The definition of interview is "to see each other mutually." Therefore, it can be said that the purpose of an interview, especially as it pertains to job searching, is to provide as much information about you as a potential employer needs to know (and that you need for them to know), and to acquire as much information as possible about the employer, so that each of you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you are the right person for the job.
Your resume has made it through the screening process, and the employer is looking for someone with your credentials - the objective part of the process is finished. Now the prospective employer wants to meet you in person. From this point forward, all decisions about you are going to be purely subjective. The first impression you make on the interviewer is of the utmost importance. S/He will notice immediately if you are dressed professionally, speak articulately, seem confident, knowledgeable, alert, motivated, etc. It is perfectly normal to be nervous before such an experience, but if you come prepared you will soon feel at ease and be capable of handling the interview as a conversation.
Preparation and follow through are essential if you want to reap the greatest benefits from the experience. The first step in your preparation is researching the employer as completely as possible. That includes finding out about the person who will be interviewing you, if you know. When interviewing with a law firm, go to their website. It will tell you the kind of law practiced and the backgrounds of the attorneys who work in the firm. Answer the following questions: Is your interviewer a Chicago‑Kent graduate? Are any of the other attorneys Chicago‑Kent graduates? Where did they get their undergraduate degrees?
Check to see if the Career Services Office has any information on the employer. Get information about the organization from any current or past employees you may know of. Conduct a LinkedIn search to determine whether there are Chicago-Kent alumni who currently work there or worked there in the past, or whether there are Kent students who clerked there. Your goal is to show that you know a great deal about the employer and you are interested in them because of what you know about them.
The second step in preparing yourself for an interview is familiarizing yourself with potential questions that may be asked of you, and formulating your answers to these anticipated questions. Additionally, you should have questions in mind that you want to ask about the employer and possibly the interviewer. Samples are included at the end of this section.
The most important question you should be prepared to answer is "Why should we hire you?" Always be positive, not defensive. Stress your strengths. Do not point out your weaknesses. Answer with a description of the skills you can bring to the firm that will meet their needs. The second most important question you should be prepared to answer is the one that you hope will never be asked of you! If you are prepared to answer this one in a confident and poised manner, the questions that follow should be a piece of cake!
Practice interviewing with friends or attorneys you know.Schedule a mock interview with your career services counselor to receive personalized, professional feedback.
Be prompt. Smile when you meet the interviewer and shake his/her hand. Recognize that the interviewer is just another person. Try to make yourself, as well as the interviewer, comfortable. Keep in mind that the interview situation can be stressful for the interviewer as well as the candidate. The first few minutes of the interview are the most important ones.
Eye contact is important. Look at your interviewer. Show a genuine interest in the organization. Be an active participant; assist in fostering a conversation rather than a question and answer period. Answer questions with descriptive statements that point to your strengths rather than with monosyllables. Be aware that interviewers tend to hear many of the same skills from different candidates, so be prepared to illustrate those skills, using past experiences as your examples. Don't focus on tasks you've performed in the past, but the underlying skill that the task has developed. The skills are transferable, tasks may not be.
Anticipate questions such as "Why should we hire you?" or "What makes you think you would make a good attorney?" and/or even tougher questions such as "Why aren't your grades higher?" It is important to remain calm and poised while answering in a positive manner. The interviewer may want to see how well you deal with pressure and think on your feet.
Bring a writing sample (or two), list of references, and extra resumes. Do not bring a written list of your questions; have them memorized. DO NOT ask questions about salary, vacations, or benefits in the first interview.
After The Interview
When the interview is over and you have left the scene, write down as much information as you can remember, including the names of individuals with whom you spoke. Use this information to compose a thank you letter to each interviewer and to the person who arranged the interviews, if there were several interviewers.
Thank you letters are a professional courtesy and are appropriate after every interview at an employer's office. Please see Thank You Letter section for more information.
Offers of Employment
If you receive an offer from the organization, you may take time to think about it. It is rare that a candidate accepts on the spot. Make sure that you ask all the questions that may occur to you before you accept an offer. If you never had an opportunity to discuss salary, this is the appropriate time. If they do not indicate when you must get back to them, ask for the time you think you need. Remember, however, if you ask for an extremely lengthy "thinking period," they may construe this to mean that you are not really interested in them.
If you are made an offer after a call-back interview that you received after an on-campus interview, the timing of acceptance is governed by the NALP Guidelines for the Timing and Acceptance of Offers (see the NALP web site: www.nalp.org).
