the interview.
Give them something to remember you by. The hiring committee is probably seeing a number of people in the first round of interviews for any legal job, so you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. One way to do that is to tell a memorable story about your background that explains why you chose to get into the field of law and provides insight into your character and personality. Practice telling the story to a friend or into an audio recorder app to make sure it’s not too long or ponderous -- you want to intrigue the interviewers, not exhaust them.
Don’t forget about soft skills. Employers are interested in your credentials and your experience, but they’re also using the interview to figure out whether you’d be a good person to work with; and a lot of that has to do with your interpersonal skills. Throughout the interview, you should speak with a self-confidence that’s solid but not arrogant, and you should always show enthusiasm about the job and the legal profession. If you’re not sure how well you’re exhibiting these traits, ask a relative or friend to run through a mock interview with you and then provide honest feedback about your performance.
When interviewing for a law job, you want to present yourself in as favorable a light as possible. But don’t be tempted to exaggerate or lie, which will inevitably come back to hurt you. Always be honest and make the best case you can for yourself by highlighting your strengths.