Initial interviews, are the first time you meet with a potential employer. These may include the interviews you have for the first round of a job application, externship interviews, or for a position on a moot court team.
Interviewing is not an innate skill. It can be learned and will improve with practice.
In additional to our high-level overview below, please refer to the Career Manual distributed at Orientation for a detailed discussion of interviewing. It provides additional information on interviewing and provides sample interview questions and answers. It is highly recommended that LL.M. students consult the relevant chapter of the Career Manual as part of their interview preparation.
The key elements to a successful interview are not your experience, your grades, what classes you took or your extracurricular activities; instead, they can be summed up in two words: Preparation and Presentation.
Research. Research. Research.
It is critical to possess as much knowledge as possible about the employer and interviewer(s) prior to the interview itself. Employers consistently rank lack of knowledge of the organization as one of the primary reasons for not extending an offer. In short, you must start the interviewing process well before the actual interview. Alumni are often the best resource for learning more about the employer and interviewers prior to the interview.
Develop a Strategy
The underlying question in every interviewer’s mind is “Why should our organization hire this person?” The specific experiences, credentials and/or achievements you will emphasize need to be fine-tuned depending on the employer and the position. Just as you must tailor a resume to a specific employer, it is critical to differentiate each interview and focus on the unique fit between your background and this employer.
Develop a List of Questions
Always prepare a list of questions relevant to the employer and the interviewer (if possible). Be careful not to ask questions that could easily have been found by looking on their website, reading their promotional material or from the media. This shows a gross lack of preparation. At the end of the interview, make sure to follow-up with any questions that have been left unanswered. Having additional questions is one way to demonstrate a genuine interest in the employer and the position, and employers attach more importance to your additional questions than you might think.
- Confirm the time and location of your interview the day prior to the meeting.
- Arrive at least 15 minutes before the appointed meeting time. This allows you to take a moment to breathe and relax.
- Be sure to bring all documentation requested by the employer. At a minimum, bring clean and updated copies of your resume, transcript, references and writing sample.
Practice Makes Perfect
- Mock Interviews. Graduate Career and Professional Development advisors are available to conduct mock interviews.
Interview Workshops. Throughout the year, GCPD conduct Mock Interview Programs (MIP). Please check the Programming Calendar for the next MIP.
- Practice! Practicing out loud is key, whether with an advisor, a friend, or by yourself, to ensure that you can clearly and effectively discuss your background and articulate your interest in the employer.
At the most basic level, interviews allow employers to learn more about your skills and experience than is evident from your resume. More importantly, interviews give employers the opportunity get to know you as an individual – often the critical factor in hiring decisions.
Be Confident, Enthusiastic, and Engaged
In the interview, you must present yourself in a confident, enthusiastic and engaged manner. Follow these simple rules:
- Start with a firm handshake
- Make good eye contact and play an active role in the conversation
- Ask relevant questions and listen attentively
- Speak clearly and do not mumble
- Show enthusiasm about the employer and the attorney with whom you are interviewing
- Do not talk down about yourself; this displays a lack of self-confidence, which makes you look like a less appealing candidate
- Prepare in advance at least one or two specific questions to ask each interviewer
Anticipate Difficult Questions
Prepare responses to the most difficult questions you can expect (e.g., why is your Grade Point Average not on your resume?). Employers are frequently more interested in how you respond to such questions than they are in the responses themselves. The following strategies can help:
- Answer the question concisely and directly (you should have prepared and practiced responses to anticipated questions before the interview)
- Do not focus on negative areas by using your time to make excuses for past mistakes
- Use the question to move the conversation into more positive areas
- Do not rush. It is perfectly appropriate to take a moment to think about a question before answering
We have also developed a list of questions, as well as suggested answers, which you may want to use to prepare for your interviews. It can be found in the Career Manual.
Consider Your First Impression
Make sure that you consider all aspects of a first impression. Be punctual, prepared, well groomed, professionally dressed and personable, and do not forget to give the interviewer(s) a firm handshake. Show up early so that you are relaxed. There is no second chance to make a first impression.
As with many activities, practice is the most effective method for improving your interview skills. As indicated above, you should:
- Research and prepare responses to anticipated questions
- Write out your responses and practice saying them aloud in the mirror. Organizing information in your head is not sufficient
- Recruit a friend or colleague to act out a mock interview
- Participate in any mock interview programs available through Georgetown Law.