It’s that glorious time chock full of barbeques, poolside relaxation, the smell of sunscreen, and sunshine-filled, long, warm days.
Not up here in the Office of Career Services, though. You’d think it was 6 PM on Christmas Eve in the jewelry department at Bloomingdales up here. It’s crazy time! For us, summer means that the clerkship application season is in full gear and Fall OCI is just around the corner. June is the time that cover letters and resumes by the ton are being edited, mock interviews are underway, and there is a massive outreach to the many employers who will flow through our doors later in the summer to scoop up our wonderful students. So as you are preparing for our little OCS “Christmas in July”, now would be a good time to consider some of our tips for job interviews.
Below is a list of job interview tips to review as you prepare for your upcoming interviews. It’s not an exhaustive list, and some of the items may seem basic, but it is always worth remembering to save the low cut blouse for the weekend and wear the conservative shell on interview day. And by the way, if you remember nothing else, remember this is an interview PSA---P because no one likes a Phony; S because no one wants to hire a Stalker and A because Arrogance is not an attractive trait in the job market.
The job interview is a place where you are very quickly sized up to see if you are a fit in the workplace, i.e. to see if the interviewers would want to work with you. You want to appear likeable and amazingly skilled and make them want you because, well you are just like them, likeable and amazingly skilled. So here goes—the short and dirty list of essentials (like lip balm but better) to carry in your mental purse/briefcase when you go to an interview:
1. Don't be late.
It’s evidence of your work ethic and habits. “Late” is a big red flag. It causes people to think….will you regularly be late to work? Late with assignments? Late to client meetings? And if you have to be late for some unusual reason (because let’s face it we cannot always control mass transit) you’d better have a great excuse that proves your lateness was indeed beyond your control.
I once interviewed a young woman for a job whose car had been rear-ended on the way to the interview. Despite the accident, she still arrived to our meeting almost on time since she had left her home an extra 2 hours early to ensure she wouldn’t be late. She also got extra credit for being completely unshaken and amazingly poised even though her rear bumper was hanging off of her car when she drove into the parking lot. In short she presented cool, calm, and collected, and eager to show me how much she wanted and could succeed at the job. I hired her on the spot. Punctual? Check. Able to deal with the unexpected and deal with stress without breaking a sweat or being thrown off her game? Check. Able to be dependable and likeable too? Check.
Don’t be late. Or stated another way, DON’T BE LATE.
2. Your appearance matters - take some pains with it.
We’ve bored you to tears up in OCS with the blue/black/gray suit lecture (with white shirt, cream blouse, no garish ties, small purse blah, blah blah). But how about remembering all the other things about your appearance that people notice? Do a quick inventory before you head off to the interview.
Do NOT smell bad. Actually don’t smell at all---strong odors of cologne give me a headache. I don’t want to work next to someone who reeks of anything. Get a haircut, a beard trim and a general “neatening” and wash, comb and neatly style yourself. Make sure your suit is clean, neat, pressed, the pieces match and it fits. Please get it tailored properly and be tucked where you need to be. Sit up straight and do not slouch. Clean your nails. For men wearing a white shirt is essential but wear an undershirt too. Please! For women, wear hose. It’s an interview not a cocktail party. No gum chewing! And no grabbing a last smoke to calm your nerves: trust me, that will break the “don’t smell bad” rule.
Everyone smile. Smile. You are not going to the electric chair, for Pete’s sake. You are having a conversation with a potential employer. Smile. Be direct and look at the interviewer when you’re talking. Do not swivel, rock or fidget in the chair. It’s an interview, not a ride at Great Adventure, and no interviewer wants to pop Dramamine because of your rapid movements in a small confined space!
3. Do the work before the interview.
Do ample research about the firm, its practice areas and about the interviewers as well. Research the judge. And “research” doesn’t mean five minutes on a website – it includes checking out your prospective employer in the legal newspapers and on Lexis or Westlaw or Bloomberg. Not doing the research---not knowing what the place or person is all about signals a lack of interest in the job.
Ask questions too---show an interest in the place. You WANT to be there right? Remember, though, there is no cookie cutter approach to this. Some interviewers like to talk about themselves---others only want to talk about you. So be savvy; size up the interviewer’s style and show him or her that you know enough about the firm to know it is the right place for you.
And remember to do this effectively, you have to do the work on yourself too. IS it the right place for you? Know your strong points, your weak ones, what you want to do or explore, what you have to offer and why you are a great fit there, etc. And if you don’t want to be there, don’t waste the interviewer’s time. Or yours. Move along and find your fit. Let someone else do the research on that place while you find one that fits you!
4. Be careful with the chit chat.
No one likes a name dropper, so don’t drop names unless it is appropriate (don’t mention that Bon Jovi is your friend’s cousin…unless you can bring him in as a client…and the interviewer is a huge Bon Jovi fan). Don’t bad mouth prior employers or professors or other firms; in fact, don’t be negative. Don’t appear too social either. The firm wants someone to do the work, not someone to salsa dance with the staff. But do turn on the personality. Who wants to work with someone dull and boring?
Find a balance--that sweet spot where you can accurately describe yourself or ask questions without being too intrusive or violating the TMI rule. Don’t get too personal---either in your descriptions of yourself or your questions, but get personal enough so the interviewer knows you are an interesting person, a team player who will be a good worker and an asset to the firm---someone good to have as a co-worker. Look around the room at what is in the interviewer’s office or at the firm and look for commonality or things to talk about if the opportunity is there and appropriate.
Most important is to “be you.” That is how you are most comfortable, right? Just being you. And if you are internally comfortable, chances are you will be more at ease answering questions, more on your “A” game and come across more poised and better overall. Don’t be phony or “tell them what they want to hear.” They want to get to know you and gauge whether you will be a fit. Most people see through phonies. Be “you.” But not too much “you.” Remember it’s an interview so no snacking, yawning, being casual or answering your cell phone. Just relax. You are just fine.
5. Follow up after the interview.
Remember to say “thank you” and shake hands with the interviewer and anyone else you meet at the firm…including the administrative staff. It’s just plain common courtesy, and they often have a lot of sway with the employer.
Be humble and appreciative, not arrogant. Remember those thank you notes. Make sure you get everyone’s contact information so you can quickly send your thanks….right after the interview when everything is fresh in your mind. And personalize the notes, don’t just be generic. You want them to remember you! And if you do not hear back in two-three weeks or so, follow up with a gentle reminder e-mail or phone call to say that you are out there, hoping and praying that you land with them and only them!
And remember to come off as sincerely wanting to work for that employer not as a stalker (see the PSA above) who continually pesters the employer for updates on whether you will be offered the job. Do not stalk---seek.
6. Visit Career Services.
We are here to help. We are here to listen, run interference, call employers for you, help with leg work, edit, conduct mock interviews, provide even more tips for job interviews, boost your morale, do all the things you need as well as be your job search support system. We are your biggest cheerleaders so use us!
Up in Career Services we are almost eggnog drunk with excitement…Our Christmas in July is almost here and the best gifts, the jobs that you are coveting are all packaged and waiting to be unwrapped. Come on up and let’s get the holiday started!