For many students, securing a job is a top priority. There are a number of factors, such as extracurricular activities and strong grades, that look great on a resumé and can help a student get the initial job interview. The rest is up to how much effort you put in to network, present your best self and research the firm. Ultimately, it comes down to how the student interviews and whether or not the student is a great “fit.” Every firm is different. Unfortunately, no one knows that sure-fire way to land the position, but here are some tips to help best prepare for an interview.
Don’t be shy to reach out to the firm’s summer or articling students. They are very aware of the process and can be invaluable resources about landing a job or, at the very least, recount their experience. After all, they were successful! Most students will not hesitate to meet for coffee to provide insight about their firm and answer any questions you may have. Make sure to have questions ready for them to answer. They may even be willing to look over your resumé and provide some editing tips for your cover letter. Again, just ask.
Many times, meeting with one student will open doors. If they sense the ambition and the eagerness, they will try to connect you with their colleagues or even friends at other firms. The more people you are able to meet, the more you are able to get a sense of a firm’s culture and whether or not you could see yourself working there.
Even if you do not know that you will have interviews, start practising. Meet with the people in your school’s career services office, practise with upper-year students or even recite some hypothetical answers in a mirror.
If your school offers mock interviews, schedule them. Mock interviews are a way to simulate an actual job interview, so take them seriously. It will give you the chance to see what types of questions can come up and which answers need work. It will also help you identify any nervous habits that may surface: Do you play with your hair? Can you sit still? Do you know where to put your hands?
While it’s important to be authentic, it does not hurt to have an idea of what you should say, especially for those tougher questions. Be prepared to answer for anything and everything on your resumé and in your application package. Upper-year students are great in this regard because they can also give you a heads up if a firm asks behavioural questions or give insight into who will be interviewing you.
At the end of your mock interview, leave time for the interviewer to provide feedback. Write down any advice so you can track your progress and work on any weaknesses that you may have.
Know the firm
Firms want to know why students are applying and the “to get a job” response is probably not the best. Know the firm to which you have applied. Take the time to check out its website and speak to its students and associates. Does it have a practice group in a unique area of law? Does it take its pro bono work seriously? Do the summer and articling students work on a rotation? Is the firm national, international or boutique?
The website will answer many of the more generic questions. The last thing you want to do is ask your interviewer something that could have easily been found on its website. After all, you are selling yourself as a qualified researcher!
Once you know who is interviewing you, again the website is an excellent resource. You can see the interviewer’s particular areas of practice, if they have received any awards, what law school they attended and any publication they wrote. While it is less expected for you to know the ins and outs of their practice area (they do recognize you are a student), you can steer your questions more appropriately. If you are interested in their practice area, all the better — lawyers are usually keen to share their interests.
Nobody knows you better than yourself. Once you have worked out the kinks, have confidence. There is a reason you were asked to interview. You may never know why, but there was something interesting about you.
Although there may be some questions, the interview should be a conversation, and a comfortable one at that. All parties are looking for some sort of connection, so it is best to remain true to your authentic self. If you land the job, you want to land it as “you,” since you may spend the next few years with this firm. The nerves are normal; it means you care.