Interviewing Tips & Sample Questions
Consult with CSO Before You Interview
The development of effective and authentic interviewing skills is crucial to a job search, and our Career Strategies Office offers a range of programs and training to help Kline students.
- Panel discussions by attorneys and recruiters
- Workshops on interview skills
- Individual practice interviews set up with attorneys and with Career Strategies Office counselors
- Mock interview weeks at which dozens of practicing attorneys visit the law school to conduct practice interviews with students
- Interactive interview and acting training by professional communications consultants
Interviewing for a legal job can be extremely stressful, but knowing what to do – and not do – before, during, and after the interview can help you prepare and to reduce some of that stress. The following are tips, questions that you may be asked, and questions to ask your interviewer in a typical law firm interview.
Law Interview Preparation Tips
When preparing for an interview with a law firm or other legal employer, it’s important to prepare as much as possible beforehand in order to present the best impression.
Do your research.
There is nothing worse than going to an interview for a legal job that you really want, and not knowing basic information about the interviewer and the employer. You will want to utilize websites such as LinkedIn and that of the company, as well as Law360 for law firms. What are the firm’s main practice areas? Can you find biographical information about the hiring partner? Doing your homework will enable you to feel more comfortable and be better prepared for whatever may come your way.
Make sure that you have an appropriate outfit.
Appearances play a large role in how we are perceived. It is best to dress conservatively for your interview. This usually means a dark suit (either navy blue or dark gray), a white shirt, and dress shoes. Know the difference between dressing for the courtroom and dressing for a night out with friends. When is comes to interview attire, it’s always best to ask beforehand so you feel comfortable and confident in your appearance. If you’re not sure about appropriate interview attire, the advisors in the Career Strategies Office can help you.
Bring extra copies of your resume to your interview.
One of the most important aspects of interviewing is being prepared. If you do not appear to be prepared for an interview, why would a company wish to hire you? With this in mind you will want to consider what may be needed of you and to bring those documents. Your resume is one such example. Although you likely have supplied the employer with a copy of your resume, it is smart to bring additional copies with you in case there are additional interviewers or it was simply not printed. It’s also wise to bring extra copies of your writing sample, unofficial transcript, separate list of references and any other documents that showcase your research and drafting skills.
Sample Interviewer Questions
Before going into a legal interview, it’s extremely helpful to have an idea of the types of questions you may be asked by the interviewer. Keep in mind that employers are trying to answer three fundamental questions: 1) Can you do the work?; 2) Will you do the work?; and 3) Do I want to work with you? If you approach your interview with an eye toward addressing these questions, you will help the employer connect the dots and view your candidacy favorably. Effective interviewees are compelling story-tellers. Simply stated, you want to come prepared with examples and narratives that tell a story about your skills and values and how those skills and values connect to the employer. Use phrases such as “for example” or “for instance” and share concrete examples of what you have accomplished rather than speaking in generalities..
Tell me about yourself.
This is a very common question, as it allows the interviewer to hear in your own words about who you really are, how you qualify, and in which ways you are unique. This is an opportunity to share more than just what is already on your resume. Think about what else the employer would want to know about the individual that they are hiring. Think about this beforehand so you keep your answer relevant and don’t ramble on.
What do you know about my firm?
This question is akin to the “tell me about yourself” introduction. Be prepared to launch into your reasons why you are interested in this employer. It could be the firm’s practice areas, location, size, or other factors, but be prepared to speak intelligently about what you know about the firm beyond its “great reputation.”
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Companies often ask this question, as they want to hear your own assessment of where you excel and where you need to improve. It also demonstrates your level of self-awareness. This question enables the interviewer to understand if your attributes fit the requirements and are conducive to success within the position and how to best utilize you should you be chosen.
Why do you want to work for our firm?
This is a really important question that is often asked in order to determine if you are interested in obtaining just any position, a specific position, or a specific position with their specific company. It is best to do your homework ahead of time and learn as much as you can about the company prior to the interview so that you can answer this question honestly.
Why did you go to law school?
When you are applying for a legal position, which requires a legal license, you are just one attorney in a sea of attorneys also applying. Asking about your motive for attending law school helps the interviewer to gain a better sense of your intent, of what drives you. That can be useful for the employer to establish whether or not your motivations align with the company mission and beliefs.
Do you have any questions? What questions do you have for me?
This question is asked in almost every interview – legal or not. It serves the very important purpose of not only the obvious of being helpful for the applicant, but also to weed out those who have not done their homework on the company. When an applicant has researched the company and the interviewer, you already have the answers to many potential questions. Furthermore, it serves as an opportunity for the interviewer to gain more insight into what is important to the applicant. Note: not having any questions at the end of an interview demonstrates lack of interest and is often interpreted as lack of preparation.
