Interview Tips: Talk and Bring a Transcript

The New Jersey Law Journal recently published some genius advice to students lining up interviews.  The advice comes from William Krais, a partner at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, and Carole Mecca, the firm’s recruiting coordinator.

First, we follow the 80/20 Rule: the candidate should do 80 percent of the talking while the interviewer should do 20 percent. A candidate who has nothing more to say 10 minutes into a 20-minute interview will not do well. That interview may end early, to the pleasure of the interviewer, but to the detriment of the candidate.

In my experience, most interviews are driven by the firm.  They know what’s important to them, and so they’re asking questions they care about.  Let the interviewer drive.  If you take the driver’s seat, you may give a lovely discussion about something they don’t give two shits about.  Be prepared to take over if your interviewer is asleep at the wheel (as often happens later on in the day), but if at 10 minutes there’s nothing left to say, odds are it’s the firm’s fault.

Second, candidates must be prepared. We look for candidates who demonstrate a commitment to our firm, usually by indicating an interest in our specific practice areas and geographic locations. While fledgling second-year law students may not know exactly what they would like to do, if a candidate comments that he wants to be a criminal defense lawyer, or she wants to be a family lawyer, but our firm has neither of those practice areas, then the candidate has not done his or her homework and does not have a particular interest in our firm.

Yeah, check the firm’s website before you go into an interview.  Don’t ask about opportunities to work in offices they don’t have.  If you need to, carry in a cheat sheet, and don’t be shy about having notes.  During OCI (at least in a good economy) you may interview with 8 firms in one day, 40 over the course of a week.  If an interviewer asks about the notes you bring in, just say you took the time to do some research before hand, and made notes because you don’t want to waste an interview by forgetting something.  Some lawyers get hard ons for people with perfect memories, but most will appreciate someone who is thoroughly prepared, even if that means having a cheat sheet.

Third, candidates should distinguish themselves by telling interviewers something interesting about themselves that may not be referenced on their resumes. If a candidate has written a novel, played in Carnegie Hall, led his college basketball team in rebounding, or enjoys skydiving, that should be shared during the interview. If not, the candidate should find other distinguishing traits, e.g., an interest in cooking ethnic meals, volunteering time in a soup kitchen, hiking the Appalachian Trial, or involvement in a political campaign. Firms are looking not only for candidates with stellar academic records, but also for candidates who will enrich the workplace.

When discussing your interests, it is better to focus on past accomplishments than current hobbies.  An accomplishment indicates skill and dedication.  Even if the skill is unrelated to law, overachieving tends to spill into other areas.  It’s rare to find someone who is brilliant in one area, and only mediocre in all others.  Try not to bring up current interests, especially if they are time consuming.  You like to travel?  Great!  Now the firm knows you’ll want to take two week vacations that can’t be dropped at a moment’s notice to stay at the office and fix the managing partner a latte while he waits for a client to call back.

Finally, candidates should bring a writing sample (more on that below) and at least an unofficial transcript to the interview. We review the writing samples of all candidates under serious consideration for an offer. It is quicker and easier if we already have the writing sample in the student’s file instead of following-up with a candidate to send us a writing sample at a later date. Students should also be prepared to discuss their writing samples during the interview. They should know the facts and legal arguments they raise in the writing sample, and if the writing sample is an advocacy piece, they should be prepared to address the opposite perspective.

Yeah, you should also wear a suit and show up on time.  The article gives some other advice, so check it out if you want, but there is one issue they completely leave out, but is the bane of every law student:

“So, do you have any questions for me?”

Every interview you have will eventually get to this point.  If you’ve done your research, you probably know everything you need to know about the firm.  You know where their offices are, their practice areas, their salary range, and whether they Lathamed anyone recently.  What’s worse is that you’ll be asked this by all four people who interview you on your call back.  Odds are there really isn’t anything left to learn, but it’s awkward tell the interviewer that.  So, here’s a little ace in your sleeve you can use if you don’t know how else to respond to that dreaded question:

“I’ve already looked over the firm’s website, read a few of the news releases and posts on the IP blog.  Is there anything about the firm I should know that I wouldn’t find on the website?”

You can rephrase it to make it more comfortable to you, and don’t lie about reading something you haven’t read (just take 10 minutes before your interview to read it; it beats getting caught in a lie during your interview).  There’s a good chance the interviewer won’t know what to say and will give you a lame reply like “Well, what types of things do you want to know?”  At that point you’re back in the same shitty boat, but at least you’re no worse off.  Just don’t ask which partners have hot, single daughters.

It doesn’t matter.  They’re hot and have rich parents?  They’re marrying a banker with 100x more money than you, or a grungy but charismatic artist-type with no source of income except his girl friend’s trust fund.  Either way, she’s not falling for you.

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3 Responses to “Interview Tips: Talk and Bring a Transcript”

  1. Marie Says:

    We can also be more alluring than the guys. When I interviewed for my summer job, I wore a nice white silk blouse with a sheer bra underneath.

    I got hired not because I did a lot of talking. Quite the opposite. The guy was mesmerized on my chest the entire time.

    So ladies, if you have got it, make sure not to hide it. Guys do the same thing so why shouldnt we?

  2. bl1y Says:

    Marie is right that guys do the same thing. I had one interview that was starting to go badly, so I stood up, whipped my penis out and laid it on the desk.

    Instant call-back.

  3. Olga Says:

    You must be kidding. In my country, a man who did that would be sent out to live in the meadow with the cows. Women can be sexy in Romania, but men who expose their private parts are thought of as sex addicts. This would not fit in well with our country’s law firms, or governmental authorities.

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