Positioning yourself to land the best law job means impressing legal recruiters and employers. Although most lawyers and law students are comfortable with writing persuasively, many squander the opportunity to maximize making a great impression during their interviews or when making small talk.
Since this past Sunday was April Fool’s Day, I felt it was appropriate to share three ways for you to not be fooled by the mere call of some of the most common questions—but instead, to look deeper and utilize it as an opportunity to present yourself in the best light.
So, tell me about yourself…
Do NOT just tell them where you are from! The person you are speaking to should not walk away from this question with a geographic label of where you grew up or went to law school. It is natural for most of us to introduce ourselves by sharing some geographic content—but that should not be the ONLY context shared. Remember—you want to maximize this opportunity to present yourself in the very best light.
Instead, answer this question by sharing what drives and motivates you. Did you work on a matter or have an experience that led you to realize you really enjoyed solving a particular problem? Did a recent project give you insight into some of your strengths and competencies that are perfect for the job? Do you have a personal narrative that happens to resonate deeply with the culture of the firm? Oftentimes, this is the first question that is asked, so take advantage of the opportunity to start off the interview strong. If the interviewer takes away what drives you, you would have made an excellent impression indeed.
Tell me what your strengths are…
Do NOT “tell” — SHOW! Often, when presented with a question, we fall into old habits and begin “telling” the interviewer claims about ourselves without really substantiating it. For example, you might say “I’m hardworking” or “I have a great sense of humor.” Not only is this unsupported, it also does not capture the full depth of what you hope to convey.
Instead, SHOW them! During interviews, this is most often done in the form of an anecdote. So if you are asked to “tell” them about your strengths, share an anecdote about a project where you were really in your element. If you want to tell them you have a sense of humor, do not just tell them you are funny—tell them a joke!
Note: this applies what we discussed above to other questions. You don’t want to just “tell” the interviewer about yourself, you really want to make sure you show them what you are about.
Are you worth it?
Hiring decisions are driven by market needs of the employer. This means that at the end of the day, you have to demonstrate that you will add value to the employer and the team to be a desirable candidate. This leads to the question of what qualities or attributes make for a valuable candidate—a question that does not have a single answer.
That being said, I would posit that although there is no singer answer, ALL of the qualities and attributes of a desirable candidate conveys to the interviewer that in some way, shape, or form, that the candidate will make their lives easier. By hiring you (as the in-house counsel, the lateral associate, or staff attorney), they are making their own work lives easier because you are able to help save them time and solve problems.
Be sure to convey your value by sharing how it is your contributions will make their lives easier.