Sample Questions You Should Ask On a Law Interview
Coming prepared to a law firm or other legal interview with questions to ask your interviewer is just as important as being prepared to answer their questions.
How do you enjoy your work overall?
Asking about the interviewer’s enjoyment level at work is beneficial for a few reasons. By asking this it allows the interviewer to share information about himself or herself. Since most people enjoy talking about themselves, this can be favorable. Additionally, this question provides insight into what an employee does, yet is open-ended enough that it provides them the opportunity to fill in more detail.
What do you consider to be one of the most challenging aspects of your job?
Similarly to the previous question, this question allows the interviewer the time to speak about himself or herself. Its open-endedness provides ample opportunity for the interviewer to choose from anything. It provides you with additional insight into what may be a negative aspect or aspects of the company and/or the job.
How would you describe the work atmosphere?
Asking about the work atmosphere allows you to understand more about company culture. Whether you enjoy a stronger work-life balance, a more contributive work environment, an outside social life with your colleagues, or prefer to work in utter silence, this gives you a better idea of what you would be joining into, and whether it would be a good fit.
What qualities do you think are most important to success in this position?
Asking about the kind of person that the employer is looking for allows you to hear directly from someone in the company as to what they value most. While a job listing shares some of the requirements of the position, hearing from an employee who is involved in the hiring process will allow you to understand the company’s true priorities. This is also your chance to echo back information about yourself that supports the interviewer. For example, if an employer says, “we are very focused on finding candidates who have exceptional attention to detail and possess strong research and writing skills,” then this is your opportunity to respond and give personal examples.
What are the next steps in the hiring process?
This is a good question to end the interview because it gives you the chance to ask about the timeline. When will you be making a decision. Will there be callbacks? When are those scheduled? Do you need any other materials from me? Would additional information assist you? Finally - and most importantly - say thank you. “Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me about this position. I realize you’re busy, and I appreciate that you took the time to meet with me today.” Never underestimate the importance of expressing gratitude for the opportunity to interview.
WHAT NOT TO ASK:
Do not ask about:
- Vacation time
- Parental leave policies
This information is typically available on the firm’s website. Once an offer is made, it’s relevant to ask questions about full-time employment benefits, but not beforehand.
After your law interview is complete and you return to the rest of your day, there are a few key points to remember post-interview.
Always write a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview.
Writing a short thank you note within 24 hours of your interview is one of the most important things to do post-interview. It demonstrates respect and appreciation for the interviewer’s time and the opportunity to be considered. It also shows your strong desire for the position and can actually help to reinforce why you believe it is a good fit. Thank you notes can be emailed. If you interviewed with several lawyers, you can write to each lawyer individually or write one thank you to the main organizer or contact. If you choose to write to each lawyer individually, remember to personalize each letter in a small way. If you write one thank you to the main contact, be sure to thank everyone by name. Typically, thank you notes are added to your file and shared with other lawyers. It goes without saying that your thank you note must be free of spelling or grammatical errors, so proofread carefully!
Be sure that your thank you note touches on four key points.
It is not enough to write a thank you – you must write an effective thank you to be worth it. In order for your note to be effective, it should touch upon four different points. These points include the following:
- Show respect and appreciation for the interviewer’s time;
- Refer back to important parts of your conversation;
- Confirm once again that you have a strong interest in the organization/position; and
- Provide information regarding following-up and offer to answer any additional questions or provide additional information.
Emailing your thank you note is perfectly acceptable.
In today’s technologically savvy landscape, we now do many things online and through email. Emailing a thank you note is still a professional way to show your gratitude. However, since emails can be sent almost instantly, it is important that you send your email in a timely manner. Waiting a long period of time to send an email (longer than 24 hours) appears unprofessional..
Ensure that hand-written thank you notes arrive within one or two days after the interview.
Since we are living in such a digital world, sometimes a hand-written thank you note can make you stand out and demonstrate your desire to go above and beyond; it is much easier to simply send an email – it takes time to handwrite anything. However, if you decide to make a statement by sending a hand-written thank you note, it is extremely important that it arrives within a couple of days of the interview. If it is not received until after that period of time, it allows the employer ample opportunity to consider another candidate. When handwriting a thank you, use professional quality stationery such as Crane’s, no flowery stationery that you would use for personal correspondence.
Still Have Questions About Interviewing for a Job in Law?
Current students: If you have any questions or would like to know more, contact our Career Strategies Office to set up a meeting with one of our career advisors at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law.