Soon, it will be interview season for folks looking for summer positions. I’ve been thinking about my first interview for my 1L summer job and how grateful I am that the organization was so Latino-centered that they gave me a lot of grace that I wouldn’t have received in other spaces. It’s not that I didn’t take the interview seriously, it’s just that having only ever worked retail or service jobs, I didn’t get that there is an added polish that is expected in the legal industry. So if you’re about to interview what are the things you should focus on for this extra polish?
Looks. Ugh, I hate offering up this old fashioned advice. There is a lot more space now to be you—to not have to wear a skirt suit or wear your hair in a low bun, which are all the tips I was offered when I was starting out. People are allowed to be their more individuals selves without as much backlash. But…
I’m trying to make sure you get your foot in the door so that you get paid. Your appearance should be unremarkable. That means it should fit in with where you’re interviewing. Wear a suit, whatever style you prefer. Keep things simple and business appropriate. When I was a 1L I took a job at Express so I could pay my rent. It was the store on Michigan Ave and I remember being confused because they marketed their clothing as professional and sexy. LOL Look, I’m not saying we need to be amorphous blobs at work, but I wouldn’t go out my way to be “sexy” at an interview. And there may be some out there that are thinking, “no, duh.” But there is a mixed message out there urging us to constantly satisfy male gaze and I’m just saying be cognizant of the outfits you pick for an interview so that there’s no room to question your judgement. Of course, for the time being, zoom interviews means that it’s business on top and party on the bottom.
Ok, more importantly, is how to prepare for your interview. My fave tip that I picked up from Ask a Manager (she has a free interview e-book!) Is to review the job description and come up with example for each that you can speak about your experience/qualifications. This is a great way to not only practice common interview questions but gain a better handle of examples and areas of expertise you want to highlight.
You also want to have at least five questions ready to go to ask when it’s your turn. Sometimes interviews are really in-depth and they may answer one or two questions, which is why you want to have extras ready to go; otherwise, not having questions makes the interviewer feel like you weren’t listening or aren’t interested.
Finally, after the interview you want to send a thank you email (not letter or card—mail takes too long). The email can thank them for their time and if there is a skill you want to highlight give a brief sentence about it. It’s not that the emails are what seals the deal but there are still lots of old school attorneys who will feel slighted if you don’t follow up. You may hear people who say they never read the emails/cards, which may be true for them. If so, there’s no harm in sending—they’ll just ignore it. But for the ones that find them important you will have scored those points. Especially if another applicant sends a note and you don’t—just send the email!
I’m always hesitant to talk about interview prep because appearance is always a topic and I feel like I go way traditional, which can be problematic. But the goal here is to get into the space, once you’re a proven entity things become easier and a little more comfortable. More importantly is how you prepare for each interview— being ready to engage, preparing concise answers, and following standard professional protocols can be the difference that results in an offer.