Its around that time of the year- exams and job interviews. For final year students, its the culmination of everything they have been dreaming of and working towards. One might be brilliant but, unfortunately, that does not always translate into a good interview. A great curriculum vitae needn't convert to a great job. How to prevent this from happening?
The first thing to remember is that all academic and other important achievements can be seen on your CV- at the interview, well, its all about the interview! It is the single most important event in the process of landing a job. While shortlisting, your potential employers have scanned your Resume. It is at the interview that this Resume becomes a person- that is more than just the passport photograph you might have affixed.
We have all either been through our fair share of interviews or are about to embark upon that mostly stressful journey. Like with most situations, interviews can be a lot more relaxed if one is prepared- not only with your subjects/ academics but also vis-a-vis handling the interview (and interviewer) itself. Easier said than done, you might say. And we empathise with your sentiments. It is towards this that we have attempted to put together this post- breaking down the process of an interview into the various constituent aspects.
First and foremost, UNDERSTAND THE OBJECTIVE OF THE INTERVIEW.
The main idea is to convince the employer that you are a desirable candidate. Also, through the interview, subtly you must also try to understand whether the employer is good for you.
Remain poised, enthusiastic, self-confident (not overly) and pleasant during the interview. You must convey to your employer that you are more interested in the opportunity to grow and learn which the job offers more than the compensation. This is true more for freshers- remember the real learning begins on your first job. Here you will learn more in the first six months than you did through your entire college life.
Show that you are a team player, adaptable, a fast learner and willing to work hard. After all, one who shirks from hard work and long hours isn't really cut out for the profession of law and that is the hard truth of it. Show your eagerness to take on responsibilities and your achievement oriented outlook.
Understand the company/ Firm you are interviewing at. What is their area of specialisation, work practice and ethics etc?
The process of going beyond your Resume- though not in a flashy show offy kind of manner is a very tricky task. Your appearance, demeanor and speech should all aim toward demonstrating your desirable qualities to your interviewer. Avoid the common mistake of focusing on how beneficial the job will be for you -you need to show the employer the skills and qualities you will bring as assets to the firm. To show your interest in this employer, be specific and show your knowledge.
Then, remember that INTERVIEWING IS A 2 WAY STREET. The firm only makes the preliminary decisions-whether to extend a callback and make an offer. You are the one who decides whether to accept the offer. Often, students get to the last step towards deciding between offers and can still not distinguish between firms. So, in a humble way, try to ask questions to your interviewer as well. If done correctly, apart from making a good impression, this would help you in obtaining real information from your potential employer.
One cannot stress more on the importance of remaining POSITIVE. NEVER bad-mouth anyone or anything at an interview. To start with, any interviewer is smart enough to know that if you can bad-mouth others, you can/ might speak ill of them as well. Adopting a positive tone conveys that you are enthusiastic and pleasant to be around. This does not mean that you talk as though nothing is wrong with anything. Remember, negatives can also be presented in a positive manner. For example, if you are asked what was your least favorite course in law school, while describing why you disliked the class, say what you would have liked to improve about it. Rephrase your answers using positive speech forms.
It is important to talk about your past failures and shortcomings as well. Nobody succeeds without any failures at all- so be comfortable with that- don't try to cover them up or sidestep them. Should the interviewer ask about them, try to explain the circumstances rather than find excuses or blame others. Discuss what steps you have taken to make up for these shortcomings. You create a better impression by being candid and by demonstrating your eagerness to overcome past failures.
BE HONEST. As the popular joke these days goes- Be honest, even a phone can be smart! The fact that you want the job very badly should not cause you to say things which are not true. If you do land the job, things will all find a way to come to light and that will cause irreversible damage to your career- whether in the current job or any other. You are not superhuman and you are not expected to be. Your interviewers might look like superhumans, but they know they are not. So relax! In fact, talk about your weaknesses as this makes you appear human. And the fact that you recognise your weaknesses shows your maturity- very important!
Like mentioned above, RELAX!
Remember that the interview isn't completely under your control. There are several parameters at stake. Some you know of and others your don't. Take the interview seriously. Respect the Firm and the interviewers. Don't, however, pressurise yourself by thinking that a wrong step will cause irreparable, career-long damage. Try to consider each interview to be a positive learning experience, no matter what the outcome.
Now, we come to the ground reality- the substance of the interview. How does one PREPARE FOR AN INTERVIEW? What questions will be asked?
Think about yourself. SELF ASSESSMENT is crucial. Understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you are ready for whatever questions come your way. Remind yourself of your personal strengths and achievements academically, in employment, and personally- DON'T OVERRATE OR UNDERESTIMATE ANY OF THESE.
Make a shortlist of your strong points of saleability or USPs as they are popularly know vis-a-vis particular organisations. Analyse how these could distinguish you from your peers and other candidates.Here are some clues that could help- Have you developed special client service or teamwork skills? Does anything in your Resume demonstrate the ability to take initiative and/ or willingness to take ownership? Do you have a technical background? Can you bring in business? Tell your interviewer!
Also try to assess what you want from an employer generally, not specifically. Most law students are not informed enough to know exactly what they want and interviewers know this. Try to develop an idea of what kind of experience you're looking for and learn how to speak knowledgeably in this area. You may consider taking the help of your professors. Also, internships go a long way in helping. Incidentally, while undergoing your internships, go beyond assignments allotted to you and try spending more and more time interacting with your seniors- from various departments. Attempt to learn about the reality of the profession you are endeavouring to take up, how the Firm works, the technicalities of being in a job- even the politics that goes into it all.
Further, review and understand your own background before the interview. Be ready to discuss everything on it intelligently and knowledgeably. You might be asked to account for any period of time covered in it.
