Your Legal Job Search: How to Analyze Performance After an Interview to Boost Your Legal Career


After any major case or project is complete, a debriefing can help legal professionals identify what they could do to improve the next time around. The same principle holds true during the interview process of your legal job search. It’s essential to analyze your performance after each interview, so you can pinpoint mistakes and plan improvements.

Here are four questions to ask yourself as part of a self-debriefing:

1. Was I well prepared?

Were you caught off guard by any questions during your interview? As the great auto racing champion Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” To nail your interview, preparation is crucial. So before your next meeting, thoroughly research the company or law firm and find out as much as possible about your interviewer. For example, say the hiring firm primarily focuses on litigation, including insurance defense, antitrust lawsuits, and employment and class action matters. The interviewer will probably ask you about the specifics of your litigation experience, including the practice areas and courts in which you’ve worked. 

If you’re interviewing with a corporate legal department, the hiring manager will delve into your legal skills as well, but you may also be asked how you’d help support the business goals of the company while saving money and minimizing risk exposure. Make a list of likely questions that you’ll face, and carefully prepare responses. Above all, add any “surprise” questions from your first interview to your prep list for your next round of interviews.

2. Did I make a good first impression?

Throughout your legal career, you will find that first impressions are critical. That’s not just a cliché; it’s actually backed up by mountains of evidence. For example, a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people can form impressions of others based on such factors as clothing style and posture. Some research suggests employers decide whether or not to hire a person within the first few minutes of the interview.

So consider the impression you made:  Did you arrive on time? When you met the interviewer, did you smile confidently and give the interviewer a firm handshake? Were you polite and respectful to everyone you met, including the receptionist or front office staff? Did you feel underdressed? If you didn’t put your best foot forward during this interview, think about what you can do to make a stronger impression the next time around in your legal job search.

3. How did I handle the questions?

Not only should you anticipate interview questions; it’s also important to carefully plan and practice your responses. In retrospect, did your answers clearly demonstrate your knowledge, practice area experience and skills? For example, as you responded, did you highlight your strong business background, litigation experience, eDiscovery expertise or knowledge of regulatory law? If not, you’ll need to work on your responses before the next interview. When you think ahead about the questions the interviewer might ask, you’ll be more likely to offer smart, eloquent responses. Also, consider how you might handle off-the-wall or surprising questions. After all, you can’t anticipate every question an interviewer may ask, but the more you can anticipate questions, the more it will help in your legal career.

4. What was the best part of the interview?

When self-debriefing, it’s easy to focus exclusively on the negative. However, it’s important to think about the positive aspects as well. At what point in the interview did you feel you were at your best? If there were some standout positive moments, be sure to repeat your actions or responses, when appropriate, during your next interview. 

As you continue your legal job search, set a goal of improving from one interview to the next. If you take the time to self-debrief after each interview, you’ll hone your skills and help your legal career follow the path you choose.

How do you debrief after an interview? Share your tips in the comments.


Tags: Interviewing