Sample Interview Questions
Applicants should be prepared to give articulate answers to questions such as the following:
- Why did you decide to go to law school? What made you think you would be a good lawyer? Did you see yourself in any specific role as a lawyer?
- Why did you choose Chicago‑Kent? What has your reaction to law school been? Do you enjoy your classes? Do you enjoy some classes more than others? What is your grade point average?
- Is there a parallel between your performance and your interest in a particular course? What courses have you taken? Which courses do you plan on taking? Which courses did you particularly like? Why are you not on Law Review, Moot Court, etc.?
- Do you have a particular career objective at the present time? Have you decided on a specialty? How interested are you in extracurricular activities such as legal services, etc.?
- What do you know about our organization? Why do you want to work for us?
The applicant should also be prepared to ask a number of questions which indicate that the applicant has approached the interview process rationally and is capable of making an intelligent choice. You should prepare questions that you want answered. NEVER ASK FOR INFORMATION THAT CAN BE EASILY FOUND ON AN EMPLOYER'S WEBSITE! Some question suggestions are as follows:
Work Assignments/Training Programs/Evaluations...and More
How does the employer determine what type of work a new attorney is to be assigned? How is the work supervised? Are the evaluations of that work communicated systematically to the new employee? Does a new attorney work for one attorney or several different attorneys? Are there formal in‑house training programs? Does the organization require its attorneys to specialize? When does the decision as to specialization occur? Is the decision made by the new employee, the organization or both? How soon does the new attorney get direct client contact and substantial responsibilities? Is there a policy on pro‑bono work?
Advancement and Partnerships
What are the criteria for advancement? To what extent is the development of new clients a prerequisite to advancement? If one exists, when does an attorney become eligible for partnership? (As mentioned before, this question should not be asked at the initial interview).
About The Interviewer
What is the specialty of the interviewer? What type of work does he or she do in a normal work day? How long has the interviewer been with the organization?
About the Organization
What is the history of the organization? Does the employer have a reputation for expertise in a particular area or areas? (Ask this only if there is no available written information on the employer) What are the organization's expectations with respect to future growth?
If interviewing with a large law firm:
How many new associates does the firm anticipate hiring in the next year? How many associates has the firm hired in recent years? How many of those associates are still with the firm?
How many participants does the firm anticipate having in its summer program? What percentage of the persons participating in summer programs within recent years have become associated with the firm? What is the relationship between the number of people in the summer program and the number of associates normally hired each year? To what extent does the summer program involve substantive activities/opportunities other than strict legal research? Is there a systematic method of evaluation of the participant's work? Are the results of that evaluation periodically communicated to the participant?
Thank you letters are written expressions of your appreciation for the time, information, and/or recommendations given to you in a formal or an informational interview, during a particularly helpful phone call, or even through a great e‑mail message. Thank you letters are appropriate to send to employers, potential employers, contacts, professors, and anyone who has helped you with job leads, recommendations or suggestions for your job search.
Do thank you letters after a formal employment interview make a difference in whether or not you will be hired? Probably not. It's unlikely that a thank you letter would persuade an employer to hire you when they wouldn't otherwise do so. Thank you letters can even work against you if they contain misspellings or grammatical errors.
However, because it's the polite and respectful (and professional) response to give after an organization has taken the time to interview you, thank you letters are recommended in the later stages of the job search. In fact, there are employers/interviewers who may believe that you are not interested in the job if they don't receive a thank you letter.
Because applicants in the legal arena usually meet with several attorneys and staff within an organization, the question of whether a thank you letter should be sent to each individual often arises. This is strictly up to you. If you had great conversations with each interviewer and would like to comment on those, you might want to write to each individual. However, in this case, each letter should be different. Do not simply send the same letter and change the name and salutation. If you prefer, you may also choose to write to just one individual. In this case you might want to choose the attorney who shepherded you through the process; the attorney with whom you spent the most time; the person with whom you seemed to have the best rapport; or the attorney who had identified him/herself as the senior member of the hiring committee. When writing one letter to one organizational member, also ask him/her to convey your thanks to the other attorneys with whom you met and name those individuals.
A thank you letter may be in the form of an email or a hand-written note. Again, no typos!
Qualities of an Effective Thank You Letter
- A thank you letter should be sent in a timely manner. Don't let writer's block get in the way of your quick response! Sending out a letter within 24-48 hours is best.
- The letter should be brief, well‑written, and thoroughly proofread.
- The letter should convey your sincere thanks. In addition to expressing your thanks for the employer's time and information, it's ideal to refer to something you especially enjoyed talking about in the interview. You can also mention your continued interest in the organization if the letter is following an employment interview.