Learn about your potential employer. If and where possible, also about the interviewer. Being prepared will help your be comfortable and also enunciate your tendency to be prepared for tasks you will be assigned on the job. Your knowledge about the employer will also demonstrate that you are serious about your career goals, are selective about the jobs that interest you, and that you understand what it means to work in that particular organisation. Prior research can also help you in avoiding embarrassing situations.
In all likelihood, you will be asked about GRADES sooner than you realise. If your grades aren't as strong as you would like them to be, don't make excuses. Being defensive about your grades can be fatal. Talk about your grades positively--convey to the interviewer that you are comfortable and confident in your law school studies-- and be sure to emphasize other aspects of your qualifications.
CREATING A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION is very crucial. Appearances are deceptive- but important. Just one of the ironies, perhaps! It is surprising how quickly many employers make up their mind about candidates.
Remember to DRESS LIKE A LAWYER. Your attire should show RESPECT towards your interviewers, profession and if seeing from your interviewer's eyes, even your future clients. Shined shoes, hair (including facial hair, if applicable) that is neat, clean and nicely cut, and clean and clipped nails are all the basics one cannot afford to go wrong with. Clothing should be understated, conservative (usually this means dark colors), pressed and brushed. Perfume, after-shave lotion and cologne should be used sparingly if at all. If you are a smoker, do not smoke prior to an interview. Too much jewelry, particularly dangling earrings, is distracting. Avoid overdoing the make-up. Remember that employers will see you from the back as well as from the front; check your appearance from both perspectives.
Remember to carry extra copies of your Resume as the interviewer may come unprepared. Sometimes they ask for a copy just to test the candidate's preparedness. Cellphones must be switched off. Your demeanor should be dignified, friendly and confident. Shake hands (firmly, but not bone-crushingly) with everyone to whom you are introduced. Make eye contact, don't fidget and keep your hands away from your face. Try to keep your posture confident- avoid crossing your arms across your chest as this is considered a defensive posture. Smile- not too much. Avoid nervous mannerisms such as "you know" and "honestly speaking" or nervous laughter. Before you leave, thank your interviewer and express your enjoyment of your meeting. BE PUNCTUAL but do not reach way before time of appointment.
DURING THE INTERVIEW, remember it is OK TO BE NERVOUS. It reminds you and shows the interviewer that you are serious about the interview. Don't overdo the nervousness though!
Try to establish a rapport with your interviewer. Include warmth, a little positive humor, responsiveness and sincere interest in the interviewer. Some interviewers will try to put you at ease and some will try to see how you react to pressure. Both are tests- so don't take either to heart. Hold yourself. Take requisite pauses to gather your thoughts. Talking too much or too fast can be damaging both in terms of image conveyed as well as substance of conversation.
Always listen carefully- this is one of a lawyer's most important underrated-skills. You don't always have to have an impressive answer. Understanding the question can be more important sometimes. Also pay attention to the interviewer's body language- is he getting bored or impatient!?
Try to think of yourself as a lawyer during each of your interviews. Lawyers need to be alert in all of their professional dealings. Even if you answer the same question several times in the course of interviewing, try to respond with the same level of enthusiasm as the first time. If you use a similar answer or anecdote more than once, present it a bit differently each time; this will force you to concentrate and help you avoid sounding "scripted."
No matter how comfortable you feel, or how informal the person interviewing you may seem, never get too relaxed in your demeanour or your answers. Even young interviewers must answer to the hiring committee. Your job is to communicate that you are professional as well as likeable.
NEVER SAY THINGS THAT DISCLOSE HIGHLY PERSONAL ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE.
In the end, here is a list of some common questions asked at interviews. You will be well advised to have answers prepared for these. Do not rehearse the answers so that they sound as though they were dialogues from a play.
Why do you want to work for us?
Why should we hire you?
What do you know about our organization?
How have you spent your summers?
How do you spend your free time?
What experience have you had in organizing or directing clubs and/ or activities?
Tell me about yourself.
Describe yourself in one word.
What are your future career plans?
Why did you choose law?
What courses have you liked best? Least?
What qualifications do you have that make you feel you will be successful in your area of interest?
What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?
What type of people do you feel you work with best?
What type of people would you have trouble working with?
What is your greatest personal asset? Your greatest weakness?
Do you like routine work?
What constitutes "security" in your mind?
What fields interest you other than the one you are in?
What do you really feel are things that help a person become successful?
What constitutes "success" in your mind?
What kinds of things give you the most satisfaction in your work?
What criteria are you using to evaluate the employer for which you hope to work?
What's the worst question you can think of to ask me?
What do you enjoy doing the most?
Why did you only get a "P" in ____?
How would you reconcile being assigned a case you were morally opposed to?
Why do you want to be a lawyer?
Why did you go to law school?
How do you like law school?
How are you doing in school?
What are your grades?
Why are you interested in this firm?
What can I tell you about this firm?
What type of law do you want to do?
Who are your favorite instructors? (Asked by alumni.)
What classes are you taking?
How did you like ___ (work experience)?
What are your ultimate career goals?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten? Twenty?
What is your greatest strength?
What is your greatest weakness?
What one thing have you done that you're proudest of?
Do you have any more questions?
Why do you want to work in [city]? (Be prepared for this one if you have no obvious ties to the area. Firms do not want to waste recruiting efforts on someone who is not committed to their location.)
Offensive or illegal questions
This is a long post- in proportion with the importance with its subject.
We are hopeful the information and suggestions provided would help at least a few of our friends. Please feel free to ask for more ideas and suggestions- as always, we will be happy to help.
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