If you’re in law school, you’ve probably had to interview at some point in your career. A norm in getting any type of job, interviews are a skill to master.
Kerriann Stout, Assistant Professor of Law at Vermont Law School and founder of Vinco (a bar exam coaching company), says interviewing is like dating — the better you are at it, the better your outcome.
Stout recently wrote an article for Above The Law giving interviewing advice for those who hate to interview.
“In terms of the most dreaded activities in the legal profession, interviewing is right up there with networking and attending CLEs,” Stoute says. “To me, interviewing is the same as going on a series of first dates where you desperately want to be in a relationship and the other person plays it cool.”
How do you play it cool? Stout says you need to prep for before, during, and after the interview. Before going into an interview, the number one thing you should do is research.
“Hopefully, you know the names of the people you will be meeting with and can now put those years of internet stalking to good use,” Stout says. “You don’t want to dive so deep that you freak your interviewer (or date) out, but if there is a piece of information readily available about him or her in a Google search, you should know it.”
Yet, Stout says it’s a good idea to also research your own presence online. “Do a quick search of your own name,” she says. “The prospective employer is probably searching you as well and you want to know exactly what they will see. This is also a good time to review any interview materials you submitted.”
Stout’s advice on researching yourself seems to ring true. According to Yale Law, “prospective employers may conduct Internet research to learn more about you than what you’ve shared through your application materials. It is important for you to maintain a professional online image.”
Once you’ve prepared yourself before the interview, you need to know what to do during your meeting. Stout says this is where first impressions matter most.
“An interviewer told me that after a candidate has established that he or she has the minimum qualifications necessary for a job, the next consideration is whether he actually likes the candidate personally, and if he or she is someone he would want to work with on a daily basis,” Stout says.
The easiest way to make a good impression is to dress professionally. Yale Law released a clear and concise list, for women and men, on what you should wear when interviewing. When hesitant, go conservative.
- Black, navy and gray are the most conservative colors, but other subtle shades are also fine. Solids are preferable to patterns.
- If worn, skirts should be around knee length. Wearing pantyhose (as opposed to bare legs) is the more conservative approach.
- Avoid low-cut shirts. Tank tops are too casual.
- Keep heels on the shorter side. Stay away from sling backs, open toes, elaborate bows, buckles etc.
- Keep jewelry simple so as not to distract you or the interviewer.
- Carry a briefcase or folder that contains your interview materials. If you carry a briefcase, you may not wish to also carry a purse or and external frame backpack. Keep it simple and minimal.
- Suit should be a well-tailored pin-striped or plain wool single-breasted suit in navy or gray.
- Ties should be tasteful color and design. The width of your tie should be between 2 ¾ and 3 ½ inches and should extend to your trouser belt
- Wear a plain, light-colored long-sleeved shirt—white or light blue work well
- Shoes should be polished with socks that complement the suit. Shoes should match your belt
- Hair should be neatly cut. Although long hair is not recommended, if you have it, pull it back into a neat ponytail. Beards and mustaches should be trimmed or, if acceptable to you, removed.
- Carry a briefcase or folder that contains your interview materials.
The other important aspect to remember during an interview, Stout says, is to listen. While an employer may be interviewing you, it will make a good impression if you know how to listen. Stout compares this to a first date scenario. Know when to speak and when to listen.
“It is crucial during a job interview to listen to understand, not just respond,” she says. “Don’t just be interesting be interested. Ask questions, not just because you have to, but also because you genuinely want to know more.”
One of the biggest mistakes people make when interviewing is trying to say “the right answer.” This often is what causes people to mess up an interview by being overly nervous. “Pausing to give a well thought out answer will usually be more effective than rushing to fill the silence,” Stout says.
Once you’ve completed an interview, it’s important that you reach out to thank your interviewer. “It is not only the nice thing to do, but it also lets the interview know you are seriously interested in the position,” Stout says.
When you’ve gone through each phase of preparation and have put all your effort out there in the interview, there’s not much more you can do. Send your thank you note, but don’t get stuck up on “what ifs”.
“An interview, like a date, is in every way a pitch,” Stout says. “You are putting yourself out there, proposing an idea, and have the chance to get hurt or let down in the process. The very best advice my business mentor has given me on pitching is to quickly put it behind you and move on to the next thing.”
Sources: Above The Law, Yale Law School