Pretend for a moment that you are a hiring partner at a firm, and you are looking through a stack of resumes from applicants for a mid-level corporate associate position you need to fill because, fortunately for you, business is booming in your corporate practice and you know that you can better serve your clients and make more money by bringing on another associate to the group.
You make the first cut and pick a couple resumes of candidates who have good credentials in terms of law school and grades, and who have done good high-level work at large or sophisticated mid-sized firms. Now it’s time for the interviews. What do you look for during the interview process? What do you want to hear in terms of answers?
Thinking about your own interview in this way is an extremely helpful exercise. If you are hiring because you need someone capable of assisting the partners in your practice group, servicing your current and future clients, and contributing to the future growth of your firm, you want to hear the candidate explain in detail how they will accomplish all of those things. You want the candidate to be familiar with your practice group and clients, and to have a vision for how their background, skill set, and career goals will best mesh with that dynamic. You want a candidate who expresses enthusiasm for your firm, and for the opportunity to contribute to the firm’s bottom line in terms of performing current work and bringing in future work.
You do not want a candidate to explain why their prior firm was not super great, so they are now looking for the next best thing. You do not want to hear that a candidate is looking to move to the city in which your office resides for “lifestyle” reasons, unless that is relevant to the question of a candidate’s long-term plans and the likelihood they will stick around for more than just a few years to grab a couple paychecks.
Kennedy implored the American people to ask not what the country could do for them, but what they could do for their country. If you are a hiring partner at a firm, you are going to want your candidates to have a similar mindset towards your firm. As an applicant, you are asking the firm to incur the time, effort, and expense of hiring you and integrating you into their practice, over all other potential candidates for the position. You need to sell yourself and your value, and the best way to do that is to think hard about how you can contribute to the firm. I guarantee this approach will increase your chances of success in an interview tenfold.