By Brenda Bernstein
The Essay Expert
In a U.S. News & World Report article by Alison Green entitled “9 Ways to Ruin a Job Interview,” the author highlights 9 interview faux pas, including answering your cell phone during the interview and badmouthing an old boss.
Since one of my areas of expertise is legal interviews, I thought it would be useful to provide 9 ways to ruin a legal job interview:
- Be negative about anything. Don’t say you didn’t like the kind of work you were doing at your prior firm. If you didn’t like something before, the interviewer will assume you probably won’t like the work at their company either. Didn’t like a law school or paralegal school class? If you’re asked for a dislike, find something minor that you didn’t like and emphasize what you did like and learn.
- Be late. I don’t care whether your car broke down or your subway stalled or your printer cut off part of the address of the firm. Plan to get to the interview an hour early and none of these events will make you late. And always have the firm’s phone number somewhere where you can’t possibly lose it, so if anything delays you (in spite of your plan to get there an hour early) you can call as soon as you know there is a problem.
- Question whether you want the job. The interview is not the place to have doubts! After you get a job offer, worry about whether you want the job. If you express doubts and express them even through your tone or body language during the interview, you can be sure you won’t get the offer.
- Apologize for your life. Your life is your life and you’ve made the choices you’ve made. Be proud or at least accepting, state the facts as the facts and never apologize!
- Be lost about the statutes and case law you’ve worked on before. Interviewers will ask you about the specific cases you worked on and what case law you used to support your arguments. They want to know that you can remember an argument without having to look at your papers. You must review your prior cases and work and be ready to answer questions about them.
- Ask salary information. This is a big no-no! You will get your salary information after you get the offer!
- Don’t do your research. In a legal job this means you didn’t look at the firm’s website, you don’t know what areas they practice, or you don’t know what cases they’ve recently or historically won. All this information is readily available on the firm website and on Martindale.com. If you don’t do this research the interviewer will wonder whether you’ll do your research on the job.
- Use casual/chatty language. We all want to be friendly, but don’t get too buddy-buddy with your interviewer. You are interviewing as a professional and your demeanor will be judged. Exhibit the demeanor in an interview that you would exhibit in court.
- Lie. (this was borrowed from Alison Green’s article) You must not lie in any interview, and in a legal interview it is especially important. Any fraudulent behavior in a legal setting means potential malpractice. I’d rather you make any of the other 8 mistakes listed in this article than mess up on this one.
If you avoid these 9 pitfalls you will be in a great stance to succeed in your legal job search. What it comes down to is do your research, be prepared and be positive. You’ll knock ‘em off their feet!