The interview is the primary opportunity for a candidate to either shine or fall on their face when it comes to pursuing an offer.
The interview is the primary opportunity for a candidate to either shine – or fall on their face – when it comes to pursuing an offer. As an initial matter, you should appear professional at all times – both in dress and demeanor. This means that you should be professional to everyone you encounter, and not just the partners. You should also appear motivated. This is the second key to impressing law firms. Firms are like people – they want individuals who want them. Firms also like individuals who are wanted. Mentioning that you have other firms interested in you can also play to your advantage.
The third key to impressing law firms is to give impressive answers to their questions. This requires serious preparation. A candidate should be ready to answer every obvious and likely question. This includes questions about their resume, their work at their current firm, why they are on the market, what they are looking for in a firm, etc. You should also take the opportunity to be a “showman” (within reason, of course). You should appear excited and energetic, and be willing to use appropriate facial expressions and hand gestures. This is also true on telephone interviews. Even though the interviewer cannot see you, your excitement and energy (or notable lack of it) will come through your voice. Answering questions is a prime opportunity to sell yourself. This is not a time to be shy about achievements or how others have praised you. You also want to show a personality that is outgoing, engaged and entertaining (within reason). Firms want to work with people who are good to work with. It is also important, of course, not to give answers that make you look bad. Never bad-mouth your own firm or make tasteless jokes.
The fourth key is to ask impressive questions. Asking good questions is also an opportunity to sell yourself. They should be clear, thoughtful and relevant. Asking a lot of smart questions about the firm and your practice area also shows interest, and thus motivation. It also makes you look good by showing that you are intelligent, savvy and well-prepared. You can also make yourself look good with questions that suggest good things about you (such as you are a hard worker, believe client relationships are important, etc.). Another example of an excellent question is “how will you inform me if I am doing an excellent job for you? Another advantage to this question is that it also suggests that you are serious about the quality of your work. In addition to asking questions about the firm, asking partners about their own practices is also an excellent way to make positive connections. However, it is best to avoid more sensitive questions regarding compensation, benefits, hours, etc. until later in the process. In sum, interviews generally revolve around two things – appearance, presentation and questions (both asking and answering). Excelling in these areas provide the keys to impressing law firms.